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Where Does Education Stand Post-Elections In West Bengal?

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This post is a part of Kaksha Crisis, a campaign supported by Malala Fund to demand for dialogue around the provisions in the New Education Policy 2020. Click here to find out more.

As Bengal emerges from its battle for the mighty throne, what ironically remains suppressed amidst the campaigns of these perennially nonchalant leaders are their election manifestos for the 2021 state assembly. Subsequently, an even less discussed aspect of these manifestos is the education policies, especially for women.

government school

Notwithstanding the heightened episodic importance of women as components of vote bank politics, there is often a familiar reluctance for the ‘talk’ about women’s education policy in the middle of the election enigma.

Hence taking a minute to dabble into the state of women’s education under the current government, Mamta Banerjee, who aimed to ‘detoxify’ Bengal’s education system, has shown consistent visible improvement in the same.

The CM deserves her fair share of appreciation when it comes to boosting the girl child’s education with the implementation of the 2013 flagship scheme of Kanyashree Prakalpa, thus confirming the resultant spike in the female ratio in higher educational institutions from 42% to 47.3%, as of 2020.

This heavy cash-incentive scheme has helped women escape systematic patriarchy by completing the primary education alongside being identified as an adult, qualified for independent decision-making, thus expanding on the seed capital and finishing secondary as well as tertiary levels of education. Having fared high on initiatives of women empowerment during their entire reign, there are multiplying expectations too this time, and on a surficial level, TMC doesn’t disappoint in the realm of female education.

TMC’s Ideals

The Wire brands Banerjee’s campaign to be “aggressive” with women at the core of them all, thus capitalizing on this gendered paradigm of the vote bank. They promise to continue their zealous implementation of the Kanyashree Prakalpa – only bigger and better this time, by expanding the schemes to education based on age-appropriate Social and Behaviour Change Communication activities such that it mitigates the women’s inhibited ability to make life choices, inadequate access to health care services and battle gender discrimination. Revamped as Kanyashree Plus, it seeks to equip the female students with livelihood opportunities for their simultaneous economic empowerment.

Alongside, the TMC has also devised a revolutionary policy of a Student’s Credit Card with an expenditure limit of 10 lakhs and a return interest of only 4%, thus wooing its women voters with pledges that seems to assure both their intellectual and functional autonomy however it is to be seen if they grow insipid in their practicality over time.

BJP’s Promises

Confronted with a reckoning competition from the rival saffron party, a voter whose political innocence is untouched by biases is likely to find herself confused over what appears to be quite an attractive set of education policies for women. With the unabashed agenda of consolidating Bengal into his homogenizing rule, Modi well conceals his electoral intentions through a poetic discourse of the manifesto – Sonar Bangla Prakalpa 2021.

Under the ‘Ebar Mohila Ebar BJP’ banner, they promise to deliver free education to women from ‘KG to PG’, with a corpus of 500 crores to financially assist meritorious females pursuing higher education in private institutions and scholarships for all levels of education and across the SC/ST/OBCs. Alongside schemes like Balika Alo Yojana and Shohoj Path Programme are curated to aid women students in this pandemic.

Thus, in the opinion of this article, the prosperity of education policies for women can be assessed by realizing the degree of enabler a state decides to be through both monetary facilitation and institutional security instead of hanging onto one of the two threads like BJP and TMC respectively.

Nevertheless, one could say that while BJP has theoretically managed to promise a holistic approach for all the girls of Bengal, TMC appears risking stakes only for those qualifying as a minority, hence being dismissed as a mere tactic of appeasement. As TMC has a supporting history of credible groundwork instead of only pompous speeches of BJP, one is still hopeful of some actual actions if the former is re-elected to power.

Thus, in attempts of rejuvenating hope from the tired phrase of ‘light shining at the end of the tunnel’, well case-specific ballot machines, for now, one can only wait and watch how the incoming government manipulates their commitments. Because a mere prediction of execution of politics would only be too naïve an expectation, perhaps a disappointment in the realm of Indian polity!

However, having discarded the electoral cynicism, the article would still appreciate these competitors to have at least formulated policies, purposive of promoting women education in the state as opposed to the precarious alliance of the CPI(M), Congress, and ISF or AIMIM, who doesn’t even spare a few lines in concern of women.

The author is a Kaksha Correspondent as a part of writers’ training program under Kaksha Crisis.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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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
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