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Not Just ‘Cat Videos’: 10 Social Media Trends Of 2015 That Supported Good Causes

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By Shruti Sonal:

Social media and its evils are often highlighted by many (especially parents). Be it sleep deprivation, the “selfie mania” taking lives or the trend of abusive trolls not allowing open debates. Along with these, proponents of the “Clash of Civilisations” theory often argue that the globalisation of the world, through improvement in communication and technology would lead to conflicts over identity as people became more aware of the differences.

However, social media has time and again rebuked this assumption. While last year instances like #IndiaWithPakistan and #Illridewithyou provided hope, this year, trends in India as well as the world, broke taboos and provided support during crisis and bred hope for an inclusive world.


The hashtag that emerged in the aftermath of the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French magazine, quickly went on to become one of the most popular tags in Twitter’s history. It was used both to show solidarity with the victims of the attack as well as defend freedom of speech and expression. It fuelled a debate revolving around the “right to offend” and also used during protests in Paris to defy Islamic extremism.


On June 26th, a SCOTUS decision that legalised same-sex marriage was celebrated throughout America and social media. While Facebook provided for rainbow filter DPs, Twitter attached the rainbow heart emoji with the tag #LoveWins. Tweeted by President Obama too, the tag was tweeted over 6.2 million times within 6 hours of the decision. Many used it to share personal stories of coming out while activists in other countries urged their leaders to follow in the footsteps.


Although the tag first emerged in the summer of 2013, it gained momentum in April after the death of a young black American Freddie Grey who died in police custody. With over 9 million tweets during the year, the tag became a rallying cry against institutionalisation of racial discrimination in America. It provided a unified platform for communities discussing events around Ferguson, Charleston shooting and Baltimore riots. The tag was widely used on banners and as graffiti during protests.


The innovative attempt was promoted by Reliance Group to show gratitude for the Armed Forces on the occasion of India’s independence day. It recorded over 100,000 tweets. Several prominent celebrities like cricketer M.S Dhoni and Amitabh Bachchan joined the public to use the platform to remember those martyred during the freedom struggle and those who continue to risk their lives in order to protect ours.


As thousands of refugees from the middle east, Africa and Afghanistan sought asylum in Europe, human rights leaders and citizens urged leaders to open their borders and welcome them. Images of drowned toddler Aylan Kurdi shook the conscience of people around the globe, and a call for a unified and compassionate response to the crisis grew in momentum on social media.


The tag started trending worldwide on June 28th after PM Modi asked people to post their photos during his radio address Mann ki Baat. The idea emerged during a contest started by the sarpanch of a village in Haryana – the state with the worst record of sex ratio in the country. Twitterati, including politicians, actors and common citizens flooded the site with selfies. The step however, had its critics as well, who debated its role in providing any meaningful contribution to the issue of girl rights and termed it a photo op.


A series of proposals of bans on porn, beef, the AIB roast, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and more recently the liquor ban in Bihar led to an outpour of sentiments on social media. While issues of freedom of speech and right to eat and watch what one likes in a democracy were debated, users also listed the demands to ban a number of things, including screaming journalists.


It emerged as the top twitter trend of the year in India. During the crisis (1st-4th December) the tag was used to unite users in providing aid. It was useful in providing ground reports, disseminating critical information and coordinating local relief efforts. Tweeted over 1.4 million times, it was a unique example of crowdsourced assistance to natural disasters. Many celebrities from the southern film industry and Bollywood joined in to appeal for relief.


In the aftermath of the recent terror attacks on Paris that took over 120 lives, the tag was used to channel prayers for the deceased and also put up a unified response against terror. Along with the tag #PorteOuverte, it was designed to help people in the city looking for shelter and also appealed to retain the fervour and ‘joi de vivre’ that the city represents. However the tag also came under criticism for “selective outrage” and parallel tags including #PrayForSyria, #PrayForLebanon and #PrayForPeace came up.


This tag started by an open letter published on Youth Ki Awaaz, led to a campaign on social media against menstrual taboos. Although the letter addressed the chief of the Sabarimala temple over talk of a “machine” to scan if it is the ‘right time’ for a woman to enter the temple, it enlarged into a wider campaign. Women and even men put up pictures holding up placards/sanitary napkins with the message “Happy Yo Bleed” written on it. It was covered widely on news channels, leading to debates about the position of women and notions of purity as prescribed by various religions.

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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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