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Gaon Connection: Imparting Rural India A Portal To Voice Themselves

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By Nimisha Jain:

Rural India has been in a gloomy state for long and its stagnant condition is highly attributed to its ignorant as well as ignored population. But now it’s time for a change; change for the better. Now, the rural people no longer have to be isolated from the outer, developed world. Instead, they would be able to have an access to information, opportunities, hopes etc. In a nutshell, they would have access to the possibility of a better life. And this would be achieved by a new initiative- India’s first rural newspaper- Gaon Connection.

gaon connectionThe major factor which holds back the rural world from advancing is the lack of connection in every sphere from the external world. It’s the lack of connection between the unemployed and the jobs, between the poor farming conditions and new farming techniques, between the social backwardness and social reforms; basically between the needy and the opportunities. Once the two poles are bridged, wonders can happen. And Gaon Connection, based majorly out of Uttar Pradesh, aims to accomplish the same task of bridging.

This first rural newspaper, an initiative by Neelesh Misra, isn’t exceptional just because it would reach the innermost village homes and impart the news from every little area of the world. But because it is so rural-orientated that the focus of the innovation would be to address village related issues and corresponding solutions to the problems. Even today, village societies are mainly agriculture-based. Their high dependence on this sector of occupation demands deep knowledge and associated skills that would enhance their productivity and hence the prosperity. But it’s a misfortune for our country that despite such a large labour supply in agriculture, the supply conditions of improved skills, techniques and innovations from urban to rural areas is far less than adequate. Many government initiatives towards the furtherance of enhanced agricultural methods remain hidden from the village population. Despite the improvements in seeds’ quality, new fertilizers and manures, credit criterion for rural households etc. villagers remain in an environment of poverty and hopelessness because they stay unaware.

Often out of desperation, these poor, helpless people wish to switch their occupations. But the bleak path of unawareness either takes them nowhere or to a riskier, lowly condition. There are many who migrate to cities in search for better jobs or who take up more uncertain offers in hope of a fruitful life ahead. But as witnessed most of the times, these new attempts welcome new problems, which majorly are irredeemable. These problems can be those of high indebtedness, intense poverty, separation from families etc. Fearing from such consequences there are others who remain committed to the low producing agricultural means of survival. These problems then aggregate and result in macro level teething troubles of poverty, unemployment, criminal activities and many other social issues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMibhlsXw3g

Gaon Connection seems to better the picture. The 12-page all-colour broadsheet is priced at Rs 5. Its focus on betterment of villages brings in the solution. It would impart, along with general knowledge, specific information about the new schemes of government regarding agricultural reforms. In this way new source of information could beget a better agricultural environment in rural India with better tools, machinery and other methodologies. Also, as people would wish to migrate in search for new jobs, Gaon Connection could be a guiding light. As a rural newspaper, it would try to connect the corresponding demand and supply of new jobs by letting the village people know about the vacancies waiting for them in the outer world. This would not just clear the uncertainty but also offer an access to white-collar jobs, preventing the village people from getting indulged in illegal and criminal activities to combat the problems of poverty and dearth.

Also, knowledge about the importance of education and related information about its access at cheaper costs through various government schemes can improve the enrolment rates and attendance rates of rural India and thus enrich the educational status of India as a whole. The attainment of this objective could then proceed in combating one of the major problems of the country- child labour.

Not only in terms of stabilizing and improving the economic and educational condition of villages, Gaon Connection possesses the greater ability to bring about the social and political reforms which the country needs the most at the moment. This newspaper aims to change the lenses of rural India and help the villagers modify their outlook to various social issues- inequality, gender discrimination, untouchability, women empowerment, dowry etc. Better understanding of the national political scenario can help the local governing bodies of villages to bring about a desired change in their functioning. And this newspaper can also make rural India much healthier by imparting the information about hygiene, vaccinations, diseases and cures.

Thus, we believe that Gaon Connection can make the rural India well informed. Its impact on every sphere of rural life can be so effective that various glitches that are present, like unemployment, social backwardness, poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy can vanish. This would finally result in a better India.

 

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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.

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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.

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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 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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