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The Problem Lies Within

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By Ritwika Sharma:

It will take a lifetime to wipe out corruption from the face of this country”;
“Nothing can change the face of this nation. It’ll remain the way it has always been”;

“Why dirty your own hands in an effort to clean the country when all you’ll achieve is nothing?”

How many times have we been part of such a conversation where people from different realms of life have in some way suffered at the hands of the numerous ailments crippling our nation? How many times have we seen people cursing the government and the authorities for every hardship they face? How many times have we seen the common man blame the officials and the bureaucrats for the ill-maintained roads, the uncovered potholes, the badly managed rail or bus services, the shoddily-run government schools, the poorly administered hospitals, the insecurity encountered by women and senior citizens and nearly all the problems that confront him?

We see it all the time; people complaining about the inability of the governing authorities to provide us with the basic amenities of life in a suitable and respectable manner. Every morning as soon as the newspaper boy drops our set at the doorstep and we welcome the day with the headlines of the crisp newspaper, we embark upon another round of our daily dose of criticizing and commenting upon the way our country is functioning. And when on most days the newspaper is flooded with not-so-delightful occurrences, the newspaper reading activity transforms into an arena for voicing our opinion about the current situation prevailing in our country. News channels, journals and magazines are other inflammable means of adding fuel to this amusing fire.

“Amusing”, now what can be so amusing in this noble cause of expressing your concern for your nation? People from all over the country oblige her by sparing a few moments out of their precious time to “discuss” and discover “viable solutions” to the several problems ailing our nation. Declaring war against the rebellious tribals can help us do away with Naxalism. Caste-based census will only intensify the various divisions prevalent in the society; the government should not resort to it. Kasab should be hanged immediately, possible or not; tomorrow!! The Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system is the only way out to rescue our stagnating school education scenario, implement it right away. You get the point; we have easy and simple solutions for everything. If we can so easily “think” of such pragmatic solutions, why is the administration so sluggish in “implementing” them??

And I like an indifferent, adolescent dare to term this “reform movement” as amusing? For if it is not amusing, what else do I term this wave of frustration among the people as? These self-proclaimed concerned citizens of the nation have all the time in the world to condemn the authorities for their shortcomings. But has anyone of us ever dared to rise above this ineffectual pursuit of reproaching others and take an initiative ourselves to change this scenario? We hardly miss an opportunity in berating the concerned authorities for the dirty roads, footpaths, railway tracks and platforms or the unhygienic conditions in the hospitals. But exactly how many of us can refrain ourselves from throwing the peel on the road after savoring the banana or to easily do away with the Lays packet after relishing the potato chips? No brownie points for guessing. It did not take us to spell doom upon the once spick and span Delhi Metro station in a fashion similar to that of the railway stations.

This is not an exaggeration of the current state of affairs. Neither am I trying to make a mockery of the janta of the nation. What I wish to convey is the manner in which we very conveniently forget our duties while blatantly asserting our rights. We are a nation of people who cannot tolerate a miniscule speck of dirt in the drawing room of our house. But that is where our fixation with cleanliness ends. We do not concern ourselves with how our garbage is disposed off much less bother about how we contribute significantly towards dirtying the roads of our city. The desperation of the dustbins is hard to miss and their incessant whimpers of “USE ME” usually go in vain. This is just an illustration to go by. Our wasteful temperament is demonstrated at its best during our big, fat weddings that give us an authorization to throw the most celebrated feast in town thereby wasting a humungous amount of food to the dirty confines of the dustbin. Fortunately, for the citizens of the nation, the fundamental duties are not enforceable in the court of law. Some responsibility that would have been for all of us who have gotten so used to the chalta hai attitude

And as if the sheer ignorance of duties on part of the citizens did not make for a deplorable situation, the opposition parties in our nation provide for an even more unpardonable depiction. The inflation rate escalates and the members of the opposition parties clinch their rightful opportunity to take to the streets in a bandh to assert their right to freedom of speech and expression. One would so wish that they would exercise the pertinent right in the near empty (well, on a lot of days..and am not being cynical) of the Parliament as well. Ideally, the role of an opposition in the Parliament is hugely dynamic. Providing constructive advice to the Government in formulation of policies, indicating the lacunae in the laws framed by the legislature are just some of the functions which an effective opposition ought to play in a democratic setup. However, if statistics are to be believed, the attendance of the Members of Parliament (MPs) seems to have plunged to a new low!! The Lok Sabha met for only 64 days in the year 2009. Seems like the work our politicians do is inversely proportional to the mushrooming challenges facing the democracy every passing moment. Now that doesn’t make for either a pretty picture or a good equation.

While in Class II in my school, my Hindi literature textbook offered the most enlightening and valuable chronicles to read. One such story was of a sparrow that lived with her off springs and conveyed to them the lesson that no one could trample upon their rights till the time they are abiding by their duties. The moment we claim responsibility for our endeavors, the vicious pursuit of passing the buck would come to a halt, saving us a lot of time and effort. Someone seems to have rightfully pointed out that if you are not part of the solution, then you are the problem. Drastic solutions to problems that are inherently deep-seated cannot be instituted within the matter of a few deliberations. The problem seems to lie in the fact that we have persistently and unabashedly ignored our obligations towards the nation. We have been doing so since the last couple of years. I have chanced upon a number of writings on the issue of violation of democratic rights and privileges of people by the police or the administration. However, the consideration of the duties of those very citizens has appeared far less when it comes to literary works. Hypothetical as it may seem, the day we realize our duties to the utmost, the problems ailing our existence would not seem so humungous and impervious!!

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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