This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Richa Choudhary. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Left My Corporate Job To Make Sure Every Child Gets Quality Education For Free

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Nagma, a 15-year-old girl, came to my place with her mother for daily household work. While her mother was busy doing her work, she sat quietly on the floor and tried to write her name upon a crushed page.

I asked her, “Which class are you in?” Her reply astounded me. Nagma said, “I am illiterate but I feel lucky that I take care of kids in a play school and assist them in learning. I wish my parents could also send me to school, not as a caretaker but as a student.”

This girl motivated me to do something for her. I started teaching her and helped her in getting admission in a nearby school. That was the time I realised there are millions of children who want to study but don’t have access to education, or rather, quality education.

Why should one be punished for being born in a poor family or in a small village, where there are no schools?

Meanwhile, the Bihar Board examination results were highlighted in the news and the dismal situation of education made me more restless. The startling fact that only 35% of the student passed the Board examination clearly showed how paralysed the Indian education system has become.

With more research on this, I got to know that there are, on an average, 20-25 government schools in a district of Bihar with very poor results in the Bihar Board examination.

The country today faces huge water scarcity. We do have an adequate supply of water in our rivers, but most of that ends up unused and flows into the ocean. Similarly, the country has a huge demand for skilled human resource. We have an adequate supply, but we’re not making sufficient efforts to provide quality education to our youth and to upskill them.

With the vision of minimising the gap in education opportunities for a student studying in a convent school in Delhi and a student studying in a government school with poor infrastructure and untrained teachers in a village of Bihar, I left my corporate job and started helping students of nearby schools.

Then, I came in contact with Jaspreet Kaur (student, Delhi University) and Saloni Sethi (student, Delhi University) who shared a similar ideology and enthusiasm. We decided to change the face of education in India with ‘Padhte Chalo, Badhte Chalo!’ to ensure that quality education reaches all students for free.

The idea of educating every student, irrespective of their financial conditions, and staying in contact with them 24×7 was easy to think of, but we had a hard time finding a solution where every student who wanted to learn became a part of our initiative.

Long hour discussions and on-ground analysis of the situation helped us understand the power of mobile technology and its penetration in rural and urban India. We thought of making the best use of mobile technology. We were looking for a platform like WhatsApp which was easy to use and could connect us to a large audience. Although the reach of Whatsapp was immensely powerful – as every person who owned a mobile had this application – it could not be effectively used to spread education.

While doing our research on education technology that can help us connect with students across India and continuously monitor their performance, I got to know about Eckovation, a social learning platform. Using Eckovation, we are able to not only communicate with students but also provide them with features like watching video lectures, attempting quizzes and asking their doubts – all in one place which was only a click away. This way we are constantly connected with students and are able to provide guidance and analyse their performance.

With the help of the Eckovation platform, we are helping around 500 students. Some of them study in government schools and cannot afford private tuitions while some also belong to public schools who just require additional guidance to help them along the way. This platform has helped us bring equality in education for all. Students from low-income families studying in government schools are learning and competing with students from high-income families studying in premier schools of Delhi.

We have prepared a model for students appearing in Class 10 board examinations in English and Hindi medium. Students who follow this model and give one hour per day to the studying group will greatly benefit in their board exams. The only prerequisite is that students should have basic reading and writing skills.

We also have an advanced program for students who already have a good understanding of the subjects. Students who perform well in the phase tests of the initiative are prepared for competitive exams like JEE Mains, NEET, NTSE, Olympiads.

Happy learning.

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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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