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“We Want Girls To Be Educated But Not Too Educated To Make Their Own Choices”

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Dear society,

Growing up with you, raised by you and being one among you hasn’t been that easy! We bonded really well when you kept talking, and I kept mum. But tables turned when you said something, and I questioned it. While growing up, we got on well as I really didn’t get to know you. But as I grew up, the more I got to know you, the more uneasy I felt. It’s not because I don’t respect you, but the issue arises when I have my own views that you don’t agree with. If I had to cite examples, we could go on forever, but all I need to point out at is education.

Image for representational purposes only.

Everybody says that every girl should be educated, but how much and till when? Because the same person who rants about education also feels that if the girl is ‘over-educated’, no one would marry her. Goofy, isn’t it? In Indian society, there are three levels of education for a girl:

  1. If a girl learns alphabets and learns to write sentences, she is smart enough.
  2. If a girl scores well at her boards and entrance exams, she is intelligent enough.
  3. When a girl completes her degree and secures a good job to feed herself and her family, she is enough.

But what if she moves forward, plans to do research, higher studies and establish her career? Then, she has crossed the line!

Where’s the line? What has she crossed? Our ‘reasonable’ society feels that if a girl is over-educated and has her own values and ethics, then she is sure to form her own views regarding marriage, her dreams, her life, which is not acceptable for a ‘mamma’s boy’ or society! You tell me, how does it feel when you ask your prospective groom, “Do you know how to cook?” “Do you believe in being spiritual?” “How would you encourage your wife’s success?”

How dare you ask the poor boy such questions! How can you put him in a fix? It’s okay if a girl is asked such questions, but a boy… no, no, no, it’s not right! All this is happening just because you outdid yourself! If the girl had not learnt more, she would not have been opinionated, she would not have her viewpoints, and she would not have her opinions.

With her minimal degree, all she would have cared about was if the boy earned well or not, and she would have easily said yes. But now see what has happened! Today, she has her opinion, her thoughts, her morals, and above all, the right to say “yes” or “no”. She doesn’t feel guilty for standing up against the cultural norms, or standing by her principles, or choosing her own partner.

Why isn’t it right, though? People often tell me it is a boy and not a fruit that you can cut open and inspect. I have noticed an interesting fact about the same people. When you buy a house or a car for yourself, you go through multiple options, go through a thousand brochures or even ask hilarious questions to the salesman, which he would not have even thought of.

Leave cars or homes, even while picking vegetables for your household, you tend to ask,” Is it fresh?” “Is it rotten?” And when it comes to your job or studies, we know your queries and options never seem to end. When you take so much care, concern and curiosity while choosing the right house, the right job, the right career, then why not when it comes to the right man? And the same goes for men too.

The education that gives you the right to think, choose, believe and stand up for yourself, can never be wrong. And by being ‘over-educated’, you gain the confidence to face the world. As the saying goes, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, and if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” And this saying is not a modern concept; it is a traditional one. So, please stand by what you say. You daughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, mothers and wives, have the right to be educated, go to work, chase their dreams, choose their prospective life partners, and lead a life of their choice. Because we, the women of today, wish to be educated to move along with time and not stay behind.

So, dear society, as you always ask us to stand by you, listen to you and stand by you, we ask you to do the same. Educate yourself, your sons, daughters, and everyone and let them make their own decisions and decide for themselves, and then, you will also understand being educated is never too much!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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