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Obama vs. Romney: The Confusing Case of US Presidential Elections

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By Anannya Roy Chowdhury:

The United States of America — it strikes a very familiar sense of awe and inspiration in all our minds, and that is no exaggeration. Just the other day I was browsing aimlessly through the internet and, in the process, stumbled across a stack of interesting write ups and polling concerning the latest Presidential elections scheduled to held later this year. With the world drooling over the prospects of the win or loss of Obama, it is quite a feast to feed on. There is an air of uncertainty that looms over the nation and, believe it or not, to analyse the Presidential elections proved to be one heck of an adventure for me.

So, now that I sit and plan to write the facts, I have clearly no idea how to present them in their plaintive view without letting my opinions come in way. However, let me just start by quoting what the first news headline read that kept me longing for more details on the same –

“Obama vs. Romney: who wins the battle of the metrosexuals?”

Metrosexuals? That was the last word I had expected to be even distantly related to President Obama and Senator Mitt Romney. Although these two modern-minded, highly affirmative about their female better halves and dauntingly carefree leaders trail the crooked by lanes of American Presidential politics, it is quite interesting to know how the people of the world’s most powerful nation think.

Who Likes Whom — Is it that Simple?

Both the candidates have their own set group of fans who, no matter what allegations are put on their leaders, are ready to stick on. Now, in the plain light, what any layman (and I am the best definition of it) sees for the Presidential election is the clear division of opinions and, consequently, votes. Obama, the leader of the democratic body of the States is a hot favourite among the Democrats, and Mitt Romney on the other hand and as the present disposition is, is popular among the Republicans. It seems like a very convincing division of loyalties. But then as I dug deeper there were rather shocking facts even at this trivial stage. What seems like an obvious choice for the Republicans is not how it is in the true sense. Polls conducted by Gallop in the past year painted a somewhat dwindling image of the current state of things. Unlike Obama who was the unquestioned preference for the Democrats, Romney came as a make-do for the other group. You might question how on earth this is related to the issue of which metro-man is to win, but the direct revelation of it is the trend that is likely to be seen in the voting pattern. Since Obama fans love him, percentages suggest that almost 70% of them feel more enthusiastic about voting today than in the past years and hence chances of him winning over Romney, who for that simple matter is not the first preference for even the Republicans, are substantially high. If we take statistics into account, more than 56% feel Obama has a stronghold as an incumbent this year and this assertion is aided by the historical account related to Presidential re-elections.

Twist in the tale; the current Gallop Poll results

It is certain that if we take the general mood of the public, Obama is highly adored for more than one reason, but there is no taking away from the fact that the economic condition of the nation is speaking, rather screaming of a tale that is tumultuous for the Democrat. The slack in the employment section leaves people with little hope about anything good. When registered voters were asked about their likings for the same, most said that although Obama seems to be a fit candidate to re-run and probably win the elections this year, the main concern that makes them cringe is the economic instability. Of the several dissatisfactions that they quote, economic uncertainty is the ‘most important issue’ to be dealt with. Within this too, the rapidly rising cost of medical treatments, unemployment and a surging deficiency in the federal budget remain the topmost concerns. The one stark remark that can be made pretty safely here is that people are very confident about the changing economic scenario under Romney as they feel their current leader failed to some extent. Although people have diverse opinions about what sector would be dealt the best by which leader, the economic handcuff seems to be the only constraint in the path of Obama’s victory.

Obama’s Forward campaign; Bait worth buying?

With not much personal opinions to coat the facts, I think it makes all the sense to see in a little detail about the prospective Presidential campaign that Mr Barrack Obama took resort to this year.
Few months back, the campaign video that aired made the picture very clear. Whether or not it was a marketing gimmick (cannot really say that that when the entire nation buys what you are selling, it seems only natural to promote extravagantly), the President’s campaign, smartly named Forward, talks about the good things that prevailed in his reign. I would directly quote the following lines from the video so as to present the facts plainly.

“Iraq War Ended . . . Libya Liberated . . . Osama bin Laden Dead . . . Unemployment Benefits Extended . . . Health Care Reform Passed”. Now do we really buy all of it? There is no problem with what his campaign designers and administrators did, because frankly why would anyone mention something that would turn the luck wheel away from him or her? However, as critics, it is very difficult for me to swallow the video without flinching. Employment, instead of rising, has gone down and so have others. But like any other true critic and ideal I think it is important to present the good facts as well. Terrorism, or maybe the Godfather of it, is no more and the obvious credit goes to this person. Now can there be any second thoughts about it? However, the Peace Prize Nobel laureate is also weighed under scrutiny for his other world programs. Drone attacks are incessantly used and form USA’s primal line of defence (well that is what they call their rather attacking techniques in a politically correct manner) against Yemen. How many of us take that to be correct is altogether another discussion. To top all this international peace conflicts (frankly, an average American is hardly concerned about his peace-making or war making plans), the current shackles that economy of the country lies in is enough to make his position slippery.

Romney’s course of action — Lame or Underdog?

What the initial phase of this year’s elections showed was nothing that was ideally pumped up. If we blame Obama and his team for showing us a vague and totally generic picture of what the next four years hold, Romney did not do much to impress, either. If we take the slogan itself in the plain light, “Believe in America” seems too stereotypical a phrase to continue with. However, just because he fought even within the Senate to get the ticket to contestation and surprisingly has convinced almost 90% of the Republicans to cast a vote for the change, there are likely chances that this otherwise lifeless looking attempt might actually be an underdog in the race.

My mind is clear…and I hope in the near future at least some of the Americans find an answer to their ethereal dilemma too.  How things turn is a matter of fact that is governed by several parameters of the most dynamic nature, and hence calling in for a result is too much of a dream as of yet. With their peace exhibitionist still claiming the top seat for the Presidential elections, it is more of an Obama vs. a not-Obama condition instead of Obama vs. Romney. So, in a situation as such, waiting is a good policy…speculating is better though.

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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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