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How Do We Re-Imagine Active Citizenship Today, Such That It Captures Imagination Of The Mainstream?

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Fig 4.8

At the moment the five spaces relate to each other somewhat, as illustrated in Figure 4.8.

Career and career-related studies is at the centre, a much larger circle than all the others depicting the lion’s share it claims of young people’s time, effort, and other resources. The active citizenship space, as we said earlier, plays a marginal role among mainstream youth, being largely populated by some die-hard young people who volunteer part of their time toward issues they are passionate about. We believe the Active Citizenship space needs re-imagining to increase its attraction for mainstream youth and to gain societal sanction. We will let Aristotle guide us in this landscaping reshuffle. Consider his proclamation: “To be a good human being you have to be an active citizen but it needs not be true the other way round.” Which means you could be a good active citizen but not a good human being. It’s not difficult to think of strident activists who are undemocratic, conniving, and self absorbed with their own goals. That is where we believe, the nub of the problem lies. Our latest experiments at Pravah with re-imagining the 5th Space had begun to focus strongly on Aristotle’s words (though we have come upon them only recently). We believe the 5th Space must focus as much on the self-transformation of young people as it does on transforming society through them. We have reconstructed the 5th Space to reinforce this identity-formation stage of youth; “it’s the time of a million first impressions” is the learning we took away from the developmental theory of youth hood described in an earlier chapter.

Good human beings, and not only good active citizens, are the desired results of our experiments. The processes of learning in this 5th Space flow from Self to Society, from Me to We, rather than the other way round. Recognizing the oneness between the inner and outer worlds of young people is the key. While impacting society, young people impact themselves and if facilitated properly these experiences will lead to heightened consciousness of the Self and the ego, enhanced leadership skills (like problem solving, decision-making, team working, conflict positive, dialoguing, etc.), relationship-building capabilities, and value and knowledge-based stances on social issues. These three together–the self, relationships, and Society–we believe, stretch the current definition of Active Citizenship which focuses only on social issues. Thus, in our reconstruction of the 5th Space, Active Citizenship (defined today as volunteering in NGOs and government development sector), is only one drop in the colourful ocean of the 5th Space. We have declined to give this space a name (like Active Citizenship) because we believe the real owners/parents of any space reserve the rights for its christening.

Fig 4.9

Let’s describe this space loosely as of now, as a co created transforming experience for young people. To repeat, it includes developing the self, relationships, and engagement with society. Denizens of this 5th Space, as Aristotle said, work first and foremost at becoming better human beings. Using this wider definition of the 5th Space, let’s also consider its positioning vis-à-vis the other four spaces now. Conceptualized thus, the 5th Space is not a tiny island separated from the others by a sea of sacrifice impossible for most to cross; in effect, it is a space that strengthens the other four and could even encompass all the others. It is central in helping the young person to choose and lead a more effective career, become a more supportive and understanding family member, a trustworthy friend, and a conscious and responsible maker of leisure and lifestyle choices. Indeed it is the 5th Space that makes the other four count too. For those sceptics who might have reservations in putting the 5th Space at the centre stage of spaces occupied by youth, as we are advocating, we have the following questions (see Figure 4.9).

Our question to a corporate/government/NGO recruiter would be: “Wouldn’t your organization be best served by a young person who has developed a good EQ, a sorted out value system, great leadership abilities and a mature world view?” Our question to parents would be along similar lines: “Would you like your ward to be able to stand on his/her own feet confidently, know how to live rather than just earn a living, and to handle conflicts positively along the way?” To friends we would like to ask: “Wouldn’t you want to hang out with a person who keeps his/her commitments, is a sensitive listener, empathizes with you and doesn’t judge you too quickly?” If you agree that this is the kind of young person society and the other spaces would be best served by, then join us in rearranging the landscape such that the 5th Space occupies its rightful prominence. For the idea of the 5th Space to grab centre stage, we need to reposition it as the nurturer of all the other spaces. To accomplish this, how should the 5th Space be designed? How would it be different, yet supporting the other spaces? How can it include more than just active citizenship in its agenda? How can it make the other four count?

Read more about the 5th Space in ‘Ocean in a Drop — Inside-Out Youth Leadership‘. Get your copy now!

This article is a part of the 5th space series on Youth Ki Awaaz. 5th Space is an initiative to facilitate young people to expand beyond the typical 4 spaces of career-edu, family, friends and leisure by exploring the 5th space, a journey from self to society and back.


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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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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