Democratizing Art And Film Education In India Is The Need Of The Hour

India is a diverse country with a multitude of cultural compositions and communities having varieties of interests in the domains of arts and creativity. We have a plethora of painting styles and compositions across the geographical spectrum in our country, for example, Pahari paintings in Himalayan region, Rajput paintings in Rajasthan, Madhubani paintings in Bihar and so on.

Likewise, we have different dance forms in different regions. Whatever we might possess by calling them as rich cultural heritage, their preservation and continuation cannot be ensured unless we liberalize and democratize them through a clearly defined curriculum and educational techniques to impart them to every stratum of society. The children coming from margins cannot afford such education and training given their socioeconomic position. Our country is full of talent and creativity but we have been failing for long to tap such young energy which can create miracles in the domain of arts and creativity.

Similar is the case with film education in our country. The institutions that teach film can be counted on fingers. Hundreds of aspiring young adults coming from different educational backgrounds are struggling to learn the nuances of filmmaking and writing about films but their dreams shatter once they realize how difficult it is to get some training in this field.

The limited numbers of film institutions can never fulfill the dreams of millions of aspiring film enthusiasts in our country. The young and technically sound youths have found their ways through several democratized platforms such as YouTube, Netflix and others. These successful young filmmakers are well equipped with modern media technologies but the ones who come from economically or socially disadvantaged backgrounds might find it as difficult as any competitive government job.

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune has initiated a program called Skilling India in Film and Television (SKIFT), through which it is imparting training in selected domains of filmmaking in different geographical regions of the country. However, the scale at which it is imparting such training is still very slow given the intensity of demand for such training programs in India. Also, the fee structure is very exorbitant for an aspiring student coming from a disadvantaged economic background.

Apart from expanding technical and entrepreneurial education in India, we need to democratize and expand the liberal, arts and film education to accommodate the diversities in the fields of education. To make society more tolerant, empathetic and humane, we need arts, cinema and cultural studies at a larger scale. The status of such studies in India is very grim. Perhaps, we need to pay more attention before it starts degrading and diminishing. We have appreciated art for centuries, be it Raja Ravi Verma or Abanindranath Tagore. We have legends in filmmaking as well like Satyajit Ray, Ritwit Ghatak and several others.

Along with engineering, management and other employment-oriented education, we should give serious thought to arts and film education which can be one of the leading fields in terms of generating employment in our country. Bollywood is already recognized across the globe as one of the leading film industries even in terms of turnover and employment generation.

Can we have systematically framed curriculum and training modules for budding artists and filmmakers at par with the international framework? I am sure; we can have it provided our policymakers pay enough attention to it. There are hundreds of media technologies companies ready to hire the skilled workforce in the domain of creativity, arts and film but they find it hard to accommodate the partially trained or non-trained artists and aspirants.

India has the largest working human resource in the working age group which can be the backbone of the future workforce across the globe provided they are adequately trained in their respective domains. Since we cannot forcefully make everyone an engineer or entrepreneur, we should look forward to an alternative which is as good as any domain in terms of generating employment and wealth for India.

Can we take this risk of democratizing arts and film education which are confined to a selected section of the society and class? The democratization process can result into bridging the gap and inequality in arts and film education in terms of participation from different sections of the society, and can also generate an adequate amount of employment for the trained artists and filmmakers. The goals of harnessing creativity and generating employment can be realized simultaneously provided we give it a serious thought.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Gaurigrazia/Wikimedia Commons.
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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 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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