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Youth Representation In Elected Bodies: Need Of The Hour

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By Kush Kalra:

“Man is by Nature a political Animal” –Aristotle

India is the largest democratic country in the world. It is possible because of the largest number of voters who are a part and parcel of the establishment of the government. In 1986, the then Prime Minister of India, Late Rajiv Gandhi thought of assimilating the youth of the nation in building the government by reducing the age of the right to vote from 21 to 18. It was a historic step in the democratic set-up of the nation. Now-a-days the most progressive, articulate, inspired and dynamic segment of the Country’s population is the student’s community. Students are the back-bone of any economy, system or structure of any nation.

They are the future of every nation. It is their responsibility to apply everything they learn, practically and thus contribute to the development of the nation. Politics is the best way to accomplish this very potential. Only an efficient leader can take a nation forward. That is the reason why we conduct elections to choose our representatives. Students have a burning zeal to excel. The power of the youth is like a mighty river, waiting to be channelized. If it is utilized in a constructive manner, only then can progress be made.

“Students should study politics and be alive to the current problems.”

K.M. Munshi

Since, from the time of Vedic period, we can take the examples of history. History is dotted with examples of students playing a vital role in overthrowing corrupt tyrannical regimes, freeing their people from overseas bondage, and launching persistent crusades against such evils as social injustice and exploitation.One is not expected to stay behind unreceptive in the face of criminalization of politics, dismantling of democratic organizations, corruption, socialism and casteism. Most of the great leaders in history entered politics during student life.

There, political education or training during student life is important for success in life. Many student’s unions like All India Students Union Federation (AISUF), National Students Union of India (NSUI), Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), All Manipur Students Union (AMSU), etc., are big and powerful organizations in our country. Their clout is so great that they can even go against the general people’s verdict; where politicians fail, they succeed easily. The power of the youth can indeed be great agent of social change.

Political experience constitutes an essential part of this learning curve. This experience prepares one to face the challenges better and enables one to understand the condition and feelings of the people. The much-hyped dirty, murky nature notwithstanding, politics has the potential to inculcate qualities like general awareness, keeping abreast of current happenings and above all, leadership qualities in an individual.Tackling tribulations, solving disputes and handling crisis situations, however small or big they may be, infuse confidence in them. It helps them, in developing skills to deal with people from all backgrounds and of all shades of opinion.

The present political scenario in India is a fanatical struggle of diverse political parties engaged in enlisting the support of students. In many cases, different political affiliations have led to deep division within the student community. The existence of student groups with differing ideologies has sometimes resulted in instances of agreeably acrimonious exchanges between antagonistic groups. So much so that even the campus elections held in educational institutions have also become some what tainted by undue political fervour among the student’s community.

The emergence of youth as a new political class is a consequence of the creation of the idea of youth as a distinctive life stage with its attendant cultures and social understanding. That has been made possible by a rapid change of the educational system. And it has all been supported mainly by the requirements and rewards of industrial economies. In our country, and in a number of other developing nations, modern educational institutions have created a young political class along with the others such as the middle and the working classes. Due to the pride of place given to the youth in the political hierarchy in these nations, the students’ community has gained prominence as a potent political force.

The significance given to the students for an active participation brings positive results to the society and the nation. In India students have always played a vital and crucial role in the political process.But the sanctity of youth politics needs to be kept intact,and not be influenced by the party politics in the country.Youth participation in politics does not mean that these young enthusiasts will eventually become what we detest now,It is for a paradigm shift in the system.Sadly,NSUI and ABVP have today ended up becoming mere imitations of their central supporters,at the university level.That is exactly what we do not want.

Given the special right and importance to the student’s politics, certain questions assume much importance and interest whether or not student politics is like national politics and integrates with it, whether student’s politics is separate, from, opposed to, or ahead of national politics? Everything has its advantages and disadvantages; this general rule is applicable in the case of student’s politics as well. The entry of politics into the premises of educational institutions has caused untold damage to many students. It is often seen that students get rusticated owing to their active participation in politics, thus losing their hold on studies. But all this does not mean that the participation of the students in politics should be banned. The participation of students in politics should be promoted but through getting them channelized in a proper manner. They should be given adequate guidelines, their energy and power should be mobilized so that they can be able to participate in politics to understand the soul of democracy.

For example, all the participants of youth brigade of UPA started political career in student life.


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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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