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5 Very Important Reasons Why We Need A People”s Manifesto #unManifesto

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By Saurabh Gandhi:

Every time I hear the word manifesto’, the face of Mulayam Singh Yadav flashes in front of my eyes. It was 2009 and I had started following politics just a few months back ever since the trust vote over the nuclear deal. It was election time and Mr. Yadav was releasing the manifesto of Samajwadi Party. I listened to him with shocked disbelief when he unveiled his anti-English and anti-computer manifesto. Compare this to the manifesto of the same party in the 2012 UP Assembly election which promised laptops to students. So, what caused this change of heart? Some attributed this to the emergence of Akhilesh Yadav in the party. But there is an undercurrent here. Look at the following facts:

unmanifesto

Obviously, the anti-incumbency against the ruling party and the fresh face of Akhilesh Yadav, combined with the caste and religious equations, played a role in the massive success in 2012 but then Akhilesh Yadav had used technology in the election management to a huge extent, making sure that wherever he campaigned, he mentioned his promise of providing laptops and tablets. This won him the undecided young voter which had drifted apart from the party in 2009 and shifted to the Congress.

Having established that the manifesto of a political party can affect the results of an election, let us look at a few reasons why we need a people’s manifesto and not one prepared by the high command:

manifesto

1. Sops V/S Needs – Advertising makes you buy things you do not need. We have all heard of this statement. But what about manifestos of political parties? Are they any different from advertisements? Okay, you are promising me free colour TV’s, I can’t say no to that even though I don’t have uninterrupted power supply. You are promising me a laptop; I really need that but what about quality education so that I can make good use of the laptop instead of just looking at your irremovable face on the desktop or even selling it! Manifestos often focus on the superficial and ignore the things we really need.

2. Generalities V/S specifics — “If we come to power, we will ensure good roads, secure environment for women, faster delivery of services, and the latest one, employment to one crore people.” Even if the intentions behind these promises are genuine, how do you judge their performance? There may be flyovers in Delhi but then there are also jhuggi jhopris in the city (as highlighted in this story). I think the AAP has come up with a novel idea of different manifestos for each constituency. This can ensure that there is greater focus on those little problems that we face daily.

3. Long-term issues V/S Short-term issues — Manifestos are in focus during the elections when all that the party is thinking about is winning the election. So, a whole gamut of long-term issues is conveniently forgotten. Onion prices rise so the Government sells onion at cheaper rates for a few days. What about the fundamental problem that Delhi faces because it is a zero-agricultural productivity state as the CM repeatedly says? What about the Naxal problem in Chhattisgarh — will it be solved through force or development or a combination of both?

4. India V/S Bharat — There really is a division between the haves and the have-nots. For some, reservation in educational institutions can be a game changer in their life. For others, this same reservation can be a set back because they couldn’t get a seat in spite of their merit. For some the Food Security Act is a blessing. For others, it is just a huge burden on the state exchequer which can lead to a downgrade for India from world’s rating agencies. How do we balance both the sides? The tax payer would certainly not mind the social expenditure if he was sure that the money would not be embezzled.

5. Expertise V/S People’s mood — Democracy is all about the people. But there are certain issues where expertise has to take precedence over people’s mood. Take the issue of climate change. Rightly put by the Foundation For Democracy and Sustainable Development, “Democratic decision-making on climate change needs to allow room for the latest and best scientific evidence; but the evidence needs to be communicated in ways that allow people to deliberate and make fully informed decisions. To put it another way: experts should be on tap, but not on top.

Obviously, we are in a representative democracy rather than a direct one, meaning we can only choose people who will take decisions on our behalf. But there is no law stopping us from influencing their decisions. In fact it is both our right and duty to make them aware of our legitimate views and demands. There is no shortage of the number of ways in which we can do this. Here are a few of them:

1. YouthKiAwaaz offers you an opportunity to let the leaders know what your manifesto looks like through this campaign: unManifesto.
2. Apart from this, the two national political parties have their own websites for receiving your suggestions:
– Indian National Congress – incmanifesto.in
– Bharatiya Janata Party – bjpelectionmanifesto.com

So, do voice your concerns. In the end, if they don’t listen, you have your biggest weapon: “Your Vote”!

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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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