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What You Can Do To Make Delhi’s Public Education System Better

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Imagine a day when lack of information on fundamental rights will not lead to lack of education. Imagine a day when parents will understand that free and excellent public education is not a favour from the state, but rather the right of their child promised by the constitution. Imagine a day when parents will be completely aware of the ways of procuring those rights and will take concrete steps towards it. That is the day we will be able to guarantee an excellent education to each and every child.

This is not an impractical fantasy but a realistic dream.

I say it’s a realistic dream because I have seen Satish, a former daily wager dedicating every day of his life to making government schools better. I have seen a relentless and a dedicated, Amna Begum supervising mid day meal distribution in a school for the last six years. It is moving to see a mother of three, sweating it out at government offices so that no child would have to sweat for their right to a quality education. It is empowering to witness people from different walks of life coming together because they believe that quality education is an inalienable right of every child. These parent leaders often serve as a reminder that the best way to preserve our democracy is to take part in it.

These parents you just read about had one thing in common, apart from their zeal to ensure a quality education for children, they were all a part of the School Management Committee (SMC).

These parents exemplify that having functional and democratically elected School Management Committees (SMCs) is going to change the educational landscape for the better. It’s after looking at these parents, I believe that an informed parent and a functional SMC is central to public education system, just like an informed citizenry is central to a democracy.

A School Management Committee (SMC) is responsible for ensuring that the Right To Free and Compulsory Education Act is implemented properly. SMC is quite analogous to a board of directors for a company. The formation of School Management Committee (SMC) is provisioned under Section 21 of Right To Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. In Delhi, every government school has an SMC comprising of a principal, a teacher, a representative from the local authority, a social worker and 12 elected parent members.

However, most of the SMCs simply exist on paper and are not properly functional. A 2014 study by a Delhi-based NGO ‘JOSH’ showed that around 94% parents had no information about SMC formation. Moreover, no data about percentage of voting and number of nominations is publicly available about the SMC elections conducted two years ago.

Parents being made aware of the SMC elections in a PTM in a school in Mohan Garden, Delhi. (September 1)

I have had the opportunity to witness the work of an organisation working in the same field. Samarthya, a not for profit, is currently working with 14 SMCs in East and West Delhi.  They familiarise SMC members with their duties, rights and the ways of procuring those rights.

I have witnessed the inspiring changes brought by these SMCs. I have interacted with some of these parents and have been inspired by their commitment towards changing the public schools for good. I have attended the training sessions conducted by Samarthya, and am convinced that this kind of intervention can help make SMCs more constructive. It can encourage our communities to take ownership of public schools, thus turning our dream of excellent public education into reality. 

In fact, Nirmala, an SMC worker in Kakrola said, “I never had any information about my duties as an SMC member before. But now I am informed. I feel empowered. I inspect the school without any fears and now I know what to do when i see a problem in school. I recently filed a written complain about teachers not being present in class. Most importantly, my self confidence has now increased several times.”

Sanjay from Samarthya addressing the queries of parents. (September 1)

Rights that are put into action give freedom and freedom combined with knowledge, empowers. We all dream of an educated, informed and empowered India. Let us unite in achieving this shared dream.

So, here is the call for action. I invite you all to be a part of the change. I invite you to be a part of SMC elections 2017. Here is your chance to make sure that parents are informed about the rights of their children and positive public discourse is built around the role of parents in ensuring good quality education.

There are three ways you can be a part of SMC elections 2017 –

1. Nominate yourself as a social worker or MLA representative by contacting your local MLA.

2. Distribute this pamphlet in your neighbouring community where children study in government schools.

3. Persuade parents of children studying in government schools to be part of SMC elections. Either by nominating themselves as a candidate and/ or by voting for the candidate of their choice.

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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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