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Women Students Vs Patriarchal College Administrations: An Uprising Long Overdue

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India is witnessing a wave of student protests around the country against the arbitrary hostel rules imposed by the administration under the guise of ‘safety.’ Recently, on October 9, the female PhD students of Rajasthan Central University began a protest against the unfair surveillance rules of the women’s hostel which was later joined by 300 male students. The Proctor and chief warden tried to initiate a dialogue with the students but both the parties failed to arrive at a consensus.

Reportedly, the movement then spread to the undergraduate hostel where 70 students broke the hostel locks and continued the protest which was initiated in the postgraduate hostel. Around 2 am the hostel administration attempted another dialogue and was accused of harassing the students to shut the protest without meeting their demands.

The students have previously agitated against the curfew on women students, their inaccessibility to library after 10 pm., the biometric system of attendance, the installation of cameras inside the campus including the corridors, the inaccessibility of the campus from 10 pm to 6 am and the harassment by hostel guards (who were accused of asking unnecessary questions, and bothering parents with text messages informing them of the entry and exit timings of their children). The charter proposed by the students calls for an annihilation of this claustrophobic state of surveillance that students are subjected to, without any accountability on the part of the authorities.

In the face of the determination shown by the students, which has led to the continuation of the protest, the authorities have taken to stringent measures to clamp down on the student protestors. Afraid of the protesting students, the administration sprung into action by issuing a notice on October 11. The notice disallows the students from covering their faces on the campus and posting about the ongoing protest on social media.

The administration has taken to identifying the students and subsequently targeting them individually to create a sense of fear due to which the students have been forced to cover up their faces. The protest further intensified between October 11 and October 12 when male students were refused entry to the hostel, against which they protested by removing their clothes. The female students on the other hand were advised not to get influenced by their male counterparts and have been asked to produce a letter of apology for their behavior. Instead of a self-reflexive attitude towards the problem, the administration has upheld its unauthentic rules which restricts the freedom of the students and their right to privacy.

Along somewhat similar lines, last month, the Regional Institute of Education Bhopal also witnessed huge protests against the sexist hostel rules imposed on them. The women students stayed up all night in the basketball court to express their dissent on September 15. The administration, instead of responding to their demands through dialogue, chose to cut off the electricity and further make it difficult for the students to protest. The women students then turned to the police to seek permission to protest legally, who instead vouched for the administration, thus becoming their mouthpiece.

The women students have been troubled with the curfew that restricts the movement of the students after 7:00 p.m. These curfew timings vary, depending on sunlight and usually during the winter are rounded off to 5:30 or 5:45 p.m. The students now demand an end to the constant moral policing on part of the hostel administration and the removal of restrictive curfew timings.

However, amidst the struggle of students against the unfair curfew timings came news of victory from students of Kottayam Medical College who were successful in extending curfew timings from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. This victory comes as a result of repeated requests to the college Principal. Interestingly, these requests were not paid any attention initially and had been sidelined by providing the excuse that such decisions rested within P.T.A. meetings. The demands of the students can be considered basic as they wanted an extension only due to the inconvenience it caused selectively to female students; since no curfew timings were applicable for their male counterparts. Later, after repeated requests and continued protest by the female students the Vice Principal finally announced the extension of the curfew to 9:30 pm.

All of the above-mentioned protests against curfew rules have a pattern in which they unfold. Women have been at the forefront of these movements as they are the worst affected by sexist curfew rules designed to restrict their mobility on campus. In most cases, the administration has responded negatively to these protests, often initiating a crackdown on the students. This is also reflective of the fact that the administration has failed to view students as functional adults, capable of taking their own decisions and in most cases these functional adults seem to be women students.

While students have fearlessly continued their struggle, most mainstream media has presented an administration-centric account of these protests which they’ve rarely covered in the first place. Despite countrywide protests, the administrations have fallen short of realizing the need to attend to student demands, initiate dialogue and develop consensus, let alone concede to these demands. However, few struggles have achieved desired results like in the case of Punjab and Kottayam Medical College. These success stories continue to motivate the agitators in an onward direction.


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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.

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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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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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.

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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