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“Education Is Stronger Than Any Armour Or Weapon, It Holds The Power To Change”

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“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

The above quote was rightly said by the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Students all over the world whine about the amount of homework they have been loaded with, the number of books they are asked to read by their teachers, the way they are scolded by their parents to perform better if they score less than usual.

But, what students don’t understand is that these fragments, which spiral and lay the foundation for what we commonly term as ‘education,’ is what enables them to write swiftly and complete their work efficiently. It is this which helps the books enhance their vocabulary, and the words of motivation are what makes them fighters, preparing them to combat every obstacle with coherence.

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर। फोटो साभार- सोशल मीडिया
Education has the power to uplift people from their despondence, condemn and even eradicate oppressive superstitions, enhance ones’ knowledge, and even liberate people in the face of adversity. Representative image.

Education is an important facet of our lives, inculcating life values and knowledge which are imperative in making us the polished individuals we are today. But this education is subjected to disparities. Not every person has access to this asset. In our country, many sections cannot acquire education due to a plethora of factors, the most immediate one being poverty. While states like Kerala have a very high literacy rate, others like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have a large sum of illiterate population. Due to high rates of impoverishment, students drop out of school to establish a partnership with their families for survival.

Education facilitates personality development and a cosmopolitan outlook which accommodates change and open-mindedness, thus leading to better judgement and decision-making abilities. The value for education and the will to make it accessible for all as enshrined in the Constitution of our country.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution prescribes the ‘Right to Life and Liberty’, the scope of which has been expanded. The ‘Right to Education’ under Article 21-A was incorporated through the 86 Amendment Act of 2002. This advocated the foundation of a number of schools in the Indian Subcontinent via the Municipal Corporations in the urban areas, and schemes such as the mid-day meal, mandatory education for those among the 6-14 age group and incentives for the girl child.

It is clearly elucidated how education played an important role in our lives and continues to be revered. Education is not just an individualistic value, but a collective one. It brings like-minded people together and merges their divergent aspirations into one. This is what happened during the Nationalist Movement of India. Education liberates a people from an oppressive rule like that of British Imperialist Rule by the English East India Company.

In today’s world, under the clutches of the deadly Coronavirus, education is significant since scientists and policymakers are struggling to prepare a vaccine which may act as an antidote for COVID-19. However, education, which would help facilitate such marvels is not accessible to many. In the era of technological advancements, the availability of these resources is vastly uneven.

Many sections of society, especially the economically weaker sections, can’t afford technologies such as Wi-Fi modems for uninterrupted internet access, data packs, and even devices such as laptops and iPads. With the advent of online classes, those who can acquire these gadgets and technologies attend, while those who cannot, don’t. In this case, indirect discrimination takes place.

A number of alternatives can be adopted to prevent such forms of alienation. First, instead of conducting classes on platforms utilizing the internet, television can be used as the medium of teaching. Pre-recorded videos can be screened or broadcasted for students to view and learn. The medium of the television does not consume Wi-Fi, and can hence, be accessed by those who don’t have an internet connection.

Image of a child holding a phone and writing in a notebook while studying.
With the advent of online classes, those who can acquire these gadgets and technologies attend, while those who cannot, don’t. In this case, indirect discrimination takes place. Representative image.

Second, classroom materials such as assignments and notes can be physically posted to students so that they could keep up with their classwork. In the times of crisis, one must utilize all materials which are useful. The Indian Postal System is an efficient medium for facilitating the movement of goods manually.

Third, the syllabus can be reduced; since online teaching can never replace physical classrooms with the immense scope for discussion, and ambience for learning, the syllabus could be reduced so that students don’t feel over-stressed and can engage in self-study without facing arduous challenges. The students who don’t have access to the facilities of these classes would be able to catch up with the syllabus quickly.

Online classes do not provide enough scope for debate and doubt-clearing. While in some cases the rate of syllabus advancement is sluggish, it may skyrocket in others. This may further aggravate problems, since students would encounter difficulty in catching up with their classmates, thus leading to a deterioration in their grades.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education has the power to uplift people from their despondence, condemn and even eradicate oppressive superstitions, enhance ones’ knowledge, and even liberate people in the face of adversity. If education can accomplish such heights, it can surge higher and even defeat tougher challenges, like the pandemic.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” said Malcolm X.

Keeping this thought in mind, we much pursue the quest into the future, for education is stronger than any armour, any weapon, it shields us, and enhances us. It holds the power to change. While we alone may not have the power to bring about such change, the voice of our education compels us to strive for the best.

I would like to conclude by quoting Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. 

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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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