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Our Apocryphal Independence

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By Ayushman Basu:

On seeing the title of my piece some may be startled a bit and some may agree with it. But nevertheless, I would like to wish all my fellow Indian brothers and sisters a Happy Independence Day. I can hear outside, songs of valour, courage and which share the stories of those who gave their lives fighting for the freedom of our country. What bothers me is that I can hear these songs only on one day in the whole year that is on 15th August and on the other 364 days I can only hear the cries of anguish and pain which is coming from each and every corner of India. As a student of Political Science, I am bent on questioning the situations and circumstances which are surrounding me and not look at it with a veil of ignorance over my face.

So I give all my readers a third degree; are we living in a country where we are really autarchic? And here by independent I don’t mean colonized as we are living in an era which has moved on from those days and now our priorities are also very different from what they were 60 years back. India as a country never ceases to astonish me. During the recession, our economy of one of the less hit and our GDP growth was considerably good compared to the ones who were severely hit by this phenomenon, but when I walk around the streets I see souls who are either nearing death or who come and hold your legs and crave for a rupee or two. These people are far from being independent as they don’t even know what their own prerogatives are. Let’s forget about the ones on the streets for a moment and look at the ones who are so called educated in this era.

The bourgeoisie with the wealth and the basic necessities (which is important to mention in the case of a country like India), I bet more than half of them don’t know what their own rights are, but the only difference is that we fail to notice this in their case as they have a façade of money and wealth. Let’s be honest, during the time when the constitution was made, it had great promises and showed us dreams but the harsh reality, it failed. Democracy is our country till this point of time failed. While reading Aristotle one day I came across a line in which he said that Democracy is a perverted form of government as it only looks towards the interests of the majority and ignores the minority. But the irony in India is that more than half of the country is living below the poverty line and they don’t have anything to look up to for their interests and I don’t think more than half of the country’s population will be considered a minority.

We the People, For the People, By the People’, is what democracy is for India but it’s only on paper. When it comes to the implementation of the above said phrase, the word PEOPLE is nowhere to be seen. As far as I think, poverty in this country has killed more people than that number of people who were killed in the independence struggle. The government in our country is busier in thinking whether to sign a Nuke deal with the USA rather than looking into its own backyard and seeing millions dying without food and other basic necessities every day. We still stay quiet and go on with our lives as if everything is okay. Well, who wants to go out of their perfect little lives anyway and get their hands dirty for their country eh?

On this Independence Day we shouldn’t sit back and just have flashbacks of our independence struggle which happened decades ago but I urge my readers to think and take up a stand for this nation and for democracy. Nowadays many of us will have role models and someone to look forward to for a just cause.

Anna Hazare’s and Baba Ramdev’s movements have lost their respective momentum from the time Anna Hazare’s team decided to join politics, and in the case of the Baba, I think he just wants to get into the back room and nothing else. If we need to take a stand it should be ourselves and not in the form of another. If we want out interests to be fulfilled we should be the ones on the podium instead of some social activist and yoga guru.

After reading till here, many may think that the writer is just blubbering out emotions and not writing with rationality and substance, but I should justify this. It has been 66 years from the time we are an independent nation, and yes, not to be a total pessimist we have advanced in many fields. But our basic structure which is the people of this nation are still ignorant of their own rights and due to this democracy is failing again and again.

Personally, if I have to be straight with all of you, I worry and am bothered more about my fellow Indians who are not getting to eat two meals a day rather than be concerned about the GDP of my country. The rising economy of the country is not affecting the poor in any way or the other and with the entry of globalization from 1992 their situations have gotten worse. On nearing the end of my article I would like to stress upon a very basic point. We Indians are not proud to be Indians as I see it nowadays. When I see the level of patriotism in other countries and when I see the same in my own land I feel ashamed. For a revolution to take place, first and foremost we must instil pride in ourselves as Indians. If we are divided among ourselves then we will keep on rotting in this mud pit forever and never see a brighter future where everyone will be equal, and justice will be done not on the basis of one’s social position but on the basis of the crime itself. I hope and I will keep on hoping for a brighter India and a Democratic India. Jai Hind!

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:  Ayushman Basu is a student of Political Science, Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi.[/box]

 

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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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