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From Kashmir To Rajasthan: How I Overcame Heat, Bad Food & Unlucky Schooling For NEET 2018

Today I stand jubilant with my success in NEET 2018. This journey started many years ago. To be specific, it begun two years ago in 2016 after I passed my class 10 board examinations. It was then that I finally decided to opt for science and travelled all the way to Rajasthan from Kashmir.

Having spent all my life in a place characteristically cold, it was a bold decision to move to one of the hottest places in India. Even though almost everyone around me was supportive of this decision, some were visibly uncomfortable with it, citing the unfavourable climate as their prime reason.

“How would one adapt and live and then also prepare for this ‘tough’ examination?” This was the question that initially bothered me as well. However, I also understood that one must leave one’s comfort zone if one is to actually start zeroing in on one’s set goals. It was with this realisation that I packed my bags and joined Allen Coaching Institute in Kota. The fact that I wasn’t going there alone but had almost a dozen students with me also calmed my nerves.

However, the first thing that struck all of us once we were trying to settle in was not the soaring temperatures. It was the food. Somehow, it hadn’t occurred to me that the food in Rajasthan would be different from what I ate all my life, and then adding to this was the fact that we weren’t eating any homemade goodies anymore but had to survive on the tiffin facility. I came to know that most people there were more inclined towards south Indian food and well – let me admit it – I didn’t even like its smell. This new unexpected challenge probably made us forget the summer heat.

Even though these issues with living continued to haunt us for the two years we spent there, I somehow got myself to seriously consider the main reason I was there: studies. The prep school at Allen, I must say this, was one of the main reasons things got going. I felt that I had made the right decision joining this institute as I realised that they were the masters of this field. They guided us so well that within no time, all that I could focus on was studies. Everything else was just pushed to the background. This was also the time when it dawned on me that the standard of education there was much better than what I had encountered all through my school days in Kashmir. This was probably also because now that we had specialised streams, we were able to focus on one thing and not navigate through so many subjects.

Sometime later, when I had properly begun the preparations for medical entrance examinations, it hit me hard in the face that most other students had come from CBSE and ICSE boards and even though I was among the toppers of the J&K State Board of School Examinations, I couldn’t really compete with these students from other states. I felt I could have done much better if I had had a head start like them. It took me many months to get there.

If the heat, bad tiffin food, and unlucky schooling weren’t enough, simply being away from home was emotionally draining. At that point, if your scores dwindle a bit, it can take a heavy toll on your mental health. Suddenly you feel you have wasted all your parents’ money and nothing is going to come out of this exercise. A lot of students in Kota fall for this and unluckily never come out of it. It is quite natural that despite all the struggles and hard work if your grades aren’t up to the mark (add to this the constant competition you have to live up to in these institutions) you start thinking, “Maybe it is in my best interest to head back home,” or “Why am I even trying this hard when I am clearly not made for this.” During these times, you require the support and guidance of your parents, and I was one of the lucky ones who got that.

However, the most important thing that strikes you time and again is the feeling: “Oh God! I should have known this before coming here. Maybe I would have done it in such a better way if I did.”

Believe me, this is the only regret I have had in my two-year journey. Like, if there had been someone to guide me in a better way at the beginning, I would have done a lot better than what I did. Modestly speaking, it took me almost a year to get to know and understand things well, like how to work the “smart way” and how things generally work in a different culture and place. Since the NEET examination is an objective based test, you really need some smart bits of advice to tackle it in a better way. This can save a lot of one’s time, and I can say this from my own experience.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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