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Equality, Transparency, Inclusivity: 5 Things Students Achieved On Their Campuses In 2018

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2018 has seen pivotal junctures, and some have been unprecedented moments as far as students’ struggles are concerned.

I had goosebumps watching this video of HNLU students’ protests demanding the resignation of their VC as it did rounds on the internet, their solidarity and unity reverberating through their slogans. TISS is the most recent example, where after 10 days of protest and a hunger strike, students managed to reinstate the previously cancelled BA programme and recontinued the hostel services, and the LGBTQ+ students group of Pondicherry University, Spectra, organising their first ever pride march.

These are but a few instances which will go down in the history of campuses and universities across the country. Here is how it went this year:

1. Helping the World, One Day At A Time: Inventions and Developments

Even with the paucity of funds and resources, our students have managed to come up with tools and inventions that make life easier.

A research team at IIT Kanpur is working on a tool ‘Treadwill’ that provides psychotherapy, and aid individuals cope with mental health using online tools.

Similarly, IIT Roorkee students developed an inflatable airbag helmet that exponentially reduce the risks of road accidents, and is four times more effective than conventional helmets.

In a bid to revive a dying art form, students at Enactus at Indraprastha College for Women, came up with Project Aipan and employed a group of eight Kumaoni women. They work together to revive the art form, and in turn, also empower the women.

2. Pushing Through Patriarchy: Questioning Sexist Rules

A student issue that gained widespread attention in mainstream media was that at the Hidayatullah National Law School (HNLU) where students protested against sexist rules, harassment from faculty, and curfew timings; they got the VC to resign after weeks of indefinite strike.

Earlier this year, smashing the glass of patriarchy, DU’s Pinjra Tod protested, demanding the abolition of curfew timings from all women’s hostels, sloganeering “Itihaas ki dhaara modenge, saare pinjro ko todenge,” (We will turn the course of history and break out of all cages).

Panjab University students had been protesting about the same. Recently, their demands were fulfilled with entry to hostel remaining open 24×7.

3. Taking Down Administrative Arbitrariness

Jadavpur University students were on a 96 hour long hunger strike against the admin’s decision to give 100% weightage to 12th class results for admission to undergraduate courses. The administration reversed its decision after the protests, going back to 50-50 weightage to Class XII results and the entrance exam.

Calcutta Medical College students went on a 14 day hunger strike demanding transparency in hostel allotments after many students failed to get hostel rooms. After students were falling ill and had to be taken to the hospital, the administration conceded their demands of being given accommodation in a new hostel.

But, some protests haven’t yielded results like that of Manipur University, where the students had been protesting for over 100 days demanding the resignation of their VC, who rejoined the university despite a 85-day shutdown over allegations of negligence.

4. Fighting Fee Hikes

Students of BITS Pilani engaged in a nationwide protest calling for a rollback of the proposed fee hike. After series of negotiations, they received audience with the Chancellor Kumar Mangalam Birla, who promised the students various facilities for their development.

Students residing in hostels of Hindu College at DU staged similar protests.

5. Paving The Way For Inclusivity In Campuses

This year also saw academic spaces taking steps in furtherance of inclusive education and social sensitivity by incorporating transgender hostels and calling for transgender reservations.

Kerala government’s Higher Education Department sanctioned two additional seats for the admission of trans students across all the courses in universities and Arts and Science colleges in the state as a step towards uplifting and empowering the trans community.

TISS also announced India’s first gender-neutral on-campus accommodation for its students.

Armed with resolve, determination and awareness, students across universities have fought back every time injustice was meted out to them. It has set good and crucial precedents, and we only hope that the next year orients more towards better education and less towards administrative dysfunctionalities.

Featured image source: Spectra-Pondicherry University; Journal Club, BITS Pilani Hyd Campus; TISS For Everyone/Facebook.
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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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