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Argentina”s Re-elected President And The Road Ahead

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By Pradyut Hande:

The Latin American nation of Argentina held its National Presidential and Legislative elections on October 23, 2011. The results of these elections were along expected lines, given the wave of populist sentiment the incumbent Government managed to whip up in the run up to the elections. The incumbent President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner has managed to secure a second consecutive term in office after the Front for Victory (FpV) marginally captured over half the seats in the National Congress. Headed by the President, the Front for Victory (FpV) is a coalition party which includes allies like the New Encounter. It is based on the factions of the centre-left Justicialist Party (PJ) that presently owe allegiance to the ruling Government. Fernandez has charted a chequered path, paving the way to her re-election. In 2008, she had suffered a noteworthy decline in support as a consequence of the prolonged imbroglio between the Government and the under-fire agricultural sector. The recessionary situation and the global economic meltdown only amplified her problems. In fact, the reigning Front for Victory (FpV) Government suffered the ignominy of losing its absolute majority in both the houses of Congress during the June 2009 mid term elections. However, Fernandez has managed to stage a gallant albeit gradual recovery in the period following her Government’s mid term debacle that has eventually culminated in her winning her second consecutive term in office.

There are numerous plausible factors that have collectively connived and manifested themselves at the right time to contribute to Fernandez’s re-election. A year ago, on October 27, 2011; with her Government under relentless pressure; Fernandez’s husband, Nestor Kirchner died of a sudden heart attack. Kirchner was Argentina’s President before his enterprising and politically savvy wife succeeded him in office. Many believed that Fernandez had lost her grip on power and her appetite for another tenure in public office following the death of her husband and most trusted political aide. However, Fernandez displayed remarkable poise and drive as she put aside her personal grief to focus on her Government’s performance and Presidential campaign with renewed vigour. One would be naïve to dismiss the fact that the death of her husband — a much respected and influential Statesman — certainly won her a veritable degree of sympathy from myriad quarters. Suffice to say, the extraneous element of luck has undoubtedly played a role in her re-election. However, the Kirchners at large have been remarkably fortunate during their respective Presidential tenures.

It was in the tumultuous year of 2001 that the then moderately developing state of Argentina slipped off the precipice to land itself in a severe debt crisis. Poverty and unemployment soared as the nation and economy per se failed to find a modicum of stability. Five Presidents were elected within a brief period of three years as the country continued to lurch further into the abyss of pressing economic crises. It was one of these temporary Presidents, Eduardo Duhalde that actually succeeded in stemming the rot to a certain extent. Through a sound mix of fiscal and monetary policies coupled with the devaluation of the Peso that was fixed on par with the US Dollar until 2001 and a renewed emphasis on exports, Duhalde managed to put the Argentinean economy on a relatively stable path of progression. However, his year long tenure soon came to an end as he was then succeeded by the late Nestor Kirchner (then the Governor of the Province of Santa Cruz) in 2003. The long term economic and political benefits of Duhalde’s sound developmental strategies were eventually reaped by first Kirchner and then his wife, Christina Fernandez. On account of “inheriting” an economy in improving shape, their task was probably made easier. Fernandez was also aided by the fact that there suddenly was an enhanced demand for farm exports that commanded higher prices in the market and a rapidly burgeoning “next door economy” in the form of Brazil. The mutually beneficial “cross-regional growth effect” stimulated the Argentinean economy as its exports sector boomed.

To placate an impoverished population fuelled by angst that had displayed a well documented proclivity to rise in protest against the Government and its perceived apathy, Fernandez focused her attention on expansionary policies. Robust socio-economic progression and Job creation became her cornerstones of ensuing political success. Although inflation continued to escalate at an alarming rate (and still continues to rise. It is presently in the vicinity of about 20%), the Argentinean economy has bounded to register a GDP growth rate of 9.2% in 2010. Many believe that the Government has often resorted to doctoring the figures to suit their needs. However, the veracity of those claims or alleged rumours remains questionable in the absence of substantial evidence. Thus, her carefully calibrated populist measures have certainly gone some way in winning her approval and favour, especially from the lower income strata of society. She has also attempted to ease inflationary pressures on her populace through welfare schemes, state sponsored subsidies and marginal wage rises. Christina Fernandez may have made her way back to the Presidential office riding on a wave of luck, positive sentiment fuelled by populist people-centric measures and sympathy garnered due to her bereavement. However, undeniable is the fact that she does possess the requisite political skill, diplomatic wherewithal and personal leverage to make her second tenure count. However, recent figures are clearly indicative of the fact that economic development is stuttering and industrial performance is slowing down, especially in the wake of the global economic slowdown at large.

A new tenure demands a fresh approach to policy formulation, especially in the current global economic scenario. The present rapid growth and expansionary policies are beginning to catch up with the economy, what with Argentina struggling to meet its fiscal deficit targets. There also needs to be a detailed review with regards to the numerous subsidies the Government presently offers, that amount to almost 5% of the GDP. There is a fine line between treading the populist path and hampering long term economic progression by placing undue stress on the economic infrastructure. A renewed focus on attracting greater FDI, encouraging proactive private sector partnerships in critical sectors and gradually reducing widespread Government intervention should also be looked at from a more discerning lens. The road ahead appears daunting…fraught with obstacles. However, it remains to be seen whether Christina Fernandez learns from her previous follies and embraces a more balanced approach towards holistic inclusive growth. Populist measures can be relegated to the backburner for now. The need of the hour is structural economic reforms and privatization drives to stimulate greater demand and counter rising inflation.

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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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