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The Ripple Effect: The Ramifications Of The Egyptian Uprising On The Arab World

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By Pradyut Hande:

The recent events that unfolded in Egypt, eventually culminating in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak as President, have received mixed reactions from the international community at large. While many have staunchly come out in the open to express solidarity with the unstinting efforts of the irate protestors; backing their collective clamor for liberation from the iron-fisted clutches of the autocratic Mubarak regime and for a democratic form of governance; a few have chosen to adopt a calibrated “wait & watch” approach. The twin uprisings and subsequent removals of two heads of state in Tunisia and now Egypt; ending decades of brutal oppression and apathy; have made the leaders of the Arab world sit up agog and look at matters from a more discerning lens… one that portends a future that does not bode well for them. The revolutionary events in the past few weeks has the potential to spark a ripple effect in the Arab world… a possibility that would certainly have the ageing autocrats and monarchs scratching their beards in distress.

For long now, have the scourges of modern society – widespread unemployment, poor standards of living, unbridled corruption, unaccountable governance and inefficient judiciary systems plagued the Arab world. These burning issues are common to most of the oil-rich Gulf monarchies. Suffice to say; on the face of it; the powers that be have done precious little to address the common man’s concerns. In addition; attenuated civil rights, rampant censorship and a general attitude of repression has only augmented the ill feeling many harbor towards the government at large. While the sheikhs and emirs had gone out on a limb to back the tyrannous Tunisian and Egyptian regimes before their collapse, the mood on the street is ideologically opposite. Across Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait; many have expressed their support to the Egyptian cause and look upon their respective leaders’ stance with utter disdain. The fact is that there is presently an escalating sense of discontent and indignation amongst the people of the Arab world and is in the best interests of their leaders to realize and accept this harsh reality instead of busying themselves purchasing luxury sedans and palatial properties across the globe.

Delving deeper into the aforementioned, the aggrieved denizens of Saudi Arabia aspire for change…for a better future; however, over time realization has dawned upon them. Their aspiration will remain a mere pipedream in the absence of a worthy opposition party to challenge the incumbent government/monarchy. The machinations of the government are such that they act with impressive alacrity utilizing a mixture of oppression, wily state propaganda and other repressionary tactics to disallow the formation of any noteworthy opposition faction; much to the chagrin of the common Saudi. State backed clerics have publicly denunciated the Tunisian and Egyptian upheavals in acerbic tones and furthermore, have promised to issue fatwas against anyone who attempts something of that nature in Saudi Arabia.

Set in this intimidating background; ensconced in the web of perennial fear, censure and subjugation; the people do not favor a revolutionary approach but instead are hopeful of improvements and reforms in the present state of affairs — a pipedream? Perhaps! But the audacity of hope is their only succor.

In the case of the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait; the plausibility of their distending into widespread civil strife as an indirect “ripple consequence” of the twin Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings appear remote owing to their sizable foreign working populations. However, one can be sure that any voice of discontent or protest will be swiftly muffled. The current position of Bahrain is worth attention at this juncture of time. Their Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa has been in power for over 35 years. Poverty, unemployment and corruption run rampant; thwarting even-ended socio-economic progression. Moreover, Bahrain’s primary worry stems from the fact that their oil and petroleum reserves are depleting at an alarming rate.

All these factors coupled with the government’s inability to suitably counter and find a way out of the morass they find themselves in, are responsible for breeding a growing sense of distrust and frustration in its people.

All it takes is a spark to a light a house on fire. Tunisia and Egypt are testament to that. The ripple effect of these uprisings is certainly being felt across the Arab macrocosm and even North Africa. Only time will tell whether these ripples remain just that or metamorphose into a socio-political tsunami capable of capsizing these cash-rich monarchs off their “power yachts” into the depths of the sea of oblivion.

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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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