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Why Aren’t There More Colleges In DU For Boys To Study Psychology?

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When I first came upon the news that the IITs are creating a supernumerary reservation for women, I also came upon a vast diversity of opinions in various sources, praising the move. Articles chronicled the long history of poor representation of women in engineering colleges, strongly supported the committee which had the first panel which had recommended it, even while others questioned whether the move went far enough. The discussion was thorough and had clearly been taking place for months from January to April of 2017. There were opinions from seasoned academics, analysing the move and making recommendations on the way forward, and from students, both aspirants and those who were already enrolled at the institutes. The fact is that this is a discussion that needs to happen, and it’s a discussion that shouldn’t just end. We should always strive to balance our education, and the low proportion of girls in engineering is abysmal. It is important to encourage more girls to enter the field, and we need to make sure that not only are policies encouraging this but also making sure that they are being followed through and enforced. We need to constantly look over our policies to determine if they are achieving the goals they were intended for, and finding ways to improve them.

Cut to a little over a month later. Even as exams begin wrapping up in Delhi University, the attention is on the admission season, with results being declared and the registration process having begun. The dialogue seems to be focussing exclusively on the toppers, examining the performance of girls versus boys or government schools vs private. And as always, the discussion has been about the high marks and the inevitable skyrocketing cutoffs, spiced this year a little by the controversy over the CBSE’s Marks Moderation Policy.

Finishing my MA and thus, being more caught up in the admission cycle and debates than before, I couldn’t help but hark back to when I was finishing school myself and facing my own anxieties and doubts regarding college choices and cutoffs. The discussion on the reservation for girls was there, however, what I remembered more than anything else was my frustrations about the status of psychology in Delhi University, a subject I had taken in school and had been eager (at the time) to pursue in college.

In the intensive discourse on bridging gender gaps, overcoming the disadvantage women face in admissions and college, finding ways to overcome gender inequality and rooting out patriarchal norms and notions, there is a stark silence on some aspects of college education, with almost little to no opinion being raised on the disadvantages interested boys face in opting for some courses. Perhaps the best examples of this are the programs offering various bachelor’s degrees in psychology and elementary education in Delhi University. Of the 12 colleges offering some sort of a degree in psychology in DU, only 5 are co-educational, none of them part of the conventional definition of elite colleges in the university. Girls have the option of studying the subject at prestigious institutions such as Lady Sri Ram College (LSR), Daulat Ram College and Jesus and Mary College (JMC). Of the five viable options for boys, only one (Zakir Hussain College) comes close to these in terms of reputation and infrastructure. One of the remaining four is an evening college, severely limiting the options of boys wanting to enter the field. Bad as the situation is in psychology, it is even worse in the elementary education program. Eight colleges offer the degree, yet not one of them are co-educational. A boy simply cannot dream of doing his bachelor’s in DU and yet hope to teach in elementary school.

Students filling up admission forms in DU.

It is this contrast in realities that raises the question of how much we’re doing to actually bridge the gender gap. It is undeniable that we need more women becoming engineers, but do we not want more boys becoming therapists and counsellors? Do we really not want any men teaching in elementary schools? I have no doubt that the shutting out of boys from these fields is grounded in the old patriarchal notions of segregation of professions for boys and girls, of the ‘manly’ engineering and the ‘feminine’ arts. The idea that elementary school teaching and psychology is ‘women’s work’ is undeniably a construct rooted in patriarchy, but what explains the deafening silence on the issue by those who advocate for gender equality?

Why is it that apart from a few stray voices, the vociferous and engaging discourse on gender and education bypasses these issues? Shouldn’t we be encouraging boys to take up these courses? If we’re comfortable with a supernumerary reservation for women in engineering colleges, shouldn’t we at least ask for more co-educational colleges to offer psychology and elementary education? Failing that, couldn’t we at least reserve a few supernumerary seats for boys in these courses in women’s colleges until we can convince co-educational colleges to introduce these courses? Or are we comfortable in only eliminating gender disparity in those fields where women are underrepresented, ignoring the ones with male underrepresentation? How serious are we really about closing the gaps between genders and eliminating the constructs of patriarchy?

Image used for representative purposes only.

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Image source: Jyoti Kapoor/ India Today Group/ Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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