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Education Of A Girl Child Is Necessary For The Overall Development Of Our Country

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Canadian High CommissionEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #EveryGirlInSchool, a campaign by the High Commission of Canada, Nutrition International and Youth Ki Awaaz to advocate for equal opportunities for girls in India. Join the conversation by publishing a story here.

India is known for its rampant female foeticide as well as severe inequalities towards women and girls. It accompanies the various complex issues pervading our country’s socio-economic problems such as poverty, caste etc. This situation is not only prevalent in our country but the world over. It is obvious that equality between men and women can measure a country’s status – most important being the equality between girls and boys from a really young age. We cannot productively assess the female child’s rights without considering the socio-economic status of women in that society. After all, societies raise the child as per expectations of what the child would grow up to be. This is more prevalent in the developing world – where the resources are scarce.

This reality around me has made me introspect on my stance towards gender relations. I realised that gender equality is the way to go forward and tried my best to inculcate these values. We must strive for equal opportunities to all in general. Given our current scenario equal opportunities between girls and boys is of paramount importance. In this struggle, we must realise that education plays a vital role. Education opens the door to many opportunities while making the person aware of their rights. As awareness about one’s fundamental rights and duties stems from basic literacy and knowledge.

Empirical evidence and mere common sense states that early education makes the required changes in shaping society towards progress. Girls’ education is crucial to womankind as well as the nation itself. Better educated and empowered women lead to a reformation of society and far more options for employment. However, it is sad that while the state of education in many parts of the world is abysmal, it is nearly inaccessible to girl children at large.

The reasons for these can be cited from poverty, lack of resources to the larger framework of patriarchy itself. I’ve heard many people from different socio-economic strata stating that investing in a girl child’s education is a waste of money. The same people have do not think twice when investing for their son’s education or their daughter’s marriage. The fact that people would rather spend on their daughter’s marriage expenses or dowry instead of education is very disheartening. Social awareness is the only known tool for changing such a mindset. However, it is fortunate that the situation for girls is becoming better and a lot of places in the world have female children are now at par with their male counterparts.

When it comes to India and other developing countries, I would say that there are various ways to counter the obstacles for girl children in terms of gaining equal access to opportunities. The government has a significant role to play in this as they have the resources to build the required infrastructure and spread awareness. The few main reasons for many girls not attending school is lack of access, infrastructure, safety concerns, consideration for feminine hygiene and family support.

This doesn’t help when there’s outright social discrimination within the school walls. Most of all an improvement in the basic infrastructure of the school building with decent functioning toilets for teenage girls is needed especially in rural areas, along with ensuring their safety on their way to schools – which is one of the reasons parents are reluctant to send their girls to school. With this, we can hope for a decent and egalitarian education to children throughout the country.

The improvement in safety measures for girl children has improved the attendance rate by a large margin. Schools must spread awareness against child sexual and physical abuse and help them to report these as well. If girls are enabled to protect themselves from sexual predators, they will not fear taking up bigger challenges in their life. Governments have to take care of this aspect when it comes to government schooling (since most of the poor children avail government schooling). We must also look forward to sensitising the faculty members to make sure that no discrimination is meted out to girls. This will take time, but it can be achieved.

The sad part of this is that a lot of girls lag in schooling due to menstrual problems after the age of 12 to 14. It is usually due to extreme taboos or lack of affordable sanitary napkins. The government must make sanitary pads or other feminine hygiene products much more accessible and educate girls on maintaining their health. Iron and nutrient deficiency is a severe problem among girls of menstruating age. Remedies to this can be ensured with the help of vitamin supplements and decent meals in schools.

Last but not least, social media campaigns must be carried out along with financial schemes. A few Indian states are trying to tackle this problem by introducing Girl Child Education schemes. For Example, the state of Telangana has launched the scheme “Bangaru Thalli” – where the government helps in subsidising the girl child’s education from kindergarten to graduation. This has improved the attendance of girls in schools by a large margin. An introduction to a variety of courses and vocational course from high school would also help in the attainment of economic capabilities in general. It is essential to make people aware of the economic potential a girl achieves when she becomes more educated.

While things are gradually getting better for an average girl child, we still have a lot more to accomplish. After all, it is 2018! We can never call ourselves truly advanced if we neglect the aspect of equality between all genders.

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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, 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.

Bidisha was selected in’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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