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My Education Was Considered ‘A Risk’, But I Am Now An IAS Aspirant

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By Ishrath Parveen:

Growing up, I belonged to a family that is considered ‘completely economically backward’. My father was a seasonal employee, and providing for the household and paying for my education was a big challenge for him. At times I had to stand outside the class and was not even allowed to appear for my exams. Getting an education in private schools was a big deal, and my parents were struggling to provide me with proper education.

It was a huge struggle for me to get into school. Even after months of training and studying in a household I could not get any support from my relatives and neighbours and they kept on saying to my parents “why do you take such a risk of educating a girl?” But, I was motivated towards changing the situation of my family. This has motivated me to continue my education despite facing different problems. I gave the Kendriya Vidyala entrance exam and qualified. As a girl and a single child to my parents, my education was free of cost. By and by, overcoming several challenges along the way, I managed to complete my graduation in the humanities field.

Ishrath Parveen

It was during this time that I learned about the Nehru Yuva Kendra, working to help young people complete their education and forge career pathways for themselves. Through the organisation, I was chosen as one among twelve young candidates for the National Youth Parliament conducted by UN Volunteers and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. This is an experience that has opened my eyes to diverse perspectives, and the myriad issues that the Indian society faces today.

I had already chosen to build a future working towards improving the rate of education, and access to healthcare. As someone who had faced so many challenges while growing up, it was and will always be a passion point.

Spreading awareness about education, I have done many programs under the National Service Scheme and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, telling people the value of education specially educating girls. I believe that man’s education can only improve or develop his own personality, but a girl’s education can change and develop the whole family.

I also worked as a volunteer under the International Association for Religious Freedom–Human Rights Resource Centre, India to spread awareness regarding education.

While I was volunteering in a village, I came across a family where only the male children were educated. When I raised this issue with them, the family said, they did not have a strong enough economic background to educate both children, so they choose the boy over the girl.

Working in this field, two critical challenges always present themselves to me:

One, in India, there is a clear gender inequality when it comes to education. Parents in many localities continue to ignore the educational needs of their daughters and marry them off as soon as they cross 18 years of age, and, compelled by her parents, to stop her education. Even if the daughters of the family want to become a doctor or an engineer, their parents do not agree with their future goals.

Two, higher education is such a privilege that most children belonging to economically backward backgrounds are unable to pursue it. I had to complete my graduation in a small private college instead of some college with a big repute, just because my parents could not afford it. After my graduation, I wanted to take civil services coaching, but I could not afford it as institutes demand huge amounts. I got to know about the Minorities Welfare Department which provides free civil service coaching, and after a successful attempt, I qualified for the exam and got funded for the coaching. Still, I face various financial problems, but I’ll work hard till I fulfil my dream.

These challenges resonate doubly with me because of the difficulty I myself faced in completing my education due to a lack of money. And, government scholarships are not enough to overcome the heightened economic requirements that are presented in a climate of inflation.

For me, the best way ahead to meet and overturn these challenges was to push ahead in my own studies and work hard to become an IAS Officer, which is what I’m devoting my time to, currently. That would be my message to others like myself too: work hard and meet the goals you set for yourself because that is the only way forward. Do you agree?

Ishrath Parveen belongs to the Khammam district of Telangana state. She is 20 years of age and has completed her graduation in Social Science. Right now, Ishrath is preparing for civil services and aims to become an Indian Administrative Services Officer. Last year, she was one among ten shortlisted candidates for the National Youth Parliament 2018 organised by UN Volunteers and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. 

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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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