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Youth Being Culturally Bound: A Necessity?

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Kaushik Narasimhan:

While most of us spent our New Year eve this year sitting at our homes, with our families, watching television, wishing we were partying somewhere instead, there were many as of that very night living our dream to the fullest. Twenty three yearr old Meha Bahuguna, a hospitality professional working in Bangalore was one among them.

The girl was attending a three-day Sunburn music festival at Candolim with friends after having won a VIP pass and return tickets to Goa. On the 24th of December 2009, her facebook status read “Still can’t believe it! Starting the countdown to Goa now…just a week to go!!” On the 30th night, at 7 pm she collapsed from suspected drug overdose and was taken to the hospital for multiple organ failure.

On the 21st of December her facebook status had read “RIP Brittany Murphy “, Tragically, ten days later she herself was no more.

New Year Parties have become a rage today. And in many cities, especially metros and the usage of drugs both on and off parties has been on the rise. On the 4th of March 2007, 246 people, young boys and girls, most of them still in their twenties were arrested and jailed during a bust in a Pune rave party. 92% of them tested positive for drugs that night.

The youth of the country ranging from college students to the successful younger working class people have off late found it very invigorating to get into a world of their own, away from the harsh realities of life with the help of these drugs.

And not limiting the argument only with drugs, the Indian youth have, to an extent, also made headlines for their actions involving other important matters. A prime example of one such headliner came only recently on the 29th of November 2009, when students of Osmania University were spearheading the agitation for separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh by hurling stones at buses, policemen and petrol pumps. They also caused movements such as the “Rasta roko“ and “rail roko“ movements which were indeed very effective in disrupting everyday life if not for any other purpose.

The youth in our country have constantly created headlines for one reason or the other, quite often than not for the wrong reasons. Headlines concerning issues such as rape, murder, suicide and also heinous acts of molestation, ragging and harassment have all featured the youth very prominently. With the everyday newspaper becoming quite incomplete without any of the above incidents, it really might seem to pose a question if the youth of the country is headed in the right direction, forget if ever culturally bound.

The impact of the westernization on the Indian youth may be more than just a hypothesis. This statement owing its roots not only to the above discussed issues such as drug abuse, violence etc but also on issues that have created a sense of change in the mindset of the youth.

Not limiting ourselves with the young and the immature, even the mature, sober and non- violent regular Indian of today’s generation has made his contribution to our change towards westernization.

Recent findings say that divorce rates in India have been rising alarmingly. In Delhi, the divorce rates have literally doubled over the past five years. In Bangalore, the divorce rates have tripled in the last four years. These are pretty shocking statistics, given the fact that India had one of the lowest divorce rates in the world a couple of decades earlier.

This can possibly be reasoned in terms of the new found independence, personal ambition and a lack of commitment in a highly career oriented youth. The above factors have also contributed to the preferred transition towards nuclear families rather than the orthodox joint families. Many of the parents of these successful career oriented individuals who taught them family morals and other cultural values find themselves sitting in old age homes all to themselves.

All the above factors may indicate that westernization may well have indeed taken its toll in our country’s youth. But it can again be argued that the section of the youth who make the headlines for the wrong reasons are a very small percentage to those who still lead a disciplined life in our country. A major portion of the country exists away from the metros and the other flashy urban cities, where there is limited access given to the youth. Quite a majority of them have discipline and values from our culture and tradition enforced upon them even as of today.

So is it fair to cast a shadow on the Indian youth itself based on the actions of a few misguided individuals?

If not, then does that mean that the Indian youth is expected to be culturally bound? If so, then is it realistic to hold the same beliefs and practices that our culturally bound forefathers hold, even now in a world as fast paced as ours?

Franklin D Roosevelt once famously quoted

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”

Nothing could be more apt to our country’s situation than the above words of Franklin Roosevelt. I believe change is inevitable and to an extent necessary to survive coherently in today’s world. The question now lies on whether we can identify and mark the boundary that lines the way of life for the years to come.

Whether there is a line that can be drawn that enables both the youth to live aptly and comfortably whereas still allows them to lead a life without compromising on the boundaries that our culture expects us, as Indians, to fathom and follow.

Till then, we lie in search of that elusive line that when found will bridge the gap between our ancient cultural heritage and our contemporary lifestyle truly symbolizing Indian culture as an epitome of diversity.

The writer is a Raipur based correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz. He is an Electrical Engineering student from National Institute of Technology, Raipur with a passion for public speaking and parliamentary debating, aspiring to be a journalist someday.

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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.

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.

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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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