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News Of The World: Pretentious Mourning Aside, Its Time To Regulate

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By Tushar Malica:

We live in a multi-lingual and diverse world. As a result, we have the media as a means for sharing information in many different languages. We have newspapers, radio, television news, then of course, there is the internet- all in various different regional as well as territorial languages. Thus, it is not surprising that media personnel are under tremendous pressure in this neck-to-neck competition to outdo the other. Need for attention is the basic human instinct. An innocent baby too cries for attention.

Image: Wolfram Steinberg/DPA/ZUMAPRESS.com

In a race to be recognized and excel, journalists need just more than what is obvious to public. Consequently, they have an insatiable appetite for the deep dark secrets of eminent people which are either “in public interest” or “of public interest”. Therefore, out of the desperation to publish something meaty and unusual, some out of the line measures may be adopted. Such ways to obtain private information may come into the grey area of moral and ethics. This is where personal discretion, ethics and morality come into question. How much is too much? Where should one draw the line?

After the recent outbreak of the ‘News of the World’ (NOTW) scandal, media ethics is being questioned again. If truth be told, this is a never ending battle. There will always be journalists who will cross the line. There will always be people who, for having their fifteen minutes of fame will not ponder before maligning somebody else. So, there is and always will be a paparazzo in every one of them. Media has always been blamed by celebrities of being interested in their lives a little too much. Invasion of privacy is not new- even the victims have learnt that it’s not their choice, they will have to deal with it whether they like it or not. That’s the price they pay for fame they sought after. If you are famous, every minute detail of yours will be either on newspaper, television, some social networking site or YouTube. There is no escaping it. Some may say that all this is under public interest, in their defense. Well, people do show keen interest in others lives but did the public force you to break the law and intrude into someone’s life?

We all learn from our past for a better future. This can be applied here too. There are two possibilities here. The first way is that we mope around a bit. Discuss it at length with our colleagues till the point the topic loses it essence and get over with it till another NOTW happens. Maybe, blame the concerned people and the government and let out our frustration. Moreover, the same media can cash on it till people are fed up with it. The second way is that we try to reinforce propriety among media. Use this incident to send a message across the world that this has to stop. This can be done by strict government policies to start with including a stringent privacy law and heavy punishment if encroached upon. As much as we like the sound of the second possibility it is mostly unlikely to occur. The advancement of technology unfortunately is on the evil side. Our dependence on computers and digital data alone makes each one of us vulnerable. Hacking into a site to draw out data, phone tapping, hidden cameras — there are too many ways to bring the “truth” out. To what extent can we go on checking? People need to define their boundaries themselves. The recent revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. It was NOTW’s bad fate that they got caught. Others are still out there, hungry and hunting.

It is a vicious circle. Famous personalities will be more cautious, that will in turn, make these intruders adopt more aggressive and sophisticated techniques. The world is ruthless as ever with nobody to trust on. You may confide in someone and the next day it ends up as headline. You check into a hotel room when on a vacation and the next morning the whole world knows that you still sleep with teddy bear-thanks to the camera on your bed post. It’s an epidemic. Besides, we, the people are constantly feeding on it and surprisingly enjoying it. It’s a bit hypocritical of us to mourn the present case, when we don’t mind going over a magazine alive with such spice.

To sum it up- it’s all part and parcel of life. There will always be a loophole or a back entry even if we have the most hard-hitting laws regarding privacy. The key here is to be cautious. Because, money and gossips makes the world go round.

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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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