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Law School Is My First Step Towards Cleaning Up The System

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Being a talkative girl means that people automatically take you to be an extrovert. But, that is not always the case.

I often found it (and to a major extent, still, find it) difficult to engage and be a part of a group conversation. I believe it is the start that matters, but once I get in, there is no stopping me. I think I am more of an ambivert and, somehow, I managed to use this characteristic of mine to pursue a career in law. Sounds bizarre, but that’s true! An ambivert chooses their crowd and takes time to fit in. Being an ambivert was also what made me more observant and well aware of my surroundings. This definitely helped me work through my course.

Right from the 8th standard, I was very clear that I wanted to pursue a career in law. One of the reasons being, I could use this talkative nature and put it to good use but this was a very superficial reason. I always wanted to help women and children. With the increasing crimes, I felt it was my responsibility in some way to contribute towards the needs of the society.

The 10th standard is a major milestone in the life of any student. It is also the decision-making year, not just for the student themselves but, for the family too. Pursuing a career in law meant opting for Humanities because that acts as a good base for the further course. But, like other Indian families having their daughters pursue law, I was not encouraged to pursue Humanities because, well, practicality! Choosing Humanities would have been directly proportional in reducing options in other careers drastically. I hated Math and Physics, so there was no way I was going to pursue Science. After weighing the pros and cons, I took the next best option, Commerce. Contrary to popular belief, for me, studying commerce had its benefits in building that base before I enrolled myself for a BA LLB (Bachelors of Arts and Bachelors of Law).

I can sum up my time in college from the day of admissions until now in one line: it has been a continuous fight with the education system in our country. That is, probably, the one thing that will continue even after I am done with my course. The dearth of good and qualified teachers has cost us our education system. The role of educators is to educate, but that has been taken for granted and that inevitably leads us students to suffer. I need to be exposed to animated discussions where my horizons would be pushed with each class, and I could be among people who’ll make me question my opinions and compel me to think about theirs, but that has somehow never happened.

However, what I learned to teach myself. It’s been three years since I made the choice to pursue my course in this particular university, and it has been a bumpy ride throughout.

Law is not, ideally, considered an honest profession. I would thank the people in this system who have made it that way. So, naturally, my extended family opposed my pursuing a career in this field. This was my initial struggle. Once college started, like every other student, I struggled to fit in, finding my people, adjusting to the atmosphere. A major struggle, however, was also adjusting to the general lax attitude of the faculty.

But, if I step out of my shoes for a minute and retrospect, I find that, somewhere in these three years, I seemed to have forgotten that 8th standard girl’s passion. I often find myself questioning why I chose this field; whether it is worth the money, time and effort, whether I even want to get into this system. It has been a battle with the system, and for the system, ever since I started. Each day, while I read or study new laws, I realise that it’s not the shortage of laws or even lawmakers, but, the lack of effective implementation that is the problem. That bridge between theory and practice is far from being built.

Keeping all the politics and the messy system aside, I’ve realised that there’s another side to it. I’ve also grown to understand that just focusing on the problem is not enough. Now that I know what the problem is, the next step is to see what I can do about the problem. Building that bridge between theory and practice can only be done if I have the passion to work in my own country and help clean up the mess. We often just leave, after criticising our own country and most of us want a comfortable life in another developed country. But, if we all want to leave our country, who will stay back to clear that mess? So, ensuring that I stand my ground in this corrupt system is the first step that I have decided to take. This is exactly where I hope to see myself in five years; a place where I will stand my ground despite all the opposition. It’s not just about my position or company or firm.

Most students struggle to find their passion, but I don’t think that is the only problem. The real struggle is dealing with the disappointments that we never accounted for while pursuing our passion. My rendezvous with law, has not been a pleasant one, but it continues to be a journey that will always be very dear and personal to me, for it exposed me to various nuances of this field, and what stayed is the determination to work with the society, for the society and bring about a change.

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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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