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7 Issues That PM Modi Should Highlight While Addressing The UN General Assembly

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By Vasudha Kapoor:

Yet again, destiny has played its hand. A decade ago, the man (Mr. Narendra Modi) denied a visa to visit the US in light of the 2002 Godhra riots, is now set to address the world with his first global speech to an audience of 200 world leaders and foreign ministers in the United Nations General Assembly on 27th September, 2014.

Narendra Modi UN Address

This upcoming event has fuelled several debates, some of them focusing on the way the Indian leader might be perceived on a global stage as he attempts to promote ‘Indian-ness’ by speaking in Hindi. However, despite all the various debates, the issues that deserves the spotlight are the key points that Mr. Modi should strive to emphasize on in order to present India as a country equipped with strong and modern perspectives on contemporary issues such as achieving world peace, tackling issues of climate change, fostering mutually beneficial ties of international trade, food security, conservation of human rights, health and education, and safeguarding the interests of developing countries in an increasingly globalized world. This article is an attempt to look at 7 core issues that the Indian Prime Minister must focus on in his UN address.

1. Combating terrorism and promoting world peace

Colouring middle-east Asia with blood, and with the death toll rising to over a thousand innocent lives, the Israel-Palestine conflict has taken its ugliest form, shaking the very foundations of world peace. Shifting one’s eye eastwards from Gaza, a look at war trodden Iraq complicates the situation further. The Iraqi common man has been sandwiched in between the violence perpetrated by Islamic state militants and the invasions by U.S. troops.

Clearly, there is no military solution to conflicts of this sort. So, the Prime Minister should clearly specify India’s support to intensify the efforts leading to an amicable democratic settlement in the affected regions. A discussion on ‘terrorism’ wouldn’t be complete without explicitly stating India’s concern of state sponsored cross-border terrorism originating from Pakistan. The Prime Minister must use this platform to rouse the global audience’s support in preventing another situation like the 26/11 attacks.

2. Economic Growth

Witnessing the phenomenon of economic slowdown all over the world and continuing volatility in financial markets, the importance of growth and inclusive development has increased for all countries. In order to search for the solution of the imposition of disproportionately heavy costs on the developing countries, setting the stage for the post-2015 Development Agenda seems to be the right option.

All the more, what needs to be discussed is the need of a supportive international economic environment, enhanced investment flows, including from multilateral development banks transfer of technology, and an open multilateral trading regime.

3. Food Security

The outcomes of the WTO’s (World Trade Organization) meeting at Bali have come out to be disappointing and have left developing countries like India defenseless against the law suits by WTO’s rules. As per the interests of the third world countries, the instituted public stock-holding operations as efforts to prevent starvation should not be considered unlawful, as per WTO’s rules. For developing countries, agriculture is a matter of life and death, so, the issue of forming global trade ties that promote agriculture and subsequently, food security, is paramount to be raised internationally.

4. India’s concerns on climate change

2013 North India floods epitomizes how the changing climate and the rising population disastrously threaten life on earth. Soon, the rising oceans, melting glaciers, unpredictable monsoons, devastating droughts, polluted water sources, growing urban slums, and the resulting societal upheaval, can destroy the over-ambitious society we live in. Immediate measures in this regard are a must and this issue should be essentially raised.

5. Poverty

‘For a long time, poverty line has been nothing but a death line.’ World Bank’s revision of PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) brings along hope that the worldwide poverty figures may drop. Still, Poverty remains a major political and economic challenge and its eradication requires special attention and a new thrust. The problems of over a billion people living in abject poverty around the world need to be attacked more directly.

6. Conservation of Human Rights

Whether it be the fate of the thousands of Iraqis fleeing their houses or the people in North Korea being subjected to state-backed torture mechanisms, execution and arbitrary imprisonment, deliberate starvation and an almost complete lack of free thought, both the incidents tell the spine chilling stories of a clear violation of human rights.

In the broader arena of human rights, specifically worth mentioning is the discrimination on the basis of gender which has become a worldwide phenomenon in which incidents of sexual exploitation, trafficking, dowry, denial of equal economic opportunities and denial of the basic right to live through acts such as female foeticide have made it necessary for urgent international measures to be taken by the world body

The other vulnerable section includes the children who face obscene atrocities globally. The issue is so inflammable and omnipresent that even the 2014 FIFA world cup marked its beginning with the World’s day against Child Labor highlighting the issue of widespread violation of child rights in the world. Even in India, the instances of child abuse, child marriage, trafficking and prostitution are sky-rocketing and hence, this issue needs to be specifically talked about by Mr. Modi.

7. Securing the integrity of Jammu & Kashmir

The recent news of yet another ceasefire violation by Pakistan in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir freshly exemplifies how basic right to life and security is being violated, consequently giving rise to an atmosphere of panic and agitation in the state. A six decade long violence in the state has rendered a state which was once called “paradise” into a valley of bullets, mortar and corpses.

It is very important to make the world, along with our beloved neighbor, clearly understand the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and that there can never, ever, be a compromise with the unity and territorial integrity of India.

At this point in time, all eyes are on Modi. Now it remains to be seen if Modi will rise to the expectations of his fellow countrymen or go down in the books as just another politician handling such matters diplomatically. Its show time!

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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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