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Many Venezuelans Have Died Protesting On The Street, Here’s How It Is Not Too Different From Our Story!

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By Simren Singh:

‘Venezuelan Uprising: How it is my story too!’
‘Venezuela Split by Pro- and Anti-Maduro Protests’
‘Venezuelans fume as government signals end to ‘free’ petrol’
‘Venezuelan President blames media for ‘broadcasting hate’
‘Truck ploughs through Venezuelan protesters’
‘Venezuela orders troops into border city amid fierce clashes’

Disclaimer: Above lines are not mere headlines, they make a dreadful reality for the people living in Venezuela.

venezuelaprotest

A country that is most urbanized in South America, a nation with impressive literacy rate, a land which is rich in natural resources and where petrol is cheaper than water, it becomes hard to imagine why would the people of any such place be unhappy and rise up against the government. But, resentment and anguish do not come on its own especially in a country where democracy fails to deliver to its people. Ridden with intense corruption, Venezuela today faces a severe economic crisis with inflation rate soaring as high as 50% and a chronic shortage of basic goods of necessity. Following the death of the popular President Hugo Chavez, the socialist economy of Venezuela that showed visible cracks then is now absolutely crumbled with President Nicolas Maduro’s “dictatorial” take over in early 2014. Rampant unemployment and intense crime rate acted as catalysts to stir civil unrest that has entered its second week now. The government, unsurprisingly, has come up with authoritarian measures (use of tear gas, massive arrests and media censorship) to shun angry voices. In a place where a crime is committed every twenty-one minutes, Venezuela has become a battlefield with pro and anti-Maduro blood flowing in profusion.

Sitting a thousand miles away in a place where incidences of crime, political scandals, and civilian protests almost make daily news, it isn’t much interesting to read about anything that is remotely connected to me or my country. More importantly, such occurrences are not new and if one looks around, one could find similar happenings in some part of the world or the other. So, why bother about issues that do not affect me directly? That is a common view that most of us would share. Nevertheless, there’s a common thread that runs across all societies that brings ‘us’ closer to ‘them’, and with the link being that of ‘shared vulnerabilities’ and humanity, situation as grim and gory as that in Venezuela make our ignorance impossible.

With incidences of mass protests in Ukraine, Thailand and now Venezuela, what has come to the forefront is the deep resentment people have against their governments and the ‘hyper’ insecurity that runs deep in the psyche of states. The promptness with which troops are deployed to control and counter the masses (read: citizens) manifest nothing but the increasing weakness on the part of governments to sustain support and exercise power (read: legitimate power). A regime’s insecurity is brought to light the moment its interests clash with that of the people. As citizens, we are vulnerable to negative implications of state policies and also state violence. The conflict in Venezuela has garnered mixed reactions from the international community. While the blame game is on from the sides of both supporters and protestors, allies and non-allies; violence at this scale is condemned by all. But, is condemnation enough? Can the wrongs committed be ever undone? Can justice be ever delivered? Can those guilty of extreme violation of rights and violence (especially the state) be ever convicted? Why does it become necessary to topple governments and who wins and who loses out in the process?

The story of Venezuelans is not theirs alone, it is a story that engulfs such perplexing thoughts, and it is a story about our common fight for justice and unless delivered such stories will never find a happy end.

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  1. Caldwell Manners (@ccmanners)

    Simren, thank you for reminding us that our stories are not that different, it always important to constantly be aware that violence and oppression is actually closer home than we realize. I however want to highlight that the middle-class protests in Venezuela are are not as black and white as the mainstream media has been reporting, this largely due to genius use of social media. On the other hand the historic role the United States has had in the country cannot be ignored in the conversation. A few of the links below help shed some light whats going on in my neighbouring country: https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/56008 http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10445 http://upsidedownworld.org/main/venezuela-archives-35/4728-manufacturing-contempt-for-venezuela

    Keep up the good work of reminding us of our interconnectedness.

    1. Simren Singh

      Thanks Caldwell for sharing the link. While I’m aware of the not so black and white picture of the Venezuelan protests, I chose to focus on the vulnerabilities that we all share irrespective of our nationality. It is the amount of violence and human rights violations that pain me most. Whatever said and done, the blame game has and will continue to be on. But, the memories will never fade away. Change and revolutions are never rosy but I question the credibility of the governments(both democratic and non-democratic) and their responsibility towards their ‘citizens’.

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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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