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Greek Debt Crisis: How The ‘Very Difficult’ Negotiations Will Decide The Fate Of Eurozone

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By Shinjini Devbarman:

It is a tumultuous time for the Greeks. The new set of reforms put forward by the creditors have left the ruling party Syriza reeling. A week ago, the Greeks, in a referendum had rejected the reform demands made by Europe on the grounds that they were too onerous to accept. Within a week the Greeks have been disappointed by the government which seems to have taken a u-turn with the negotiations of a bailout deal.

Image source: EPA/Armando Babani
Image source: EPA/Armando Babani

A summit is underway in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, where Greece’s PM Alexis Tsipras and top Greek officials are meeting other European leaders to negotiate a bail out deal with the creditors. Whatever happens in the summit will decide the fate of not only Greece but the entire Eurozone. Without a deal Greece could crash out of the Euro and the austerity measures on the Greek could get even harsher.

Eurogroup leader Jeroen Dijsselbloem has described the negotiations as “very difficult“. The ministers are apparently discussing at length the option of easing Greece’s debt burden as long as Athens enacts legislation immediately to reform taxation, pensions and administration.

The draft proposals are already putting Greece in a humiliating position even as the Euro leaders are divided in their approach towards Greece debt crisis.The demands of the creditors put forward in the proposal, which has been described by economist Paul Krugman as “madness”, includes tax and pension reforms among others and need to be in effect by Wednesday. Greece, at the offset, could either accept these reforms or agree to a “temporary Grexit” to restructure its debts.

The Greek economy is already shrinking, with unemployment having risen to 25%, and it will keep shrinking under the draconian austerity measures. What Greece is facing right now is a serious liquidity crisis with € 500 million left, which means € 45 per person.

The Greeks feel betrayed by Tsipra’s acceptance of the austerity measures. A week ago the referendum result sent waves of optimism across the country. People had put their hope with the government hoping that the negotiating will be in the favour of their interests. The negotiating did continue, but by Tuesday the government was already in Brussels (the headquarter of the European Union), where it was met with an even harsher bailout package.

Syriza had come to power in January with the promise that it would liberate the people from the unsustainable austerity measures. However Tsipra’s u-turn has once again brought people on streets protesting against the possibility of new austerity measures. The party is showing signs of disintegration as almost 17 MPs left their ranks before the weekend. They are opposed to the austerity programs not just ideologically but also because they are convinced that the austerity program would only add to the already existing socio-economic problem.

People protesting on the streets are forcing the government to choose between “capitalists or working class”. They don’t want the government to cave in to demands of the creditors. The financial crisis in Greece has turned into a humanitarian crisis. It is the ordinary people’s lives which are at stake here. People have been queuing up at ATMs which have been running out of cash, as capital control has been in force for the past two weeks.

Consequently, people are starving, and a general feeling of helplessness among the Greek people prevails. The Greeks feel that Syriza is negotiating against the people’s interest and well being.

The referendum of 5th July was never supposed to amount to anything. It was merely a political experiment meant to restore faith in Syriza government and the Prime Minister Tsipras. Given the fact that the Troika had already pulled back its bailout offer on 30th, the referendum was only a symbolic one. For the majority of the voters a ‘no’ to the referendum only meant that they were opposed to austerity measures, not to the idea of a Greek exit. And for the ‘yes’ voters, the decision meant that they were opposed to a Greek exit. The question of whether the Greeks wanted to continue with the austerity measures or not was a trick question to begin with – why would the Greeks say yes to more austerity measures when it is already causing so much damage to their lives? Moreover the referendum, built up on nationalistic sentiments, is not really helping Greece’s case at the summit. The result of the referendum is being interpreted as a no to Euro zone.

When the majority of Greeks said ‘No’, it symbolized standing up against the “propaganda of fear” which the Eurozone leaders had been trying to instill. The austerity measures of the Troika will never allow Greece’s economy to grow out of its debts. The debt simply cannot be paid, primarily because it is too much. As long as they are there, the country will never flourish economically.

Greece’s position will define Eurozone’s future. The crisis in Greece and the positions taken by the different countries in the summit have already revealed the problems within the Eurozone. The Eurozone is drawing further apart instead of coming together. The grand idea of a united Eurozone is facing ambiguity because if there is a Grexit, Greece will not be the first and the last country to leave the Eurozone. A Grexit, would have a domino effect on other economies with high debt levels (e.g., Portugal, Italy, Spain).

Furthermore, Germany’s proposal for a temporary Grexit shows that they are open to the idea of a Grexit. And why wouldn’t they be? As long as Greece remains a part of the Eurozone, Germany which is the healthiest economy in the Eurozone will have to bear the burden of Greece, a weaker economy. Hence, they are putting Greece under a lot of pressure. It seems like Germany has lost faith in Greece’s ability to bounce back and they are not willing to cut them some slack.

All in all, the next few hours are going to be very crucial. It will not only decide the fate of Greece but also the entire Euro zone.

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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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