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Social Networking Is Here To Stay! Neither Good nor Bad!

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By Gunjan Sharma:

Riya kapoor, like many others, had her first day in college today. She was not at all nervous and in fact, was all set and ready to enter a new phase of her life. After all, she knew the people she was going to meet there. She already knew her ‘new’ friends through ‘Orkut’.

Aryan Mehra and his friends have to submit a joint science project. But they are not worried at all. And this is because they are going to be in touch throughout the evening and shall work together to complete their task in time. They all have their own community on ‘Facebook’.

Sonali Gupta all of 13, has just logged into her Orkut account and has started chatting with boys of higher age groups. These boys are not even aware that the identity that girl was showing was not correct. Sonali is just desperate for the company and has found a perfect solution.

Mayank Sinha has just completed his record of adding the 500th friend to his friend list. Congratulations to him on his achievement. But does he actually know them at all? “Who cares?” says Mayank. He’s happy that he has the maximum number of friends in his list as compared to his other school friends.

Welcome to the world of ‘social networking’. Until sometime back, social networking was just a mere word. But the transition from just being a ‘word’ to becoming a ‘world’ has been phenomenal. You truly have to be a part of any such network to understand it. Oops! Understand it? Yes, because this world has far too many complexities.

Gone are the days when the social networking sites Facebook, Orkut, My Space, etc. had the feel of an exclusive club. What you just needed, was a college e-mail address to join. So for its young users, there wasn’t much chance of a parent crashing their party. Since 2006, the site has been open to everyone and made accessible. This did not come as surprise to many as this was expected with a large target audience in the age group of 13 and above, more and more people, especially teenagers ,are getting hooked up to these sites and they are crazy to take a dip in this vast ocean of social networking.

Jerry Almeida, the founder of , Indian Confederation of NGOs’ says “Internet and more specifically the social networking sites are the new age media. Thus, it appeals more to teenagers and youth and influences the youngsters the maximum. For them, such sites provide a perfect interface for the interaction with a mixed group of people worldwide”. The major reason why teenagers get into social networking is either peer-pressure or to simply be in sync with the fashion or trend of doing Orkuting, chatting, etc. The sheer fear of being left out drives more people into this social networking business.

Prachi Sharma, a first year student at IP University says” All my friends are there on Orkut and if I hadn’t joined it, I would have been out of the group”. Peer pressure is one reason and the need for making new friends is another. Most teenagers today have access to their friends, 24 x 7, which means that there is never any respite from peer pressure.

Since teenagers are the most influenced by social networking, it becomes even more necessary for their guardians or parents to make them realize that their safety comes first. Chatting within groups and in groups is absolutely harmless. But becoming friends with people you don’t even know is like shooting your own privacy with a gun.

The debate whether Orkut, Facebook, My Space etc. are good or bad cannot be decided by any individual or any group. People use such sites differently as per their differences in their personality. For some, social networking came in as a blessing. While many who lost their schools and college mates, got reunited with them through these sites. There have also been many cases where friends who were not in touch for more than 12 years, got in touch with their friends. Ms. Kajori who works with the Indian Express in Lucknow got in touch with her friend Deepika a Software Engineer in Delhi almost after 12 years. It was within three months of establishing their contacts that the two friends dined together in Delhi. Says Kajori,” I was fortunate to have registered with the Orkut and it was a fun meeting Deepika my college mate after 12 years. Adds Deepika,”I did not even imagine that we would meet and dine together so quick, just within three months.”

Senior or Older people got re-united with their school friends once again and happy memories surrounded them every time they logged on. For others, it was a perfect medium to find likeminded people, people who shared the same interest as them, joined same communities, made it a platform to share ideas. But for many others, it was a medium to deceive, lie and to cheat. And for the rest, just time pass. The inspiration of creating social networking sites came in with the advancement in technology. And it brought with it the present day ‘ Cyber culture’. Digital media have never had such an enormous appeal. Teenagers just need friends and the Internet is their everyday hangout zone. Sharing of photos, audios, videos, texts etc. had never been so easy. But, the bottom line remains that is it safe? Is it all authentic? And who takes guarantee if anything goes wrong?

The other side of social networking is that it is laboring under the inescapable weight of the dot- com curse: one has to find the money. No matter how big and cool one’s idea is , it cannot succeed without an actual business plan. Look at blogging- that has dominated the web world-which seems like a neat idea dependent on interest, but without a concrete revenue stream, it is difficult to manage it.

Neverthless, social networking connects people at low cost: this can also be beneficial for entrepreneurs and small businesses who are seeking to expand their contact base. These networks often act as a customer relationship management tool for companies selling products and services. As Jerry Almeida points out,” The use of social networking sites depends entirely on the individual. It’s a blessing in disguise if we look at it from the development point of view. It’s extremely cost effective and has an enormous reach to the people. And thus can be very effective tool for social welfare.” He adds,” Everything has a downside too. So if it’s not used properly then becomes a curse automatically.”

Social networking is an addiction. And if we sit down to analyze it then one question that comes to everyone’s mind is that can the world survive without it? “ Social networking is not like mobile phones- a necessity. It is not the only medium to stay in touch with people. Cyber media also includes e-mails and chats etc and even they are equally useful- in fact, better. Social networking is like a “.com” boom and people glued to it says,’ I am all for it’. All that is required, is a positive perception of an individual using it.

Today, social networks services are increasingly being used in legal and criminal investigations and information posted on sites such as My Space and Facebook are being used by police and officials of different departments. There have also been some cases of content posted on My Space that has been court. Further sites like Facebook are increasingly being used by school administration and law enforcements agencies as a source of evidence against student users.

The world has never been black or white. Its shade has always been Grey. And grey is the colour for social networks as well. It’s neither all good nor all bad. All it requires, is discretion and understanding as to where to draw the line.

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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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