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Whats Lies Ahead Of Mamata Banerjee?

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By Amritapa Basu:

Badla noy, Bodol chaayi (We want ‘Change’ and not ‘Revenge’)

With this slogan as their USP, Trinamool Congress (TMC) has at last been successful in bringing down the 34-year old red citadel in West Bengal. This call for ‘change’ or poriborton proved beneficial for the TMC supporters in their landslide victory against Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left Front government. Historic win it is, but even more historic is the fact that CPIM bagged the State Assembly Elections and came to power seven consecutive times (!!) — an event (or mishap?) that has never happened anywhere in the world — Left Front in West Bengal was the world’s longest-serving democratically-elected communist government. How? Well, I leave that for the panelists and the analysts to discuss in their numerous talk shows while I try to take a look on the way ahead.

Twitter posts praising her candour and simplicity, local news channels coming up with Didi Daily Diary enlisting what she has done throughout the day, 75% of the newspaper covered with her quotes, auto-rickshaws zooming past with her poster at the back (a place hitherto occupied by Aishwarya Rai or Katrina Kaif, if the driver happened to be young) and a TMC flag(s) fluttering overhead, trust me this part of the world is eating, drinking, sleeping, talking, thinking Mamata. She might have toppled the Red Brigade single-handedly, but the most crucial part lies ahead as the whole population in Bengal is looking up to her and expecting her to pull out a magic wand and do a ‘SWISH’.

The state once acclaimed for giving birth to literary geniuses of the country, a past in which many nostalgic Bengalis still seek refuge and complacency has slipped to the 18th position (as per 2001 census). The GenX wants to leave the state at the earliest possible opportunity as there is no scope for good higher education and no satisfactory job opportunities. “This has become an old age home, where old people might want to retire but this place does not have anything for us”, TheTelegraph quoted a young student in the city. Mamata has to devise strategies to stop this ‘brain-drain’ and tap these young potentials for the development for the state.

After the Tata Nano debacle at Singur, industrialization has taken a back-seat in the state. Investors do not want to venture here for the fear of protests and consequent withdrawal which would lead them to incur losses. Approximately, 58000 factories are lying shut all over the state. Mamata has this huge responsibility of luring investors into the state to give it an industrial face-lift. Besides hopes for industrial developments, the small-scale and cottage industries are looking up to Didi with ardent hopes that being a-down-to-earth person she will take steps to revive jute and cotton textile industries in the state. “Didi amader jonyo kichu nishchoyi korbe, amader jinish bikri korte sahajyo korbe!” (Didi will definitely do something for us, she will help us sell our goods) — a jubilant worker was heard saying when the news channels covered the post-election celebrations. High hopes indeed!

Last year, in the beginning of 2010 when I had been to north Bengal, each one of the local people starting from our tour guide to family that served us food at Rishyop to the shopkeepers were unanimous in their opinion that they had received nothing but severe apathy from the government and thus they supported the demand for a separate state, Gorkhaland. “Sarkar hamare liye kuch nehi karti. Yahan pe itne tourist aate hain, kam se kam dhang ka raasta hi banva de” — our car driver said while driving us on a hilly rough terrain as we held on to our seats with our eyes tightly shut. Now that new sarkar is here, like millions others, their hopes too are resting upon Mamata. If she is unable to pacify them, she will have to face cannonballs from the Opposition, Left Front to be precise for being unable to hold the state together. Equally necessary is quelling the Maoists insurgents rampant in the heartland of the state.

While city people are hoping for broader roads, revamped international airport and urban development of smaller townships like Asansol, Durgapur, Raniganj to distribute the massive inflow of population into the city, villages like Amlasole and Borogora are looking forward to basic amenities like clean water and two-square-meals-a-day, and maybe education for their children sometime in near future.

From dancing on Jai Prakash Narayan’s car bonnet in mid-1970s, 26-day long fast in December 2006, sit-in demonstration in front of CM’s house in 2009 to swearing-in as the first woman Chief Minister of Bengal on 20th May, Mamata Banerjee has seriously come a long way. Now the onus is on her to take Bengal to newer heights. ‘Change’ is the buzzword. Mr. Saugata Roy, senior leader of Trinamool Congress and Union Minister of State for Urban Development said in a post-election interview to NDTV, “Mamata Banerjee will not change, she will still wear her cotton saree and her trademark Hawai chappals, no ornaments, she will be her simple self” but millions here are waiting to see her change from a firebrand opposition leader to a successful Chief Minister and the changes induced by her.

So it’s a wait-n-watch situation, as they commonly say picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!

The writer is a Correspondent from Kolkata. In her own words she is “the most apolitical person you could find anywhere”, but felt imperative to pen down this piece after being witness to a historic ‘phenomenon’

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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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