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Cinderella Was Luckier Than Women Students In DU

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Rules are very often arbitrary, just like names; they are there just for the sake of it. However, our hostel and PG administration does provide a very “legitimate” reason for such impositions, especially for women students. According to them, it is for our own “safety” that we should lock ourselves inside the hostel premises after 8 pm (the timings usually range from 7 to 10 pm). The logic behind the rule as I confer is that because women go out at night, hence their safety is in jeopardy. Consequently, if they don’t go out, it won’t happen in the first place. I can’t but admire their intellect in locating the problem. Basically, if you know you will face sexism in the workplace then simply stop working. #ProblemSolved. The problem with such rules is that they are rarely applied to the women students’ male counterparts, especially in PGs where the official administration cannot exercise much or any control.

Cinderella must return before midnight. Damn! She was one lucky woman. I wish I were Cinderella sometimes just so that I could stay out at least till midnight. The gender ratio on streets in Delhi after 10 pm is a nightmare, although we must also keep in mind that mornings aren’t immune from harassers either. One can’t ignore that these arbitrary rules which are specifically imposed on women students are a culmination of the victim blaming mentality that puts the onus of harassment on women while simultaneously restricting their freedom of choice and mobility.

Concerns such as these were shared among several women students which led to the formation of Pinjra Tod. It is an autonomous women’s collective of students and alumni of colleges from across Delhi and other cities that seek to make hostel and paying guest (PG) accommodation regulations less regressive and restrictive for women students with the idea of reclaiming personal and public places. Pinjra Tod has led several protests against such biased rules being imposed on women students by hostel as well as PG owners. In 2016 one such march was disrupted by members of the ABVP who were earlier in 2015 also charged with threatening Pinjra Tod members for putting up posters on the so-called “wall of democracy” in the North Campus.

Such rules also create the sense of illusion that women are best protected inside their houses. Home is any place that provides you with a sense of security but this ‘sense of security’ is threatened every time you look for a temporary residence in a new place. Finding accommodation in the North Campus area of Delhi University is not very difficult since the insufficient availability of seats in Delhi University hostels has set the platform for the blooming PG and renting flats business in the nearby (like Mukherjee Nagar) and faraway places (like Ghaziabad). There have been several cases of fraud, violence and sexual harassment by PG owners.

Ravali Gudipalli, a student of Ramjas College recently posted about the harassment she has been facing from her landlord, “Intruding into my room against my permission and against my clear warning. Constant breach of privacy. Standing at uncomfortable distances, making desperate efforts for physical touch. Commenting on my clothes, body, character and friends has become a constant.” When Ravali and her friends (also at the receiving end of harassment by the same owner) tried talking to the broker about the harassment, she found out that the landlord had already spoken to him and asked him to throw her out on the grounds of her “character.” It’s one of the most cited reasons for kicking women students out of their temporary residents and also simultaneously work as a mechanism for silencing them.

When asked about the recurrence of such incidents Ravali commented “I am not the only one who is trapped in this kind of harassment. I have faced sexual harassment from another landlord in the same area and this is an area-wide phenomenon which is victimising almost all the women students living in the North Campus residential area.”

The problem is not just limited to North Campus. Two years ago, an LSR student was reportedly harassed inside her PG by a stranger who was later chased away without any official inquiry by the police. While the police resorted to moral policing of the student, her PG owner made a remark about how “girls should behave.” In fact, last to last year students residing in Hudson Lane too had complained about the fraud committed by their landlord who had also harassed them. The case had gathered momentum when Pinjra Tod had protested against the landlord and made sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice. Pinjra Tod took it a step further by promising to release a block list of PGs and flats that should be avoided by students.

The most upsetting part, however, is the indifference of the administration towards the plight faced by its students at the hands of these landlords. The safety of a student should be the prime priority of an institution. It cannot dodge its responsibility by merely stating that these cases do not fall in its area of jurisdiction because it happened outside the campus. The University should either make available more seats in its hostels or at least work in harmony with organisations like Pinjra Tod to make sure that students aren’t vulnerable to situations that compromise their security.

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Image source: Kaushik Roy/India Today Group via Getty Images
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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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