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Shor in the Country: Anti-Government Protests

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By Manki P:

Integrity is being truthful to oneself and honesty is being truthful to others. In light of the present issue-ridden circumstances, shall we say, our government lacks both. But trying my level best to maintain integrity along with honesty, I admit I am left a little confused by the current rise in non-violent revolutionaries and our government’s disinterest. Civil society in the form of Anna Hazare’s Lokpal bill movement and Baba Ramdev’s anti corruption movement raise some issues which directly affect the day-to-day lives of the majority of people in India.

In spite of that I will not defend one side against another because the shallow depths of my mind remain unmoved and unprovoked. Over the course of time I have been able to deduce that it is not only important to stand-up against what is wrong but to also stand up for what can be improved and changed for the betterment of society at large. And that is the common denominator between Anna and Baba Ramdev’s fight, if only we choose to ignore cynicism which claims personal agenda and saffron colored reasons.

Given that it is important to fight the good fight but, in order to win any battle, it is even more important to fight it the right way. When I was about a decade and a year old, I was more of a revolutionary than I am now, so I happened to have given my poor parents an ultimatum to come and get me out of this horrendous of a boarding school or I would run away and come home on my own. To my surprise they came, but my blackmail fell weak in front of their stern and unchanging resolve.

Looking back, had I tried hunger strike, it might have done the trick, but only because my parents care about me and have my best interest at heart unlike a school board or a government which is devoid of feelings. Government is made up of humans with feelings, but as a collective body it functions with a brain more than a heart. It is important to remember that a government is NOT a social work organization. And that is why a multi-dimensional approach is needed by the unelected masses to bring about progressive change in the methods of governance.

Indian autonomy is not the result of a struggle based solely on Satyagraha. The greatest Indian epic, Mahabharata, also has some very valuable lessons in store for which we do not need to reinvent the wheel. If Arjun, the great Indian warrior, had declared a self annihilating revolution of hunger-strike unto death before the Kauravas, could he have maintained dignity and won back the throne of Hastinapur? I have my doubts but these examples are not to promote extremism like the Kurukshetra War, but to reassess the method and the goal of revolution. A fight without the will to win or a dire consequence for the opponent is really a lost battle even before it begins. A meaningful protest/demonstration is one which is inclusive with little exceptions, strong strategically and non violent towards others and oneself. For that one must be fit in mind and body.

In the north-east of India, a lady by the name of Irom Sharmila has spent more than 10 years fasting against a draconian law that plagues thousands in the region. And no amount of empathy can help me understand the extent of atrocities that are still committed in many parts of India. Yet I struggle to muster feelings of admiration for her relentless fight because to me it lacks not only in execution but also in intent. We must at no point let the cause of our honest protest become stubbornness. What is important to remember is that we are trying to win a revolt which is above personal egos and 10 years is a very long time to not reassess and learn from methods that have not yielded results.

In a country like India, where the value of life is nothing, with daily reports on child malnutrition, murders, accidents, rapes all across the country, how can there be any dignity in self imposed starvation which makes one a burden on hospital beds and drips for over a decade. For that matter I feel sorry for Swami Nigamanand who lost his life under suspicious circumstances while on a hunger strike to protest against illegal mining in the Kumbh region. He too had succumbed to dependency on hospital beds towards the end of his struggle and there is no way anyone can take a movement forward with a frail body. What happens to the cause/struggle after death? It too becomes only as good as the leaf in the wind, it blows away.

Like in a game of chess, the best way to win is to play all your moves wisely without sacrificing your knights, rooks, bishops or queen. Team Anna possibly has all the ingredient right in the fight. It consists of a strong team of counselors, apt use of media, and a life-time of experience. In the end, Lokpal bill might be nothing more than a toothless law, but the team would be alive to fight another day another revolution, to help strengthen the democracy of the people, by the people and for the people.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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