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“Throw All Of Them Out” Is The Cry From Spain As Podemos Offers Political Alternative

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By Devika Kohli:

Podemos (we can) has become a household name in Spain today. It is a newly formed party which after merely 15 months of formation is topping opinion polls. It has already won 5 seats in the European parliament and won 15 seats in the Andalusian provincial parliament during March elections.[1] Interestingly, the sudden and swift rise of Podemos (we can), a left wing anti-corruption party can be compared to that of Aam Aadmi Party in India. Incidentally AAP had also started as a movement against corruption and today only 3 years after its formation, the party has had a massive win during Delhi Legislative Assembly elections making Mr. Arvind  Kejriwal, leader of AAP, the Chief Minister of Delhi.

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Today, Podemos, has become a serious threat to the neoliberal conservative parties such as Partido Popular (PP, also currently the ruling party in Spain) and Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) which have ruled alternatively in Spain for more than thirty years i.e. since the end of Franco dictatorship in 1975. In fact according to a recent poll, if General elections were to be held in Spain today (due later in November this year), Podemos would have formed the government, with the PP, the PSOE, and the new right-wing Ciudadanos (citizen’s) party falling close behind. Clearly the Spanish electorate, tired of years of high unemployment, low growth and austerity policies, seems to have rejected the two main parties opting for the untested minority parties in hope for a change.[2]

Podemos, Syriza and HDP – The rise of left in Europe?

Any discussion about Podemos though would be incomplete without mentioning Syriza, a left wing political party in Greece. Iglesias has from the very beginning linked himself to Syriza and when it became the first anti-austerity party to gain power in the Eurozone, he affirmed that “2015 will be the year of change in Spain and Europe”.[3] Indeed the political landscape of Europe seems to be changing as Turkey has also found its equivalent to Spain’s Podemos and Greece’s Syriza in pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which believes that Kurdish rights are more likely to be achieved by radically reforming Turkish democracy. Like Podemos, HDP, to everyone’s surprise, crossed the 10 percent election threshold in the 2015 general elections in Turkey party and in doing so has ended the ruling AK Party’s more than a decade of single rule.[4] The rise of these three parties can be explained by the fact that they embody a promise of change.

The seed of Podemos: The indignados movement

The huge cuts made in public spending (such as freezing pension accounts, reducing money allocated to National Health Service) implemented by the socialist PSOE government and liberal PP government infuriated people since these policies did not have popular mandate nor were they part of the electoral program of these parties. The popular sentiment was that the ‘so called’ democratic representative institutions acted in favor of large-employer interests to achieve the policies they had wanted for a long time—the reduction of salaries and the dismantling of social protections (there have been large scale evictions in Spain, highly regressive labor reforms have made it easier for employers to fire workers). Such policies were presented as the only possible solution available to the government to tackle the economic crisis since “there were no alternatives”, a claim challenged by the economists Vicenç Navarro, Juan Torres, and Alberto Garzón in their book ‘There are Alternatives’[5].

It was in response to this callous political attitude and extreme poverty that the the indignados movement was born in 2007. It demanded an end to the 1978 regime (the political system established in 1978 when the dictatorship ended) and the establishment of an authentic democratic system and emphasized the need for the substitution of the existing representative institutions with new ones, with their motto being “there are alternatives.” The leaders of indignados soon realized that they would have to intervene on the political front for any real lasting change and thus Podemos was born.

The reason behind the success of Podemos

Podemos’s message, “Vote against the caste: Throw all of them out,” went down well with people. It can be said without doubt that a majority of the people were fed up with the political and media establishments. People felt a deep resentment against ‘la casta’ (the caste) which includes the governing elites who were seen as working in tandem with major financial and non-financial corporations in control of major political and media establishments of the country. Podemos has also promised to restructure the public debt, make corporations pay taxes, and end the austerity regime imposed on the country by the EU and the two establishment parties (PP and POES) since the 2007 economic crisis.

Cristina Flesher Fominaya, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and author of the book Social Movements and Globalization: How Protests, Occupations and Uprisings are changing the World told Asad Ismi [6] that Podemos represents “a historic opportunity to break the hold of a two-party system and to try to regenerate Spanish democracy.” Podemos is doing this “by offering an alternative political party model…that is not beholden to private capitalist interests but is instead crowd funded through small donations [and] that seeks to maintain contact with social movements and with grassroots party activists”.

Podemos has definitely changed the political landscape of Spain in a very short time by destroying the hold of two main political parties and involving thousands of youth in its democratic process. However, only time and the general elections in November will tell if it lives up to all that it promises.

[1] http://www.globalresearch.ca/spains-podemos-irresistable-rise/5452973

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/spanish-elections-podemos-and-cuidadanos-gain-control-of-barcelona-and-major-regional-strongholds-10273960.html

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/26/spain-podemos-syriza-victory-greek-elections

[4] http://rudaw.net/english/interview/02062015

[5] http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/01/09/what-is-going-on-in-spain/

[6] http://www.globalresearch.ca/spains-podemos-irresistable-rise/5452973

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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.

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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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