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My First Year At College Hit Me With Adulthood, And I Wasn’t Ready

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Most of us have seen ‘adulting’ memes that are all over the internet today. These memes are often made in the context of the tonnes of newly added responsibilities in the lives of college students and our inability to handle them. While we laugh at these memes and share them on social media, we tend to ignore the subtext which is our struggle to deal with these responsibilities.

I am talking about ‘adulting memes’ because they don’t just represent a small section of college going students. A majority of us are always perplexed by how hard and challenging college can be, because the idea of college life is extremely glorified in movies and books. People seldom talk about the reality – all the extra work we have apart from academics, living independently (somewhat, since most of us aren’t financially independent in college) and basically, taking care of things that our parents had covered for us throughout our school life. Moreover, many students, like me, move from their comfortable little houses for the first time, to an entirely different place. Their struggle isn’t just limited to aiming for a high GPA or managing an account balance.

My journey was relatively pleasant. I easily got admission in English honours at Christ University without much fuss or running around. I don’t think I was as grateful for it at that time as I should have been, considering it’s rare for students to smoothly get both the college and course that they aim for. However, that didn’t mean I bypassed struggling altogether. I had only travelled to Bangalore once in my life when I was two years old, but this time I was moving there, all alone, for at least three years.

 My first year at college was certainly something I will never forget, and perhaps it’s something that no one ever does, for a good reason. From struggling to meet all deadlines for the internal assessment tests to exploring the busiest cafes and hip places around the city, to making new friends – it was the first time that I had to face the city all by myself, with the added pressure to enjoy my life. For the first time, settling down didn’t just mean making friends and looking after academics. My parents were no longer with me to guide me through a busy schedule or make sure that my meals and travelling were looked after.

Thankfully, Bangalore is a great place to be. The people are warm and welcoming and the weather is perhaps the most pleasant it can be anywhere in the country. But none of that matters when your clothes don’t dry in time for you to wear them the next day, or when you realise that even missing a single class reduces your attendance by a large margin. Suddenly, nobody takes you for a child anymore (because you are not one). No one makes attempts to empathise with your situation and accommodate and coax you at every step of the way.

I remember vividly how shocked I was when I boarded the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) for the first time. Despite its brilliant service, BMTC is always cramped with hundreds of people who are too busy to look for your foot, or at times, even your whole body. I realise it’s not a huge deal since I am accustomed to the bus services now. But it was extremely difficult to get used to it at first, as were most everyday activities despite the fact that I was an 18-year-old adult.

But it isn’t about the age, it’s about finally facing responsibilities as an individual. In India, most parents closely regulate what their children do and don’t do till high school ends, and for some, even throughout college. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but college often becomes the breaking point since most children aren’t eased into taking charge of their life and are abruptly bombarded with responsibilities. It’s similar to how some people aren’t encouraged to date throughout their life and are supposed to find someone to marry before they turn thirty.

But from being a part of national level seminars to finally taking part in a pride festival, at 18, I found me some extra courage. Realising the need to grow up, moving out of home and starting college life allowed me to be so much more than what I had thought of myself. It allowed me to finally meet some of the most beautiful people in my life.

This doesn’t mean that this new life doesn’t continue to surprise me now and then, both in a positive and negative manner. The only difference between my past self, who was first entering an institution completely alone and vulnerable, and who I am now, is that I have the courage to face it. I laugh out loud at self-deprecating yet relatable memes about facing life by myself, take rest when I am nearing my saturation point. And I think that’s a great place to be in.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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