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Can’t Decide Whom To Vote For? Here’s All You Must Know About Party Manifestos And Whether They Can Be An Answer

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By Sara Sinha:

India, which is today, the world’s largest democracy and slated by political and economic analysts to become a world superpower during the course of the twenty-first century, is aided in its development by the fact that more than half of its population is below the age of twenty-five, compared to other countries like China, Japan and Western Europe where the population has gone up significantly. However, despite this vast resource of youth, it is believed by many officials that the young people of India are largely apathetic towards politics and would rather do other things than cast their vote. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that the youth do not know who to cast their vote for. They do not know which political party will be better for the country. All politicians make promises to improve the state of the country. Could party manifestos be the answer to instilling in the youth a sense of which politician would promote their interests?


The dictionary describes a manifesto as a ‘public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives or motives issued by a government, sovereign or organization.’ Party Manifestos are issued at the time of election and they describe what the aims, objectives and even achievements of the political parties contesting the elections are. This gives people an idea of which political party would serve their interests and the interests of the nation better. Many people would contest the importance of a political manifesto and state that political parties do not follow up on what is promised in the party manifesto. However, political policies often do implement what is in their party manifestos, and even when they do not, the party manifesto provides a platform from which to seek various reforms. The party manifestos also shed light on existing social and economic areas, which need improvement.

Education, which directly involves the youth of India and plays a pivotal role in helping to mobilize and utilize our vast youth population is discussed in some detail in the party manifestos of the two largest national political parties, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, both currently members of coalition groups, the United Progressive Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance respectively. Both describe in detail the means by which they seek to provide better quality education that is free to all and believe that improving education is the ticket to India’s prosperity.

Both the NDA agenda and the UPA agenda involve the use and improvement of Internet Technology to increase the distribution and quality of education. Both the NDA and the UPA agenda also believe in skills training at a secondary education level. Both parties aim at providing education to the underprivileged, including women and members of the Dalit community and in raising the income spent on education through partnership between the private and public sector. The 1999 NDA manifesto stated an objective of ensuring free and compulsory education up to the fifth standard. This was manifested in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme initiated by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India. The UPA government carried this programme forward and also successfully implemented the Midday Meal Scheme which fed over fifteen crore children at the time of the 2009 elections. The NDA agenda also proposed increasing governmental and non-governmental spending up to 6% per GDP.

The Congress party manifesto stated the aim of the Congress was to make quality education available to everyone through easy access to loans and financial assistance. At the time of the 2009 elections, India had one of the largest systems of educational loans. Like the NDA agenda, the UPA agenda emphasized on a skill-based programme that was implemented in a large Skills Development Mission. Similarly, the UPA government also aimed at providing free education to backward communities. The May 2004 mandate of the UPA government laid emphasis on empowering the weaker sections of society through education.

Sometimes party manifestos reflect the nature of the political parties, whether they are rightist parties or leftist parties. For instance the BJP manifesto states that the Indian education system needs a complete transformation and advocates an approach that is more in accordance with the customs and traditions of India’s past. This statement might cause the youth to question whether a return to past ideas is really the answer. At the same time is a highly modern approach to education the answer either? One sees an example of how a modern system of education might not be successfully implemented in India in the changes made at a higher education level in Delhi University, which has recently been subjected to a number of changes within the system. Some of these changes were influenced by the system followed by other foreign universities. The success of these reforms is heavily debated with thousands of protestors denouncing these reforms on various grounds. One argument made against the new four year programme is that awarding a diploma after two years will encourage drop outs, particularly female drop outs who will be compelled by family members to drop out of college sooner. Therefore while looking at educational changes, it is important that we keep in mind the social and economic background of India, particularly those which affect the youth who are the future of our country.

In conclusion, while party manifestos are important for providing a platform from which to work on socio-economic change, the time has come to move forward, for the youth to become involved in educational reforms that directly affect them. The time for the Old is gone. The time for the Youth is now.

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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.

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, 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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