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The Greek Revolution Is Coming – And It Might Cause Major Upheavals Across EU

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By Sanjana Ahuja:

“Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war.”

These words by Bernard Baruch, in 1947, were said in light of the growing tensions between the USA and USSR, as they both sought to promote their respective economic and political structures. 68 years later, as Greece heads towards a snap general election, these same words are becoming increasingly relevant.

SYRIZA

Since the Greek Parliament failed to elect a new leader by 29 December 2014, the constitution provides that early general elections must be held in the nation. The two parties vying for the top spot are the New Democracy party headed by Antonis Samarus and Syriza headed by Alexis Tsipras. The reason that this election is creating headlines all over the world is the revolution of sorts that will take place if Syriza gets to control the reins at Athens.

Greece’s Coalition of the Radical Left, better known as Syriza, came into being in 2004 but only gained substantial political ground in the May 2012 elections, where it became the main opposition party. In the words of John Milios, who is the party’s chief economist, Syriza aims to fight against the currently dominating structures of neo-liberalism and end, once and for all, the catastrophic austerity in Greece. The Greek economy is up to its neck in debt, with unemployment, youth migration and tax raises wrecking havoc on the middle class. Syriza’s agenda aims to take on all these problems head on by implementing welfare measures – free healthcare, creation of new jobs, food stamps, free electricity, rent for the homeless, and restoration of the minimum wage to 750 Euros a month. “We do not want anybody in Greece to work under conditions that resemble slave labour which austerity has created,” John Milios said in an interview with BBC. “We have young Greeks working for two to three euros per hour in many sectors of the economy.” Milios also suggested that about 50% of Greece’s debt should be written off.

In the elections to the European Parliament in May 2014, Syriza stood first, defeating New Democracy by an approximate 1.2%. This was enough for the Greece’s ruling party to understand that turbulent times were approaching.

Though Syriza’s reformatory and radical economic agenda is appealing to the frustrated Greeks, investors are rattled with the thought of a leftist party coming to power in a country which was at the heart of the Euro-crisis,, with stocks already falling since the declaration of the snap polls. The only reason Greece did not tip over the edge during it’s financial fiasco was because of support from the EU and the IMF – both not happy with these anti-austerity waves in the nation. Though the European Central Bank released a statement saying that they will not interfere with the democratic process in Greece, officials fear that a new government may mean the complete disposal of the fiscal reforms implemented by Samaras. Syriza’s leaders insist that they do not wish to exit the Eurozone; however their proposed reforms may make it hard to stay. Can a small bankrupt country manage to change the European Union’s fundamental incongruities?

With the possibility of having power getting closer, Alexis Tsipras has already softened the party agenda, promising to keep Greece in the Euro and to debate on the bailout agreement rather than tearing it up. The dashing ‘raven-haired’ leader is aware of the rocky road to success but seems hopeful all the same. In an interview with Transform Network, he stated, “As I said before, I’m optimistic about the developments – even though I’m sure that they won’t all come about smoothly. The insistence on strict budgetary discipline by the German government and a few smaller allies will undoubtedly add friction; however, there is a slow but growing dissent across Europe – including those whose dissent would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. For this reason, I believe that Syriza will be able to generate wider support for its political positions.”

According to me, the greatest challenge Syriza will face, should it come into power, is to be true to its leftist and radical ideology in an arena surrounded by capitalist powers. Greece has been known to be susceptible to pressure from external EU elites, who will, in all probability, do their best to topple or corrupt the new establishment. “Today, we have a fully comprehensive programme to address the debt. Key aspects include renegotiating the terms with our European partners, along with a detailed plan to spur economic growth, address unemployment, strengthen the welfare state, and provide relief to the members of society hit hardest by the crisis. It is imperative that we implement these changes; austerity and budget cuts are not sustainable and only serve to further destroy social cohesion,” says Tsipras. However, the party’s lack of experience and know-how in implementing these promised programs is something that the opposition will not fail to keep bringing up.

Opinion polls show Syriza in a narrow lead, but even if the leftist party loses, they have already let the proverbial cat out of the bag. What the capitalist leaders fear most is the same fear that USA had back in the 50’s – The Domino Effect. If Greece takes the lead and challenges the very capitalist regimes on which Europe is built, similar movements in countries like Italy, Spain and France cannot be far behind. “After decades on the defensive, the left is staging a comeback. Not just in Greece, but in Europe and Latin America as well,” said Mr. Samanidis, a top official of Syriza, to BBC. Is the world heading towards another cold war – an ideological struggle where both sides will scramble to prove that their socio-economic ideals are superior? Talking of a breakdown of neo-liberalism may be quite premature and hyperbolic at the moment, but once the fire of insurgency is lit, there is no guessing the path it’ll take. For now, all we can do is sit tight and await the results of the 25th January polls. And to Syriza, I say, “Viva la Revolution!”

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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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