This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhineet Nayyar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Engineering Students Have The Perfect Opportunity To Become Social Justice Warriors

More from Abhineet Nayyar

Engineering, better known as the subject that our society has been obsessed with, since the advent of the IITs, probably succeeded in manufacturing more machines than the entire industrial revolution. With over 1.2 million teenagers taking the joint entrance exam (JEE) in 2016, the entire educational infrastructure of our country tries to sweep a large portion of the best minds towards robotic joints and the numerous lines of code. As a result, the opportunity of taking up humanities, or even commerce after high school has been painted as a ‘failure’s’ last resort in today’s India. Consequently and quite common sensically, this has further caused a dip in the percentage of young voices that take up positions of power in our country’s framework of policy-making.

I, as an engineering student, can still hear Uncle Ben’s voice echo in my ears when he tells Peter about the correlation between power and responsibility. We might not have power in its usual meaning, my expected-to-settle-successfully friends, but what we have is a golden opportunity to be heard. Our democracy sees about more than a million engineers graduate every year and that is a clear sign of what our young blood holds the power to do.

Firstly, the extent of socio-economic issues that India continues to struggle with varies across an ever-expanding spectrum of scenarios. The kind of sentiments these issues tend to touch on, according to me, come out to be quite synonymous with the life of an engineering student, right from the inception of the idea in high school. With our country stuck in a headlock with issues like gender, class and caste disparities, it is basic to assume that someone who has been a first-hand witness to such problems would be a better choice to solve them.

Apart from this, the experiences of studying in a classroom that’s insensitive and homophobic, one can’t overlook the fact that even in the 21st century, the world’s largest democracy can’t seem to get over discrimination on the basis of gender. Adding to this is the problem of poor governance where corruption acts as an effective fuel to the already failing public policies. In all, my opinion in this entire article relies on the extent of problems faced by engineering students and their ability to bring about a change.

To drive my point home, let me begin by explicitly citing how the issues mentioned above play out with engineering students in particular, and how their awareness towards these issues is something to think about. Majority of the students who take the highly competitive engineering exams are products of educational enterprises that profit from the fear that permeates middle-class parents of a high school kid. They sell their services by creating a sense of enmity among the students by pitting them against one another, who otherwise could’ve done wonders if given a chance to work together. As a result, some students give in to the pressure. Along with all this, we as a student base, get to face one of the biggest problems our country’s politics faces today, the question of reservation. What I mean to say via these few instances is that an engineering student gets to see the darkest sides of our mentality. One gets to see two of the most sickening social evils of today, the messed up education system cuffed with the perils of the caste system.

Taking another step forward, let me point out that it is only us, the engineering students, who can aptly describe the skewed gender ratios in our own colleges. With the best colleges counting 1 woman for around every 10 men, we, as the emphatic thoughtful students of the institute are forced to ask ourselves how our society affects individual choices. We get to see what happens when you mix a highly male-dominated administration with a female-scarce student base, and consequently, it is us alone that can call the disparity and its consequences out.

Further, coming to an issue that’s in dire need of attention, the structure of governance. With a complicated path to effective policy-making, it seems almost intuitive to have someone trained to have dealt with problems on a regular basis. It is no coincidence that about half the students who clear the exam for civil services in our country are engineers. With problems like inaccessibility for people with disabilities plaguing almost every corner of India’s framework, if only more talented engineers chose to work on solving these issues once they become a part of the system, they could strategically aim at the heart of the problem and work to dismantle it.

Now, as far as the claim of talent and calibre of an engineering student goes, we have, over the years, succeeded in building a mentor base that varies through various electives. This gives us a higher chance to experience numerous aspects of the cultural makeup of the country and implement vastly encompassing policies or techniques to problems of both the sciences and the society. For example, usage of statistics or other engineering/mathematical tools for socio-political issues is a highly accepted phenomenon these days. Building on this point, what better background for a social justice activist/enthusiast than to expand one’s mind into the realms of both, the society and the sciences coupled with the knowledge from studying engineering.

In conclusion, I strongly feel that engineering students of the country fit the description of a social justice warrior, as cliched as that term may sound. They have seen the pressure first hand, the bias first-hand, both caste and gender-based, and they have the strong social capital needed to make an impact on the minds of this country of 1.32 billion. We tend to keep arguing how our country has become very engineering-centric, but I can see this fact itself being used for bringing a change that holds the power to send tremors of progress through the failing structure the Indian society has come to be.

_

Image used for representation only.
Image source: Randy Piland|icp news/Flickr
You must be to comment.

More from Abhineet Nayyar

Similar Posts

By Vipashyana Dubey

By Imran Hasib

By Meemansa Narula

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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