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Why It’s Important To Talk About Bullying At Educational Institutes In India

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Last week, one of my aunts in my neighborhood (mother to a nine-year-old kid), told my mom that her son was being bullied by some of his classmates regularly at his new school, because he is shy and has little or no interest in sports, which according to his classmates is ‘girlish’ behaviour.

They used to call him names and even beat him sometimes,when he opposed it. His mother was not able to detect what her child was going through, as he never complained,not to his teacher nor his parents in fear of any negative outcome. As his mother told he started getting poor grades in test, which was unusual because he was quite good in studies at his previous school ,but now he would stay most of the time in his room after coming back from school and even on holidays.

It was only until one day, she noticed bruises on his hands and legs when he came home after school. When she asked him about it, he didn’t said anything but started crying, she calmed him down and asked him to tell her everything without fear.Then he told her everything that was happening with him at his new school. My mom advised her not to take the matter lightly,but to complain about it to his class teacher. The school administration was responsible enough after they got to know about it and strict actions were taken against the bullies along with a written notice to their parents.

Although the issue of bullying is not taken seriously, and often ignored in India due to lack of awareness regarding its toxic effect on an individual’s emotional and psychological health, it doesn’t mean educational institutes in India are free of it. Bullying refers to intentional hurtful or discriminatory behavior of a person/group towards an individual, which is repeated over time. Most of the time the bullies are a group of students with a similar behaviour who discriminate or hurt others who are different in either caste, sex, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity,medical conditions and disability or physical appearances etc. Bullying can take several forms like verbal, physical,emotional,sexual and even cyber with increase of internet usage.

In colleges/universities, bullying takes form of ragging which often leads to tragic consequences. Nowadays,we have anti-ragging laws at major colleges/universities,but they are often not exercised at every level, because most of time,the victims don’t complain about it, due to lack of trust with the responsible authority. At the same time,many colleges even don’t have adequate laws and responsible administrative council to act against bullying. The same applies to a large number of schools in India,where many times no proper attention is given to students being bullied by others,even when they complain to the teachers about it. This attitude towards bullying at educational institutes in India has only increased the problem.

Parents in India are mostly unaware about the detrimental effect of bullying on a child’s emotional and psychological health,which often leaves long lasting scars on their mind and affects their personality negatively. While some parents consider that their child would be able to deal with it him/herself,many even think it as part of growing years and don’t give proper attention even when their kids show unusual behavior and symptoms. Any change like feeling of isolation and loneliness,anxiety,low self-esteem,sudden poor performance in studies and depression among students shouldn’t be taken lightly. In absence of proper attention and care,it can further lead to suicidal thoughts as well. Thus, it’s the responsibility of every parent to talk to their children about their life in school/colleges at regular intervals.

When we look at the possible reason as to why a child/person turns into a bully, we come across various factors like violent and stressful environment at home, lack of monitoring regarding violent and aggressive behavior of kids by parents, lack of social values and tolerant attitude, bad company or role models,lack of support or even being bullied by someone at home can often lead to a negative impact on a child/person’s mindset and behaviour.

On the other hand, a person who is the victim of bullying can suffer all their life, due to the detrimental effect of bullying on mental or even physical health. Someone who has been bullied in childhood suffers with low self-esteem,personality and relationship issues or even psychological disorders at the later stages of their lives.

Thus, it’s important that we take the problem of bullying at educational institutes in India more seriously,as it not only affects the growth of an individual but also the society. As for young generations who later become responsible citizens of India,it’s important that they learn to be more accepting and understanding with others. It will not only help to end several forms of discrimination prevalent in India but will also increase the pace of social progress,which is a necessity in present time.

A proper approach is needed regarding it, at all the three levels –

Parents

With the rise of nuclear families in India, where the whole responsibility of children comes solely on parents, and children have also become more sensitive – it’s important that parents give due importance to the right way of parenting.

Children mostly learn from the behavior of their parents, thus,it’s necessary that they set good examples before their kids. It’s found even in researches that kids of parents who are accepting, understanding and have good social values, tend to show the same behavior which greatly helps in the proper growth of an individual. Parents should also try their best to create a non-violent and stress-free environment for their children. Good communication between parents and children,greatly increases the trust and understanding between them. Thus, it helps children to open up to their parents and share their thoughts and feelings without any hesitation or fear.

In the end, it’s important for every parent to make their kids realize that it’s good to respect and accept people as they are. Differences and similarities lies in every living beings. Also,parents should support kids to be brave enough to speak up against any form of bullying,not only when they are bullied themselves but even if they see anyone in their schools/colleges being bullied by someone else.

Teachers

At schools or colleges, it’s important for teachers and the administration, that they give due attention to every student, if they complain about a person or group involved in any form of bullying or ragging,because it can even have tragic consequences on the person being bullied. Immediate and strict actions should be taken against the responsible students or groups. Proper implementation of anti-bullying laws and awareness regarding the toxic and adverse impact of bullying on an individual’s psychological health would greatly help in forming a safe and discrimination free environment at schools and colleges.Which in turn,will help in proper overall growth of students in educational institutes. One of the school in Mumbai took a great step forward against bullying.

Students

Last but not the least, it’s important for every students to know that it’s good to be accepting and understanding towards others be it at school,college or any other place in world. Everyone should be respected as an individual/human and any form of discrimination or bullying related to caste, sex, religion, gender identity and behavior, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity,medical conditions and disability or physical appearances, etc. shouldn’t be tolerated. Anyone who bullies others needs to be stopped as they are not only harming others, but themselves as well. Students shouldn’t fear or hesitate to speak up, and complain if they are bullied at school or college by anyone, because if bullies are left without taking any immediate actions, they would not only harm several others, but also spread a wrong message to others.

It’s time we stand up against bullying and work together on removing this problem completely from education institutes in India. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you come from, the thing which matters the most is how you help in creating a safe,healthy and discrimination/bullying free environment for the younger generation of India. And if you are a student, and either you or someone else at your school/college is being bullied, be brave and speak about it to your school/college administration immediately.

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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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