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

My NEET Experience: Wish Indian Media Had Covered It Like Rhea Chakraborty

Let’s not become too technical and generalise the term media. When I will be talking about the medium, then it would not be “the plural of the medium”. Instead, it would be the so-called journalists and most broadcast journalists.

Imagine an average middle-class house where the elder male of the family returns to home. The next thing they are going to do is to turn on the TV and that too news. Wait a minute! Does this also happen in your house?

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What is the most popular category of TV channel watched in your house in the evening/night?

So what happens when you turn on Hindi/English news channel? There are only a few things you get to see on TV news and some of them are:

  • Noise
  • Propaganda
  • Hate Spread
  • Vast Social Distancing From Being Neutral

Sadly, none of them isn’t what the media claims itself to be. When corona entered our country, we saw a non-stop 24/7  coverage on COVID-19 for months. Although it was very important to cover COVID-19, it would be wrong to say that there was nothing else important in the nation apart from COVID-19. After the sad demise of Sushant Singh Rajput, the media turned its head towards that matter and they attacked Rhea, Bollywood and every other person/institution coming in the as painted wolves.

When there was a dispute with China, they invited retired soldiers and they started discussing it so intensely that “Rajiv Pratap Rudi”, former union minister had to interrupt and say that there are enough experts in the touch of government and sensitive information regarding the geography and condition of Ladakh should not be discussed on the national TV.

Day 1 of JEE-NEET exams.

My Experience With NEET Exam

Another big event happened in September 2020 in our country, of which I am a victim myself. It was regarding the conduction of JEE Mains and NEET exams. By the end of August and even in the starting of September, millions of tweets were coming daily in a request of postponing the exams. The media seemed to ignore this thing as if nothing happened. They pretended to cover it. By the way, if they had given it even 10% of the footage of what Rhea Chakraborty received, then we would have had no complaints.

Look at what one of the top journalists of Hindi media has got to say on this.

Let me tell you about my experience. I was a NEET applicant and I travelled around 85 KMs to reach my centre in Patna. Although I was lucky to have such a short distance. Many students had to travel more than 500 kms for the same. Nevertheless, my centre was Arcade Business College, Opposite to St. Karen’s School, Saguna More, Patna, Bihar.

Let me tell you a truth, I didn’t have a table/desk to write/encircle or simply keep my answer sheet. You read it right. I was made to sit upon a chair, that’s it.

And it would have been a luxury if the writing pad would have been intact to the chair. The writing pad was just kept there, it was broken. The whole exam I was struggling with Aadhar Card, a passport size photo, Admit Card and question paper in my lap and the writing pad kept slipping again and again so I had to use my lap for encircling the answer sheet too. I was encircling in a constant fear that my answer sheet might get torn while encircling.

And SOP, what is that? I was the only odd one out who went into the exam hall with mask and gloves.

The reason I narrated my tragedy wasn’t because I had to deviate from the topic or something else. It is to show you the hurry our government was in for the conduction of the exam. And the media remained numb throughout the course? It’s as if we people are invisible. Our voices are as unimportant as that of the nightingale singing in some urban area, nobody to listen or even care.

Do we people matter in the eyes of the media? Is our media behaving like the Big Brother of George Orwell’s 1984? And it’s US who make the democracy. It is US who are called anti-national for participating even in a digital protest.

Please think about this before you turn on TV news today because I am no one to certify them biased. I can just choose to ignore them the way they do us.

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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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