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5 Things A First Time Voter Should Remember Before Heading To The Ballot In 2019

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We have come to the end of this year and now we head towards 2019 – a year of Lok Sabha elections, which will decide the fate of our nation for the next 5 years. There will be multiple issues that voters will be keeping in mind, before they go out to vote.

In this election season, Youth Ki Awaaz asked me to do a story on the things we must keep in mind before we head out to vote in 2019. Hence, keeping this theme in mind, I thought about addressing young first time student voters in this election. I would like to talk about the issue affecting them the most, which is education and employment.

With 65% of our country’s population below the age of 35, we all boast about how young we are as a nation and about empowering our youth to bring out any significant social change. But we need to realise the idea behind the word empowerment in a real sense.

In India, we have a world-class filtration system in place of an education system. Here, we give so much importance to marks and scores – as if it’s the only thing that will decide the successful future of an individual. But the million dollar question which we need to ask is that even after stressing so much over marks, entrance exams and degrees, where are the jobs?

The questions which need to be asked in 2019 elections should be :

  1. Are the courses in our universities structured and designed well-enough to ensure employment?
  2. Does a valid college degree necessary guarantee a job today? Why even after Masters and PhD, is the unemployment rate is so high?
  3. Are we giving sufficient practical exposure to the students, apart from making them memorise facts, definitions and theories?
  4. Are all the people who are employed, happy with their jobs or do they also feel under-employed?
  5. Are there sufficient career-counselling services and guides available in our schools and colleges to help out our students?

Unfortunately, no stress is being given on quality vocational training in our schools and colleges, which is very much required to make our students employable. Our course structures are so theoretical, outdated and textbook oriented that they don’t generate enough employment opportunities and that is the reason when young graduates are hired by any company, they first have to undergo professional training for first 6 months to learn about their work.

In the 21st Century, basic technology literacy is a skill that has become a part of life, be it in our homes or workplaces and the same needs to be reflected in our schools as well. For anyone who has to join the workforce, basic technology literacy is absolutely necessary. Learning must be experimental and practical which inculcates the skills of questioning, scrutinising and contemplating about our actions, decisions and experiences.

There should be a multi-disciplinary approach of education and the need of introducing various new subjects/key fields according to the interest of students. There should be discussion about the new evaluation methods in colleges and schools, reforming traditional theoretical course structures, marking & accreditation of students on holistic and broader parameters for promoting sustained, inclusive, multi-dimensional and equitable growth.

Education in India is often criticised for being based on rote-learning and cramming rather than problem-solving. Therefore, today, we are witnessing an era of jobless growth. There is a need for an intense revision of our current syllabus and modules. A culture of innovation and skill development, that will feed more startups and create jobs, also needs to be promoted on ground.

Does any party or leader have a roadmap on this issue, is to be asked in 2019. How they will address these challenges and the immediate steps that they will take should be the parameters on which we should vote. We have to see how much importance they give to youth and their issues in their election manifesto. We need to question our elected representatives over what they have done till now on these critical issues and should then evaluate them on their performance and actions.

Though the number of universities, colleges and programmes keep on rising in the country, the lack of quality education still persists. Rote-learning methods, profit-hungry managements, lack of skill- education, corruption, lack of teaching faculty (both in terms of quantity and quality) and infrastructure are the major issues plaguing the Indian education system.

So, will the elected government in 2019, look beneath the surface to address the problems that dent our education system is the question we need to keep in mind before we go out and vote for any party.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Raj K Raj for Hindustan Times 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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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, 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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