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“Why Are Some Young People Fired With Passion And Others Remain Passive?”: The Ocean In A Drop

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By Pooja Malhotra: 

One of the easily forgotten themes of debates, that have surrounded the upcoming elections, is the lack of youth participation and absence of genuine representatives in the Parliament. Indian history has witnessed many young people leading the country towards independence; both Gandhi and Nehru became politically active at a young age. However, over the last few decades, our enthusiasm seems to have been muted, arguably due to deep rooted corruption and government insensitivity towards various social issues. Although it is true that the biggest success of our democracy is attributed to its representative character, the striking absence of the youth in the political arena has been largely overlooked. A youth representation (age group 25-40 years) of only 6.3 percent in the current Lok Sabha, even though 50 percent of the population lies in that age bracket, can’t be called parliamentary presence? Can it?

The Ocean in a Drop is an attempt to explore how young people have contributed significantly to society in the past, and suggests ways in which they can take centre stage again. This recently published book on youth-centric development is creating a buzz among those working with young people. It has raised a number of questions regarding youth leadership and active citizenship and argues that the answer lies in facilitating young people to be at the forefront of nation building again. On the same note, a panel discussion is being held at Casuarine Hall, India habitat Centre, Lodhi Road on 26th April, Time: 6.30 — 8.30 PM. The discussion is an attempt to seek answers to relevant questions, including:

Why are some young people fired with passion and others remain passive?
Why do some young people take responsibility and ownership while others are disinterested and detached?
Why are some young people happy to stay in their comfort zone while others are willing to take risks?
How can we systemically instil passion, ownership and risk taking abilities in young people? Is there a way we can create such a space? Is there a method in the madness?

ocean in a drop

In my opinion, there are many factors that could have contributed to low participation by youth. There is a sense of growing alienation among young people. The scandals and scams that have hounded the political scenario of our country in the past several decades have engendered a cynicism that has led to a decrease in political interest, particularly among the nation’s young population. Youth power has been unintentionally blunted and a feeling of being politically diminished & electorally insignificant seems to have given an edge to the fulmination of our old and experienced politicos. Many of us remain passive because we feel unrepresented and are losing faith in the political system as a whole.

There exists a certain sense of reluctance – to step out of our comfort zones and bring about social transformation. This seems to have taken its toll on our willingness to participate in community projects, attend political meetings, or contact their government representatives directly. Participation has considerably reduced in terms of young people joining a political party, working on a campaign or devoting time towards a cause. How many of us have the drive or passion to form action groups, draw up petitions or create a dialogue with our representatives? Youth participation has been gradually declining and most avenues of participation are narrowing down.

Though there is a palpable sense of frustration, there are young people who undertake that journey from self to society and search for solutions. They strongly believe that the only yardstick for participation cannot be representation alone. For them it’s not about who gets elected and how, but about actions that are taken on behalf of our people and for the people. It is as if they instinctively understand that their elected representatives have no major role to play, other than smiling through billboards that greet us on festivals. The idea of actually taking a stand, fighting for a social cause and taking concrete action may be less prevalent among ‘self absorbed youth’ of our country, but there are some self motivated individuals whose passion and drive cannot be restricted by reasons. The book conveys that if we want to bring about sustainable change and create a generation of active, committed and empathetic individuals deeply connected to society we need to work with young people and build youth leadership.

Pravah and Commutiny — the Youth Collective invite you to be a part of the panel discussion on The Ocean in a Drop: Inside-Out Youth Leadership (Sage Publications, 2013). Let’s delve into how we can facilitate young people to connect with society and empower them to impact the world around them.

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  1. Krishna Prasanth

    I think this indifference towards socio-political issues and being an active part in mitigating them has come more from social conditioning than perhaps the nature of politics. Most socio-political activists have been ended being so only because of family’s and peer influence, who encouraged such activities and glorified them, which hasn’t been the case for quite some time now. Today’s middle class families, which form the bulk of the population today discourage engagement in politics, not just because politics in itself is something negative, but because earning money and leading a stable life is the most important goal in life as per them. This mad rush for better lives in a materialistic world, aspirations of leading a rich urban life has come to take hold of the psyche of a sizeable Indian population, thanks to the economic uncertainty that has crept in due to the poor economic development. While people can’t be blamed, I guess more mobilization from NGOs and media houses is necessary to change this mentality. People will have to be encouraged to make political engagement an important part of their daily lives, and they need to be shown the socio-economic benefits of doing so. Things are moving in the right direction, which schools and colleges changing their approach towards the idea of education and NGOs and social media working in a similar direction. Lets hope a new dawn arrives, where the youth will form the majority of the parliament.

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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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