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A Fascinating Digital Currency That Can Revolutionize Cash Transactions! #Bitcoin

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By John A Raju:

Bitcoins have been in the news for desirable, unreasonable and intriguing reasons for quite some time now. Quite a few articles & opinions are being written on it. But what is this relatively new phenomenon? Is it a gold nugget or garbage or a bit of both among the plethora of new stuff coming up on the virtual world right now?

bitcoin

Wikipedia describes Bitcoins as “a peer to peer payment network & digital currency based on an open source protocol, which makes use of a public transaction log”. All this jargon might be better understood by computer geeks but what it basically means is that Bitcoins is a virtual currency, its control is decentralized i.e. there is no central authority controlling its generation and use, thus making it free from external control and it uses a public transaction log, which is like a huge database which verifies payments and ensures there are no instances of double spending. This huge database is maintained and run by “miners”, who generate the currency and earn bitcoins as well.

The idea of bitcoins came in a scientific paper published under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. He combined existing knowledge of networking with his own ideas of an inflation proof mechanism and the incentivising feature to create a new electronic cash system.

Its standout features and prominent advantages include encryption enabled anonymity, absence of government/central bank control and is also the cheapest means of transferring cash. What acts as a boon on one side also turns out to be a bane on the other as the above mentioned features are exactly what would aid the black market, money launderers, drug dealers and all such illegal operations. The Silk Route saga is a testimony to this. Silk Route was an online marketplace for illegal drugs which was shut down by the US government, which had extensively used bitcoins to aid its evasion of the government radar. However, the critics say that constant stigmatizing of the Bitcoins with this scandal is unfortunate. Illegal trade and black marketing is carried out even with US currency, but that doesn’t mean we stop the minting of dollar bills, right?

How did the bitcoin use gain prominence? Well it all started with the Cyprus crisis of 2009. With all the inflation ravaging around during the time, Cyprus too experienced a financial crisis (as was the norm for most countries then). This resulted in an unexpected 10% tax on those who had assets of 100,000 euros or more in the bank. With the threat of their earnings falling in government hands, many sought ways to stash away their cash and stumbled upon the nascent Bitcoin. What you basically have to do to earn bitcoins is to create an account in MtGox.com and wire money to it. Based on the exchange rate, you get to purchase bitcoins, and here comes the catch.

The exchange rate of bitcoins can fluctuate erratically. This is because the value of bitcoins isn’t centrally controlled i.e. its value & exchange rate depends on the willingness of other users to buy the bitcoins. During peak demand periods, a bitcoin touched highs of $266 and just as well plummeted to $65 when the demand waned. In this regard, bitcoins behave somewhat like stocks to an extent. This is because of the inherent inflation proof mechanism. The total number of bitcoins in circulation can only be 21 million at a time. So if you are mining bitcoins and there is a huge demand for them, your contribution to the total bitcoin number is reduced. This reduces your savings. On the contrary, you could just as well strike gold when the demand is low but your share to the bitcoin production is larger.

The erratic nature, however, hasn’t prevented popular sites like Reddit and wordpress from accepting it as legal tender. However, its propensity to be used for criminal activities has made governments wary. That even the government requires some perseverance to snoop into bitcoin transactions shows the strength of its encryption programme. Like any financial medium of transactions, especially digital ones, there is huge potential for misuse of this technology and many countries are against its use. The largest private company aimed at making bitcoins more accessible, easy to use and safer is situated in Cyprus, yet the Central Bank of Cyprus or CBC has labeled bitcoins as dangerous. China has issued notices to all its financial institutions stating that bitcoins are no longer recognised as legal tender and cannot be used for financial transactions.

Bitcoins

Despite all the whining about the dangers & risks of using bitcoins, there is no denying that this is a futuristic form of currency. In a world where everything is going virtual, a currency that can ride the waves of inflation and recession, circumvent capital controls and counter international sanctions, is an ultra-superior financial weapon. The weapon may be double edged as any new and progressive endeavour will be. However, I believe that researching, refining and revamping this young virtual soldier can make it a potent and very useful giant in the future.

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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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