The Intellectual Crossroads of Information Advocacy




​Pranav Mohan saw a problem in the world, a social stigma that increases health risks and impacts women’s equality and empowerment.

Mohan, a United World College scholar and senior mechanical engineering student, joined two colleagues to take action. This summer saw the culmination of a grant received, information and resources shared, lives changed, and a passion realized. We’re thrilled to share the life-changing work of our student employee.

Health class and “birds and the bees” talks are staples of adolescent life in America, though discussions about human physiology are often relegated to adolescents undergoing puberty. Globally, the topic of menstruation is so taboo that health risks and social norms can be harmful, restricting and expensive.
 
“Menstruation is a topic of taboo…It is incredibly hard to get women to open up and talk about their fears, problems, and discomfort,” said Mohan. “We wanted to modify this attitude and help empower women, despite the problems they have to experience. We applied for a grant called Project for Peace, that enabled us to visit India and host seminars to teach women about menstrual hygiene management with a focus on menstrual cups, which would eventually prepare them to open up about the menstruation-related myths and taboos.”
 
As Pranav Mohan and fellow students Cindy Belardo and Abhishek Yadav wrote in their winning proposal for United World Colleges’ Davis Projects for Peace grant, “India – the country of 1.2 billion people, where approximately half of the population is women and 355 million of them are menstruating, 88% of these women and girls use homemade alternatives such as an old cloth, rags, hay, sand or ash as their sanitary pads during their menstrual cycle.”
 
After receiving the $10,000 grant, Mohan, Belardo, and Yadav began to turn their passion into action. From intensive research, the group created manuals to inform women of the costs, risks, and benefits of a range of menstrual health options. Mohan then travelled to India this summer and distributed the manuals to volunteers who held seminars around villages and schools the Lucknow area of Uttar Pradesh, India. As reported in the OU Daily, nearly 300 women attended the information sessions and 138 purchased the recommended low-cost silicone cup. 
“The grant for Project for Peace is a highly competitive award which requires us to produce an arduous and punctilious document that demands intense research work,” said Mohan. “This would not be possible if OU Libraries did not provide us with an access to a wide array of articles available online for free and books available through stacks and ILL (interlibrary loan). During the time of intensive writing, we also made use of the (Helmerich Collaborative Learning Center)…to brainstorm our ideas and lead it to as concrete as it became later. We are utterly grateful for the OU Libraries for their service and being a part of this project indirectly.”
 
With the success of this project, and nearing graduation, Mohan is inspired to continue both his education and his social advocacy.
 
“After my undergraduate (studies), I am most certain that I will continue to my masters in mechanical engineering while continuing such related social projects as my hobby,” said Mohan. “At some point in future, I plan to combine my passion for social development and technology…One of the professions that I am excited by is becoming a professor, and this is the goal I am working towards.”
 
Mohan leaves one piece of advice for other students, those who might also turn their passions into realities.
 
“To other students who are interested in serving the society and giving back, every idea initiates with a conversation,” says Mohan. “The more intellectual conversations we submerge ourselves in, the better-refined ideas we give birth to. These conversations, on one hand, help us in becoming doughty, while on the other hand create a social pressure of acting upon the idea, which can be motivating. Another benefit of such conversations is that one would find colleagues they can collaborate on the project with. Taking professional advice on how to act on the idea is also helpful. If one is in a university environment, taking the idea to a professor can be beneficial as they can connect the person to the right resources on campus.”
 
We are grateful to have Mohan as a student employee and are excited to see what his future holds. As the intellectual crossroads of the university, we strive to support those like Pranav Mohan whose research and works make our world a better place.
 
To learn more about Mohan’s project, visit http://moneyspentright.oucreate.com/
Images provided by Pranav Mohan

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