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Meet Mahitha Kasireddi: Writer, Pursuer Of Change And YKA Opinion Leader Of The Week

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By Tanaya Singh: 

Here’s presenting, one of our most active contributors as the opinion leader of this week.

Mahitha says that unfortunately she is an Engineering IT graduate. Other than that she is an aspiring civil servant, writer, journalist and economist. A wanna-be everything at once. Blame the social media for she cannot concentrate on one particular goal for a long period. She believes in change and it’s her soul philosophy of life. She thinks that she hasn’t done much of real work towards this change other than just writing, but she dreams that one day she will look beyond books and offer real help.

As a part of our Opinion Leader of the Week column, we highlight Mahitha’s personal journey with the Youth Ki Awaaz community.

DSCN0056Q1: When and how did you get involved with Youth Ki Awaaz?
Since writing has always been my passion I was a regular contributor at YKA since June 2012. In April 2013, I joined as a writing intern and there started a personal journey. In two months so much happened. I got to address on happening events, crusades, campaigns, atrocities etc. People recognized my work. A HR from Delhi called up to offer me a campaigning job at Greenpeace. It was just the kind of platform I wanted. A wide readership, opinionated audiences and a liberal editorship. I did write for other online journals but the flexibility that I expected was not provided there. As a budding writer I had ideas to express, things to disagree on. I wanted people to listen, more people to reflect on what I had to say. Honestly, YKA is the best thing that happened to me.

Q2: What are some of the topics you’ve loved writing about, and why?
Yes, all have pet issues. For me, two sections of people in the society need exclusive representation. I feel women and child issues are the most unattended ones. I’m a strong advocate of the point that investing in women and children is the only way to weed off almost all societal problems in India starting from non-institutional deliveries and malnourishment in children to dowry harassment, domestic violence and daily security of women. My ideas might sound naive and utopian. My biggest dream is to see the unlearning of gender bias, promoting feminism like a religion. Apart from these, I’d like to extensively talk about collective social responsibility and change. Bringing about social change is the biggest challenge. Even people of your circles would not cooperate at times. A friend of mine blocked me away from Facebook because I had asked her not to support piracy of unreleased movies. My concern was for the 100 workers on the sets of the film and their families who draw their livelihood from it. There has to be a change in thought process and I believe writing has the power to bring revolutions. History has proven this.

Q3: What is it that you see as the outcome of your writings at Youth Ki Awaaz, at present or how would you like the outcome to be in the future?
There were times when I shared my personal experiences at YKA and I had always seen wide support and solidarity coming across. Sometimes people sharing their own stories. Specially the one I had written about obsession with fair skin. The best part of YKA is that it has managed to attract the right kind of audiences. People who stand up for what is right, libertarians, humanists and romanticists. Many times I had changed my opinions, got mature on some things I had reservations against. I grew up reading at YKA. Cannot ask for more. It is an on-going process. This place will continue to be an influencer in my life.

Q4: If you wanted to change one thing about Youth Ki Awaaz, what would it be?
YKA has already grown into something I always aspired to see. A much needed revolution. I live in Hyderabad and people here aren’t aware about YKA. I’d like this idea to spread across the nation. We are a young country and YKA should definitely harness this power to help India be stronger democracy.

Q5: What do you like to do when you’re not writing, or thinking about pressing issues, or just working?
When I am not writing I look for inspiration. I have to keep working on new ideas to reflect on otherwise I don’t feel normal. As I’m an absolute netizen I watch selected movies which have a story with a human touch. I love History and I wish to compose a historical fictional story someday. And I attend random seminars, fests and talks on interesting issues off course not with aim to report about them, but to seek a writing prompt! I go to watch movies alone, again only sensible ones. This year I am glad I invested on real good movies like Bhag Milkha Bhag, The Lunch Box and Shahid.

Q6: What one question would you like to pose to your audience?
Define Optimism, Happiness and Inspiration? I have new answers each day!

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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, 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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