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

Shabana’s Future Mother-In-Law Visits Every Month To Measure Her Height

More from Rakhi Malik

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.

Photo provided by the author

Jaisalmer is well known for child marriages and, in turn, early dropouts and other social issues like early pregnancies and pre-post natal health issues. Having one of the lowest literacy rate in the country, only 52.1% of women are formally educated in Rajasthan among all other states and UTs, according to the Census 2011. Rajasthan is famous for still having the highest number of child marriages, 8.2% in boys and 8.6% in girls, in the 10-18 year age group.

As a Gandhi Fellow, I was allotted the Government Upper Primary School in Pokaran, Jaisalmer. It is 15 kms from the main town, but the distance was not the main challenge here. Shabana Bano (name changed), a class 5 student at this very school, loves singing and drawing. She is the class representative, a class topper, and a sincere and dedicated student.

Shabana’s mother is the daughter of a poor farmer who works day and night to grow millet on a small rented land that feeds the family and livestock. A small portion is used to barter with other farmers and landlords.

According to her family, she was engaged at the age of 3 years, while her younger sister was engaged as an infant. Her father justified ensuring their future by placing girls in their respective families (in-laws). However, child marriage leads to early pregnancy, which is likely to cause poor health status of teenage mothers.

According to her friends, she has not even seen her to-be husband’s photograph. They have heard by eavesdropping that the boy studies at Jaisalmer and is much older than her. He belongs to a different far-off village and may have completed his schooling.

Her mother-in-law visits Shabana every month and is strict with her. She measures her height, hair and checks her grades every month. Shabana’s mother-in-law doesn’t want her to do well in class and expresses displeasure every time she shows her grades. According to her in-laws, if the girl loses her voluminous hair, her eyesight, or if she gets taller or stays much shorter than her husband, the marriage might be in question.

Shabana is a quiet child, with her hijab always intact over her head, always busy with her books, colouring, supporting a friend in their homework or assisting her teachers. As soon as we reached home, she went straight to the kitchen, boiled milk and brought some snacks for me. Jaisalmer is well known for their hospitality “padharo mhare desh“, but watching an 11-year-old do all the work was something I was not looking for.

Photo provided by the author

Shabana said that she assists her mother in the kitchen before coming to school at around 7 am; she helps her mother clean goats, milking them, and bathing her two younger siblings. She, and other students, are enrolled in a madrasa for religious education and has to study there for two hours before and after school hours daily. Earlier, students used to study only in the madrasas. Then, parents were encouraged to send their children to schools. Now, they can study at the madrasas for a short while daily. This does create pressure on students, but students are able to get elementary education till class 8.

The consequences of getting engaged early are many. After reaching the age of puberty, they leave education and start assisting more at home. During this time, they are married off, leading to early pregnancies. This also means health-related issues that come with early pregnancy. More than 40% of the girls are undernourished below the age of 18 years, and among those, about 21.6% have already given birth to one or two children.

The high rate of school dropouts in desert districts is 97,000 in Barmer, 60,000 in Bikaner and 28,000 in Jaisalmer. It reflects a stark reality. Early marriage and pregnancies, poor infrastructure facilities, no drinking water, schools at long distances and no toilets are causing this. Of the total number of dropouts, girls are in the majority.

According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, there are 941 women per 1000 men, but only 33.1% of women between the ages of 15-49 are literate compared to 68.3% literate men in the district. Jaisalmer is a golden city of our country which holds its cultural heritage intact. However, it needs to reflect on where it’s going wrong with girls’ education.

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

You must be to comment.

More from Rakhi Malik

Similar Posts

By Pardada Pardadi Educational Society

By Pranav Jeevan P


    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below