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[Audio] Jo Dikhta Hai Wo Bikta Hai: Why Is Media Literacy Urgently Needed

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By Riya Rana, Audio By Sumeet Kaur: 

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/91975272″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

How many gadgets are you surrounded by right now? Laptop, mobile phones, TVs and so on. For any working household in a city, these media and communication technologies sound pretty normal. Even most of the villages have a form of media: the radio. And mobiles are progressively penetrating the scene. Surely, we are living in a media-saturated world.

mediaPsychologists say children spend more time watching TV than in school. The youth are almost always connected to the internet via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Not to mention the countless hours spent on video games every week. With so much of our time being dedicated to the media, do we truly understand its inherent nature and our relationship with it?

Media brings the world into our homes. Latest news, history, wars, everything that we have information of is through the media. We rely heavily on it for entertainment, knowledge and leisure. The media is also responsible for influencing our opinions and image of ourselves. What the media projects is what we believe to be the norm, the way a certain thing should be- what should you buy, how a woman should be, which political candidate is better. Because we receive these messages again and again we lap up anything given more attention to (read advertising) by the media, without actually thinking about it.

One needs to realize that today what we see is not necessarily what it is. Factually based professional journalism is becoming rare. Media ethics are going down the drain. In a bid to get the best TRPs any faulty news could be flashed as breaking news. Headlines are twisted to get attention. Many times important news is not covered as it might not be sensational. The way an issue gets covered doesn’t necessarily portray its reality.

Here’s where media literacy and its importance comes in. Media literacy is learning how to use the media selectively and wisely, to understand how it actually works and critique it well. It’s the ability to recognize bias, sensationalism, stereotyping. The principle of this education is to empower young people to understand the mass media and how it works so that they can be in control of this important aspect of their own lives. Media literacy is simply being aware of reality.

Teenagers and children are in special need of it. They are still too young to have a firm opinion and are easily influenced. Children are exposed to highly violent video games, which might lead to behavioural disorders. While we do have certificates to ensure that violence in movies doesn’t reach them, nothing much has been done in the sphere of gaming. Disturbingly there are many popular games in the market promoting rape and sexism too. Teens buy and do anything that is ‘in fashion’.

They often have a distorted view of sex (from movies and print media), thus indulging in it- resulting in unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases. Commercials with their superfluous advertising lead children into buying things they don’t want, as opposed to what they need. Celebrities often engage in cinematic scenes involving drugs, violence, smoking, drinking or sometimes behave in a certain way demanded by the producers. The way media projects them, affects youngsters more than anything as they consider them as their role models and are happily obliged to copy them.

Adults are not free from this influence either. The excessive advertising regarding fair skins, thin bodies have led us to believe that only one ideal definition of beautiful exists. Fat people are still ridiculed. One could call it ‘adult-bullying’. Eating disorders like bulimia result from this pressure. Rampant eve-teasing can be traced back to movies, where it’s perfectly normal for a guy to stalk a girl and the girl obviously falls in love with him. Item songs and their sexist lyrics objectify women. If only women equality was promoted the way movies are, the scene would have been quite different. Even media directed at addressing social issues might have a different agenda. Satyamev Jayate was accused of using music and showing teary eyed people at the perfect time to generate emotional responses in the viewers, thus ensuring their faithfulness to the show. Constant targeting by the media has led people to have a rather negative opinion of Muslims.

Clearly media literacy is the need of the hour. It can be advocated through workshops, classes, online presence through articles and videos, discussion with peers and family, education in schools and colleges. Media outlets need to realize their duties. Let’s spread it to the extent that mass media thinks twice before fooling us into believing false ideologies.

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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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