What An Internship Taught Me About Inequality & Caste-based Discrimination In India

For the past six months, I have been working with Pro Sport Development (PSD), a social enterprise devoted to the holistic development of youth using sports, documenting ‘Kadam Badhate Chalo’ (KBC), a youth-led initiative jointly implemented by PSD with the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and the Martha Farrell Foundation.

My role has sent me travelling across India and introduced me to youths from a wide variety of backgrounds, with different languages, cultures, religions and beliefs. I have been given the chance to document both uplifting and heart-wrenching stories, and the opportunity to know India in a better way.

These six months have been filled with rich experiences and stories. They made me realise the scale of inequalities that exist in today’s society and gave me a completely different perspective. While my colleagues tried to create an impact on the KBC youth, the youth made a lasting impact on me. Young women such as Pranita Parmar* in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh, who fought with her parents to avoid a child marriage and to attend school, taught me lessons on courage. And young men such as Narayan Bisht* from Siliguri, West Bengal, who took the responsibility to run his fatherless family at the age of 14, taught me the beauty in taking responsibility.

During this internship, my perspective of India has changed. I have seen caste-based discrimination in Japla, Jharkhand, where people from the lower castes were not allowed to construct toilets, and were forced into open defecation. And I have seen how menstruating women in Madhya Pradesh were treated as untouchables. More than all of these, what affected me the most was the situation in Bhachau, Gujarat, where, in one of the most developed states of India, girls are not allowed to study after class 8.

KBC has made me a better person, and sensitised me to the issues of gender-based violence. I hope the campaign continues to make a difference in the lives of young girls and boys across India, building leaders out of them to fight for equality and question injustice.

In these six months, I have encountered an array of experiences which have sharpened my nose as a socially-inclined storyteller. I also had my own share of fun, travelling across the country with young and enthusiastic colleagues who made my time here memorable.

But now, it’s time to move on. I’m going away – not with empty hands, but with great experiences in one hand and the baton of equality in the other, searching for a meaning and purpose. Undeniably, KBC has shed some light on my path, and I now hope to walk along it. But for now, it’s time to bid farewell.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the persons concerned.

Similar Posts

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below