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What Campus Watch Writers Had To Say About Reporting On Students’ Issues In 2017

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This year has been quite the whirlwind for college students in India. From a drastic seat cut for M.Phil and PhD students in JNU, clashes between students and the police at Ramjas college and hundreds of women students protesting in Banaras Hindu University against rampant sexual harassment are just a few of the many incidents that left the student community fuming, but more importantly, thinking this year.

We asked the Campus Watch writing team how 2017 has been for them, and their experience of writing about various students’ issues.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

1. Saptaparno Ghosh

This year has been noteworthy. Writing for Campus Watch, I happened to be at the centre of things during the Ramjas incident, the unanticipated NSUI-victory at the DUSU polls, and the multiple student protests for accommodation and better educational infrastructure. Reporting and writing about the mentioned occurrences, I interacted with both the parties involved. This was when my convictions and ideology were severely challenged. Overall, it has been a very satisfying and challenging year. The year made me more critical and observant. Hope the newly acquired thinking serves well for my master’s application.

2. Sanjana Chettri

2017 has been pretty eventful for me. My experience with Campus Watch helped me understand that my voice matters. For instance, when I wrote about taboos around menstruation, and its consequential patriarchal customs in societies in the north-east. A lot of women contacted me expressing their discomfort with the customs. Campus Watch also allowed me to take up genuine issues looming as obstacles for students. For example, my piece on how the admission process through the ‘quota’ system in Delhi University for students from Sikkim is a complete nightmare, was widely discussed in the state. These experiences have brought in me a sense of responsibility: to cross-check facts better and build reliable content and to try and understand grievances through an objective lens. It also taught me punctuality.

3. Saumya Arora

Like every year, 2017 came with unprecedented challenges and big lessons. There were times I hit rock bottom. I fought out of my safe spaces and took to situations which were novel to me. Despite the all the downs, I gathered all my strength and kept going, and now look back at all these experiences as opportunities which built and humbled me.

My experience with Campus Watch has been an extremely enriching journey. From writing about issues that were important to me, to reading about different problems and stories about others, it has helped me understand the deep-rooted social and political concerns at the university level which I was ignorant about earlier. I wrote about the rigging of results at the IIT Rendezvous’17. I was able to see and engage with different perspectives. Listening to, and documenting personal stories exhibited how we constantly need to speak up for ourselves. I hope to continue this exciting journey with Campus Watch of learning and unlearning.

4. Ananyaa Mehra

Before entering 2017, I had thought of how important this year was going to be for me. From entering the final year of college to coming to terms with leaving college soon, this was meant to be a year that would decide my future. Now that I look back, this year has taught me a lot. I have grown as a person, made friends with people whom I hope to be in touch with for as long as possible and have finally discovered where my heart lies. I got my share of opportunities, and I made mistakes from which I learnt a lot.

I became a part of the Campus Watch writing team, and I consider it to be one of the best things that happened to me in 2017. I wrote about my experience of starting a new club in my college and spending Diwali away from home. I have learned so much about writing and have a different outlook on things happening on campuses today. My belief in the fact that words can make people feel emotions the best way, became true. It was a year which changed me as a person, broadened my horizons and gave me multiple reasons to look forward to life.

5. Shruti Shhreyasi

2017 was a year of growth and healing for me. I learned a lot about myself, and my ability to deal with hard times. I matured greatly, re-discovered my love for writing and learned how to navigate panic attacks and the occasional heartbreak.

In 2018, I want to put my new set of adjustment skills to use, and figure what path to choose after college. Moreover, my experience at Campus Watch has helped me understand how to communicate my problems better. I’m glad that I’m going into the New Year by catering to myself and my health needs. Here’s wishing all Campus Watch readers a happy New Year!

6. Simran Nandrajog

This year has been, in many ways, great for me. I have always felt grateful for the opportunity given to me by Campus Watch. Not only have my writing skills improved drastically, but I also feel more confident in expressing my opinions. I have also gotten the chance to write about issues I never thought I would get to otherwise.

I wrote an article this year on why it shouldn’t be a problem if college students are having sex. While I have had discussions about the topic with my friends, I never imagined writing on it due to various apprehensions. However, I took it up as a challenge, asked people for their opinions, and in the end, most people appreciated the article.

2017 has been great in terms of personal growth too. Instead of comparing with other people’s lives, I started to focus on myself. I started working out, which has benefitted my physical as well as mental health. I have begun to enjoy my own company, which I believe has been my best accomplishment so far. From being a highly insecure and self-conscious individual, I have become more independent and strong this year.

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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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