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The UN Debate On Nation No. 194: Palestine

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By Dennis James:

Part 2 of a 2 part series.

The bid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to elevate the status of Palestine from that of an observer to a full member of the United Nations Organization is effectively a bid to ensure that Palestine is recognized as a nation by the world. Though the cause may be noble, the unilateral bid has lead to theatrics the likes of which have never been seen at the New York Headquarters of the world body.

President Abbas was greeted by other delegates who rose up and clapped as he walked up to the podium to declare his application for membership. The American delegation looked on their faces grim. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the General Assembly(GA) the theater of the absurd as he addressed his fellow delegates. Of course, the Palestinians had only sent a junior delegate to take notes of the Israeli PM’s speech. Netanyahu however may have been slightly correct as the United Nations has not seen such drama ever. A day after being accused by the man whose most likely to face him in the 2012 polls Governor Rick Perry, if the Republican polls are anything to go by, of betraying Israel and following a policy of appeasement with the Palestinians, US President Barack Obama addressed the UN GA. His words apparently were so pro-Israeli that it shocked the delegates from Israel as well. His fire and brimstone approach to the Palestinian application would have had them quivering in their boots. He laid out in no uncertain terms that The United States would Veto any such applications by the PA in the security council. It would seem he was speaking at one of the Zionist conventions.

As always the domestic political climate has played an important role in how the proceedings. Abbas who is perceived as weak in Ramallah did not back down even when faced with a US veto and he also brought back the issue of a free Palestinian state back onto the international political scene and has given his own people a sense of proper self respect. Netanyahu also stuck to his guns as he had to keep his right wing allies safe from the machinations of his foreign minister and political rival Avigdor Lieberman. He can also take the American President speech as a high point. Speaking of the worlds most powerful man, President Obama ensured that his political credit among the people who control quite a lot of votes and ensured that he portrayed himself as Pro-Israeli, something of great concern to Americans. The United well other than having the biggest media spotlight being blasted at full intensity at themselves well they’ve had meetings upon endless meetings, the poor lads.

The call for a Palestinian state comes every now and then. President Bush stated that a Palestinian state would be in existence by the time he left office. That never happened as terror and the settler problem plagued the peace process. President Clinton, even brought out a road-map, but Yasir Arafat turned his back on him immediately not even offering a counter plan. Israeli PM’s Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 – have accepted Palestinian statehood along the 1967 areas with compensation for those who had been uprooted or forced to settle in concentrated blocs along the border with land from the Israeli state. They were even offered Jerusalem as a shared capital. The Palestinians rejected both offers from quite liberal Israeli governments. The reason is simple they would have to confine themselves to a Palestinian state something they really are not content with.

Israel on the other hand argues that all the Palestinians need to do to get a state for themselves is to convince Israel that the state created for them will not prove to be a threat to Israel’s existence. This is very important as Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and militants have used its borders to launch rocket attacks on towns and villages in the bordering areas of Israel. History has shown that such problems have happened before. In 2005, Israel uprooted all its settlements in the Gaza Strip and withdrew its military from there to the international borders. The results were catastrophic as militants launched rocket attacks onto Israeli territory and Hamas came into power within no time. Israel had to invade Gaza in 2009, in response to the ever increasing attacks. Israel fears the same may happen if they give up the high lying areas of the West Bank.

The Palestinians also accuse the United States of sticking to a Pro-Israeli policy and that the policy is hollow towards themselves. This coupled with the deeply entrenched Israeli occupation of the West Bank have forced them to play their biggest hand and jump the talks train and petition the UN. The PA after many years of dealing with Israel had lost credibility with its own people and the UN gimmick, make no mistake, this is exactly that is just a way of regaining the faith of the people.

The UN bid for statehood was doomed from the start. Really the guys from Ramallah really did not stand a chance. Statehood dreams will be crushed in the UNSC by the US Veto. The only thing they can realistically hope for is to be admitted to the UN as a “non-member observer state”, an upgrade from the PLO’s current status as observer. This status is held by the Vatican and has been held in the past by countries such as Switzerland.

Well till the matter sorts itself out, that may be just be what they can get. For now the peace process is back to where it belongs, the negotiating table, not the circus the UN has been turned into.

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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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