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A Small Town Boy’s Pursuit Of His Dream To Dance: Praveen Bagore’s Story

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Unlike many of the students we meet during the course of our field evaluation, the bearded young man standing in front of us, wearing a red shirt, is completely at ease, “I’ve done so many interviews before, so I’m comfortable with it now,” he says.

This is 20-year old Praveen Bagore, a third-year BCA student from Nemawar, a tiny pilgrimage town situated on the left bank of the Narmada river, as it threads its way through Dewas district in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Praveen has made most of the opportunities that have come his way. He was a bright student in school, and despite scoring a respectable 72% in his Class XII examinations, the prospects looked bleak.

The money that Praveen’s father earned, working as a tailor in Nemawar, was barely enough to support the family. Things were further complicated when his father became ill and stopped working altogether. Praveen, who had enrolled in the BCA course at the Sant Singaji Institute of Science and Management by then, eventually began working to pay for his education and support his family.

Praveen says a low-cost education loan from www.rangde.org and the salary from his new job helped him pay the tuition fee and continue studying towards earning his degree.

Praveen used the money he won at a local dance competition to contribute to the renovation of his house in Nemawar town, Madhya Pradesh

Praveen used the money he won at a local dance competition to contribute to the renovation of his house in Nemawar town, Madhya Pradesh

When we speak to him, we find out that Praveen is really passionate about dancing and has won many competitions. He recently participated in a dance competition in Nemawar and used the ₹11,000 prize money to contribute to the renovation of his home. He also performs professionally and will be seen in a local reality show called Dance Indore Dance. After clocking in eight hours at work, he heads to a local studio and conducts dance classes for his students.

We ask him how he finds the time to manage college, work, and dancing. “I don’t like being idle,” Praveen says. His packed schedule confirms this. He told us that he studies with the help of Youtube videos and returns to college two to three months before his exams. In class, his friends help him out with any work that he has missed.

Despite such a packed schedule, one would imagine that Praveen would struggle to clear his exams, but he has maintained a healthy average of 65%, which is exceptional for someone with so much on his plate.

In many ways, Praveen typifies the aspiration of the youth who live in rural and semi-rural areas in India. For the young people living in places like Nemawar, Ralegaon or Bachkal, places on the peripheries of India’s urban-centric discourse of progress and development, the presence of television and easy access to the internet offers them a glimpse of the world outside their villages and towns.

Yet, very little in their immediate surroundings can help them realise their aspirations, which are sparked off by this brief but ultimately unsatisfying contact with the “new India.”

The aspiration of youth in rural India is increasingly shaped by the world outside their villages, glimpses of which they are offered through the television and internet

The world increasingly shapes the aspiration of youth in rural India outside their villages, glimpses of which they are offered through the television and internet

Consider this: access to higher education continues to remain dismal in many of the rural areas where a vast majority of the youth in India continue to live. For young people seeking employment, seeking to start a business or looking to make a living through an unconventional career like the performing arts, migration to the big cities remains the only viable option.

Today, Praveen has quit his previous job, and now works in a small firm with friends in Indore. The salary he draws has not only allowed him to pay his college fees but also support his sister who wants to study further. Praveen’s story and his many accomplishments, given his circumstances, are a testimony to the strength of purpose and the hard work of the youth in rural India.

It is also an example of how small opportunities — whether in the form of a good education or financial assistance — can go a long way, allowing people to pursue their aspirations and make lives better for themselves and their families.

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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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