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I Don’t Get Time To Study As I Need A Job To Pay Off My College Fees

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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.

While the life-purloining virus is rising in India, the fiscal immunity of warriors is plummeting with a resultant strain on fund allocations for education in most households – collaterally affecting women’s education. This pandemic has pushed nearly 75 million Indians below the poverty level, especially the migrating labour force, causing some to lose their entire annual income while stifling some to just ₹375 per day.

As a result, funding education for a girl child has declined to the least of the priorities, at the expense of ensuring sufficient medical assistance for her. While health shouldn’t be compromised for education, neither should it be contorted as an excuse to deter the same – which is now conveniently weaponized by the patriarchy in India.

While the new NEP has relaxed the age limits of RTE from 3-18 years, covering the entirety of one’s schooling, adjudication of the private schools still lies in the grey area. Ashish Dhawan, CEO and Founder of Central Square Foundation, calls such an arrangement ‘unspecific‘ for private schools.

As primary and secondary education for girls has managed to secure the purview of public and legislative discourse, adult education for women remains a concerning subject, sinking in the abyss. The average expenditure of getting a college education in India ranges from somewhere between ₹5,240 in rural areas to triple the amount, almost ₹16,308 in urban areas, with a continuing spike in STEM courses (₹72,000 and above approx).

Thus, at this juncture of widespread financial deficiency due to rising unemployment and plaguing pay cuts, women from the weaker sections of society and the disadvantaged segments of the middle classes are understandably struggling to continue their adult education.

A study on deterrents to participation in adult education programs among licensed women nurses in India concluded that common factors are disengagement, lack of quality in available education programs, family constraints, cost of participation, perceived lack of benefit from participation, and work constraints.

In a similar study conducted on deterrents to female participation in web-based higher education programs of public accountancy (Perdue, 1999), the factors identified were: concerns about the quality and relevance of course offerings, concerns about electronically mediated communication, concerns about access to technology-associated resources and concerns about the availability of necessary personal resources – all finally contributing to an escalated number of women drop-outs.

Hence, steps in the dilemma of the State’s role to help sustain the continuing agency of education in women’s lives irrespective of the emergency at hand. Taking advantage of the lack of nuance in NEP 2020, private educational institutions are overlooking the disabling threats faced by its women students.

Involved parent and graphic designer Yogesh Pathare has formed the Rashtriya Sikhsha Palak Sangathan, an organization lobbying for the reduction in fees of the private schools. This organization has mainly aimed to highlight the illegal increase of 15% in fees structure by the school management thus, demanding redemption of 50% in the actual cost, at least for the period of crisis on humanitarian grounds. But such initiatives are in nothing, but their mere infancy as schools continue to refuse the demands and PILs remain in limbo.

The aspect of higher education for women is equally aborted. While the NEP 2020 has recognized how India’s GER in higher education is 26.3% lower than all other developed countries and has solemnly sworn to a mammoth task of raising it to 50%, what it lacks is a concrete plan of action to do the same.

Lack of assertive legislation ensuring adult education for women has reinforced the trend of covid child brides, married off as soon as they complete schooling. On the other hand, female college-goers’ compulsion to unwantedly turn to sex trade to merely sustain their higher education is particularly on the rise amidst the pandemic.

Richa Bera, a second-year Sociology student, broke down in the middle of a class expressing despair at her declining academic performance, “I also have to do a job, just to support my father in paying the college fee. I don’t get the time to study. Never have I performed so badly in school. I feel ashamed.

Therefore, faced with the challenge of safety of life versus the safety of education, India slays the latter, capitalizing on the pandemic as an opportunity to suppress women’s empowerment by employing education. Systematic loopholes in access to education for disadvantageous women was a regularised problem thus far. Still, with an increasing proportion of female students, from the privileged classes facing this problem, the administrative disparities of State are now screaming for a meaningful reformation – perhaps in need of gratuitous and de-privatized, quality education. Thus, the time shall say what prevails mightier: the pen or the pandemic.

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


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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.

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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.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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