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Dear Parents, When Will You Realise That There’s A World Beyond Studies?

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Life is much more than exams. Undoubtedly, negative experiences and failures happen in everyone’s life. They are paramount for one’s growth. It’s been two years since I passed my 12th board exams. I worked hard a lot and secured 92% in my boards. I got the position of the first rank holder in my school. I was also ecstatic because the result was announced on my birthday.

I was on cloud nine that day. My phone was bombarded with congratulatory messages and calls. It was my dream to take admission into Delhi University, and marks were the only way for me to reach there. I calculated the best four subjects’ marks, and it was 94%. It was still lower than what DU demands. Fortunately, the six cut-off lists got announced, and I managed to grab a seat in one of the prominent colleges of Delhi University.

Representational image.

Parents work hard all their lives for their children. They invest in their education. They expect good returns from their children. In my opinion, they are not wrong in their place.
However, parents don’t understand that comparing every child on just one parameter, studies, is appalling and worrisome. Here, I am sharing the stories of three students, two of who just recently cleared their 10th boards.

1. Virat, an 11-year-old kid, loves cricket. He has a very sharp mind. He doesn’t like the education system, which only focuses on gaining marks by hook or by crook. He often asks- Why is our education system so faulty? Why is every student compelled to gain more and more marks? Is life a rat-race? Virat is pleased with the new concept of online classes due to the ongoing pandemic. I read something a few days back. It says- If kids are happy studying at home, there is something wrong with our education system.

2. Nupur doesn’t like studying at all. Her friends and relatives had given her a tag of failure from an early age. Her parents are sending her to one of the reputed schools in New Delhi. She is clueless about her career. She might know about her dreams and ambitions but is scared of sharing them with anyone. She might be afraid because people would mock her based on marks. She knows she is born in a society where marks are everything. A society where a person is considered smart and intelligent if they score more than 90% marks. Nupur has scored 67% on her 10th boards. She is elated. Her family is celebrating her achievement. She has done a commendable job!

3. Annu scored 71% in her 10th board exams. Annu’s parents were stringent on her throughout the year. She was not allowed to miss school, three tuitions after school.
Even this was not sufficient. Annu’s parents wanted her to put more effort. They had promised her many gifts if she secures more than 90% marks. There was no TV connection in her home because of her boards. She was not allowed to talk to her friends, to play in her colony. Moreover, she was restricted from playing the guitar as well. She loves playing the guitar.

She was so stressed during the year but never acknowledged the fact. Once, out of the blue, I asked her, “Why don’t you participate in extra-curricular activities?” She replied, “These activities are futile. I don’t have time for all this. In the end, only marks matter.” I was numbed after hearing this. I couldn’t utter a word, and I chose to end the conversation. Of course, she is shattered after seeing her result.

My point is not to tell anyone to study 24/7 and get admission in an amazing college. My motive is not to tell anyone that studies don’t matter. They do matter. But, they matter up to an extent. Parents need to understand that there is a world beyond studies. Extra-curriculars have equal importance. Parents can’t make their children successful by disconnecting them from the entire world.

Parents should understand that every child is unique. They have their interests and capabilities. Nowadays, newspapers and social media are plastering pictures of students who secure very high percentages. Of course, these students deserve appreciation. However, there would be so many students who wouldn’t have scored up to their own or parents’ expectations. Still, they deserve appreciation for their efforts.

Dear recently passed outs, don’t be hard on yourself. You all are amazing. You all can excel in your avenues. Life is much much much more than exams. Congratulations to each and every one of you! You all did so well:)

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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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