This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Charkha features. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Wasn’t India’s Corona Crisis Decades In The Making?

More from Charkha features

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Owing to the current crisis created by the pandemic COVID-19, the debate on India’s health and education infrastructure is again under the limelight. Despite having 4.1 doctors and 3.4 hospital beds per 1,000 persons, Italy has almost collapsed due to an overwhelming number of patients. In comparison, as stated by a World Bank report collating global healthcare indices between 2011 and 2017, India has only 0.8 doctors and 0.7 hospital beds for 1,000 persons. India, which has now crossed the 4,421 mark and faced 117 fatalities (as on April 7), is now ‘reacting’ to ensure that things do not get out of control. But as experts are saying, “India’s coronavirus crisis was decades in the making.”

A report released in 2018 by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation indicates that poor quality education and the relatively high prevalence of certain diseases amongst the population means India is risking its future economic growth by underinvesting in these two key areas important for workforce productivity. The demand for investment in both health and education infrastructure has always been existent from both the social sector and from people whose voices failed to reach the policymakers. However, it is the social organisations who have, in the last few years, transformed the quality of education in India especially in its rural and urban-rural regions.

Hailing from a small village in Rajasthan called Ghasi ki Dhandi, Guddi Bano, is one of the million children in India who have longed to study but have had to compromise with their dreams due to poverty. There are nine members in her family. Apart from her parents, she has the company of four sisters and two brothers. Her father sells blankets in Maharashtra, while her mother is a homemaker. Her eldest sister never went to school while the other three dropped out early in life.

According to a World Bank report, India has only 0.8 doctors and 0.7 hospital beds for 1,000 persons.

One of her brothers is a graduate and works in Dausa while the other brother helps her father in their business. Being a huge household with a very few earning hands, it was difficult for the family to make ends meet. With no awareness and support, getting the girls educated was the least priority of the family. However, despite Guddi’s willingness and interest, she was forced to quit going to school.

Guddi was identified during the ‘Pehchan Shala’ Survey organised by Centre for Unfolding Learning Potentials (CULP) that work towards ensuring access to quality elementary education to children (especially out-of-school girls) of deprived communities. This is when she shared her dilemma with one of the workers. Responding to the situation, workers contacted her father over the phone, but he disconnected the call saying that he’d rather get his daughter married than waste money on her education. The workers called him again the next day and after explaining to him that they will be taking the responsibility of Guddi’s education, they convinced him to allow her to continue with her education.

Guddi, who was then admitted to class 11, was finding it difficult to cope with the English subject. To ensure she receives proper guidance, she was informed about the coaching centre run by CULP at Shreerampura. She started taking lessons in English Grammar from the centre. With sheer dedication and support from CULP, she managed to pass Class 12 with 70% marks. Today, Guddi is enrolled in the second year of a Bachelor’s programme and wishes to become a trained teacher after her graduation.

Enrollment drives organised by the government do bring students to schools however, to retain them after elementary education remains an uphill task. The report ‘Children in India 2018’, released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, suggests that over 30% of girl students drop out of schools by the time they get to Class 9 and the number rises to 57% in class 11. Guddi could have been one of the 57% dropout girls but due to efforts of CULP, she was saved.

It is about time that we focus on two of the most critical aspects of budget allocation – to commit high spending on basic infrastructure of education and the healthcare sector – especially in rural India and secondly, to ensure that the implementation is executed in the right direction. It is better to be prepared to respond to situations like these than to react and regret as and when the time comes.

This article has been written by Dr Naresh Kumar Sharma for Charkha Features.

You must be to comment.

More from Charkha features

Similar Posts

By Prabhanu Kumar Das

By Faiz Ahmed Siddiqui

By Arpit Sachan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below