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Not Cracking The Medical Entrance Made Me Realise My True Calling To Be A Journalist

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For as long as I can remember, I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. Thanks to my parents, both from a medical background, I quietly fell into the mould of an ideal kid – the kid who studies sincerely, plays nationals in hockey, and has actively been a part of dancing and singing groups.

It’s always easy to multitask like this in school (something that I learnt later in life). For me, college was all about white coats and dissection assignments and having a ‘Dr.’ in front of my name. But hey, every inspiring story can’t start with so much positivity, or maybe it can, but just not mine. Things started rolling in a way I never saw coming, when I did not crack the medical entrance.

I was crying constantly. I was upset for letting my loved ones and myself down, when people around me advised that I drop an entire year and prepare for the entrance all over again. And in that drop year, I found a wonderful escape in writing. This is why it’s the most important part of my story.

With my progressively decreasing interest in the medical field, I began exploring everything about creative courses. If there’s one thing I really wish could go on at the back of every student’s ear and shout like a foghorn when needed, it’s this: “Don’t listen to them, do your thing.”

So, I did my thing. I found a college in Delhi, applied and got selected, all alone. Nobody had a clue about it until the whole process was complete. Two years down the line, I have so much gratitude for every twist and turn that brought me here. Today I am a content student of journalism.

My college was nothing like I pictured, or anyone pictures for that matter. There was no campus, just a building. As for the extra-curricular activities, all the college had to offer were two societies to prove ourselves – dancing and singing. That dream also vanished quicker than ever.

Letting go of everything in my head and letting reality sink in was a journey to a great personal development – the kind that makes you strong mentally and emotionally. Don’t be afraid of that. I wish I had heard these words when I was going through the struggle of joining a new college.

Academics was always fun, because now having the capability of sitting hours (thanks to thick books in my preparation for medical), I never had a problem with theory and the practical aspect got as interesting as it could.

By this time, I should also mention that, Delhi was one place I’ve always dreaded to be in. I never pictured myself studying here, and then eventually, falling in love with it.

At first, you’ll do it all alone, the struggle to understand metro routes, to get an auto, to fit in and create your idea of a ‘happy college life’ with your ‘college buddies’ forever. It’s hard but you’ll get there.

We had assignments like making documentaries, short films, designing magazines, newspapers, tabloids, and whatnot. Teachers will do their part, but it’s eventually on you: how much you want to take from it and dig into it. No one will do it for you, and expecting someone to do it is not acceptable.

Not being able to dissect didn’t matter that much, when I understood how writing works in different mediums. White coats didn’t seem as important, when I spent days wearing my camera for assignments. And the crazy thing is, it was all in me, but it had remained completely unnoticed. When my life began to fall into place, everything felt as if it was meant to be.

The daily exploration of new fields was fun. I got to know new areas I could work in, where I could put my love for writing to use. I learnt the hard way that not everyone who surrounds you is worth your time. Being a fairly bubbly girl, it was a task to learn how to say no and avoid a certain set of people, the ones who can meddle with your mental peace.

As cliché as it may sound, I’ll just say it, if I have to describe college life in one word it would be self-discovery. I would’ve never known what all I can do, if I hadn’t pushed my limits. You know that phrase, “go the extra mile,” that’s where I went and it was beautiful.

The college I’m going to graduate from was nothing like what I wanted, it was in a place that I never liked, I was doing a course I never knew existed until a couple of years back – with all that has happened, I like think of myself as the mistress of uncertainties.

And I won’t thank the college, as much as I’ll thank myself for the woman I’m becoming. Of course, there will be teachers who hate you, or you will hate them. It’s a cycle that goes on, but never really matters beyond a point.
Some teachers will meddle with your marks, some with your self-respect, but some will really guide you through it all. They’ll educate you, support you, and make you a better person. Hold on to them, the others will never matter. I can’t list the number of times I’ve cried for a teacher misunderstanding me but now, I have grown a thick skin and like I said, did my thing.

Now that I’m half way through the phase that caused me a great amount of anxiety and stress, I still see students going through it. And here’s a word of advice for you, if you’re reading this, and you feel like your life is going downhill because you’re in a place you never wanted, then just breathe in the reality and embrace it to make it your own. I did it, and I can’t complain about where I am. I think when you live your life and just forget about the consequences and the struggle; you can truly make the best of any situation.

It’s not important to know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Tumble around, and toss a bit, make a career of what you think suits you best. Students are so consumed with the thought of finding passion and doing something about it.

Contrary to popular belief, my passion has changed so many times. As a kid, it was being a teacher, then a doctor, then writing, then photography, and now I’m back to writing. You never know what is going to happen next.
And passion? It will strike your nerves with enthusiasm at any given point of your existence. It’s only bad if we push it down ourselves and drown in the pressure of finding it.

I call my passion writing because the completion of this simple article is making me happy. And the fun part is this: I cracked the medical entrance next year but never gave two hoots about it ever again.

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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.

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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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