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What AAP Can Learn From The Bill Clinton Scandal

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By Mehernaz Patel:

There is no doubt that the Aam Aadmi Party’s regime in Delhi started off with a joyous wave which then sunk to the murkiest depths of petty pandering, as only a good political scandal can. The ousting of Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha from the party’s National Executive filled plenty of newspaper pages and occupied a sizable chunk of prime time news as fingers were pointed just about everywhere and the Bhushan-Yadav duo even released a letter defending their actions, for the sake of their volunteers.

aap rift

The party was then heavily criticized for repaying their volunteers in such a manner, putting their future as the ruling party of Delhi at stake. Even Congress chief Maken went on to put in his two cents and label them as the “ladne-dharne wali party”. Yet, their recent report card stands dignified and goes beyond the sheer weekly-soap style entertainment the media rung out of them.

Ever since their coming to power in Delhi, the AAP has been busy on a number of projects. A notable one being their initiation to encourage the suggestions of the public in preparing a participatory budget. The suggestions would be filtered through Mohalla Sabhas, the most innovative ideas warranting discussion in the cabinet. To challenge the popular notion of Delhi being notoriously unsafe for women, Convenor Kejriwal’s office issued a letter to Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi, seeking to install CCTV cameras across the city, specifically “dark spots” and police stations. A great move considering the lack of accountability prevalent in the police force relating to matters of gender and sexual violence. The cost, as specified in the letter, was one the government was more than willing to bear.

Even DCM Manish Sisodia gave the party a fairly well deserved pat on the back as he commemorated two of their best achievements in a month of their election – their subsidies on power and the provision of up to 20,000 litres of water per month free of cost to all households. These, in addition to limits set on swine flu test prices, a hike in minimum wage to Rs. 9048 per month, and the setting up of a corruption helpline, ensure their current success in governing the capital city.

Considering what most of us get done in a month-or even two, their recent status as media fodder couldn’t possibly be held against them. Or could it? To what degree would the representation of a political power in mainstream media affect the public’s view of their calibre?

Perhaps we could compare the AAP’s recent debacle with one as old as memory goes, and even more shamelessly entertaining – the Lewinsky scandal during President Clinton’s term in the USA. After his initial denial of the incident and Hillary Clinton’s appearance on the news in support of her husband, his approval ratings which were earlier at 60 went up to 10%. This entire time, Clinton maintained a sharp focus on policy and eventually retired as one of the more favourably looked at Presidents in US history. This judgment based on political substance and prior assessments is termed as “politics of substance”. An idea proposed by John Zaller, a professor of political science at the University of California, it counteracts a lot of the notions of the media as the so called fourth branch of government and the all-powerful sway it holds on public opinion. Here, we as a population do not necessarily believe what the press presents to us at the time of political turmoil, this “substance” in question moves public opinion to the bottom-line of whether a politician is effective in working toward the welfare of his constituency.

This means that Clinton’s approval would reflect an approval of his policies, not his character. This adds up if we consider that Clinton’s term saw some of the lowest crime rates, a peaceful nation and the best economy the US had seen in 25 years. Basically the whiter version of acche din.

So what would such a concept mean for AAP?

Similarly, despite all the flak the AAP got and continues to face due to its split with core members like Yadav and Bhushan, their performance will be the judge of their effectiveness and not the version narrated by the media. A version we are collectively beginning to agree is being overtly sensationalized by everyone without apology in order to compete with old rivals and the time-based nature of new media.

This brand of news has resulted not only in blowing details completely out of proportion, but has also ushered in the era of paid news as well as the memory of the public consciousness being whittled down to a few days at best. Swine flu who?

Yet, despite our collective amnesia when it comes to the faux pas du jour, national memory always favours those leaders who do their jobs well. An outcome that the AAP is clearly vying for and one we’d hope they achieve.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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