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From Dadri To Paris And Chennai: 21 Moments That Defined 2015

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By Lipi Mehta

2015 was an iconic year for politics, gender and equal representation. It was also momentous because of the way we as a people reacted to both natural disasters and violent acts of terrorism. The human spirit emerged victorious in spite of it all. As our freedom of speech and expression stood threatened, voices defending the same got louder. And while we still need learn and unlearn many a lessons, these 21 moments from 2015 are an attempt to look back at a glance, at the year that was…

1. Nepal faced its biggest disaster till date, with earthquakes in April and May

A door of a collapsed house stands after the earthquake damaged it earlier this year at Khumjung, a typical Sherpa village in Solukhumbu district also known as the Everest region, in this picture taken November 30, 2015. To match Insight QUAKE-NEPAL/SHERPAS      REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar  - RTX1ZEXG
A lone door stands after a house is demolished in the earthquake. Image source: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Earthquakes in Nepal in April and May killed close to 9,000 people and injured thousands. Villages near the epicentre were flattened and thousands were left homeless. Experts suggest that it will take a few years to rebuild Nepal’s economy in the wake of this disaster.

Also see:

This 2 Min. Video Captures The Terrifying Moment When The Earthquake Hit Nepal

The Fault Lines With Us: Why The Next Earthquake Will Be Our Doing

2. Sania Mirza became the first Indian woman to win a double’s grand slam after her Wimbledon victory and Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman to be World No. 1 in badminton!

CJrlrGZWUAAhfkX

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 16.06.02

3. On her period, Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon without a tampon and shattered menstruation taboos!

Kiran Gandhi

In India too, there was a nationwide campaign against menstruation taboos, after 20-year-old Nikita Azad’s letter on Youth Ki Awaaz went viral and challenged the age-old stigma of menstruation women not being allowed in temples.

Sabrimala temple nikita azad

Also read:

‘A Young Bleeding Woman’ Pens An Open Letter To The Keepers Of Sabrimala Temple

Nikita Azad On How Her Letter On Youth Ki Awaaz Started The National Campaign #HappyToBleed

4. Delhi became the most polluted city of the world.

A man rides his bicycle next to Indian soldiers marching in front of India Gate on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, December 1, 2015. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1WNKV
Image source: REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

With air pollution in Delhi rising to a threatening level and the Delhi High Court calling the city a ‘Gas Chamber’, a ‘red alert’ is issued by the Delhi government and measures to reduce pollution are being set in place.

Also read:

Delhi’s Odd-Even Number Plate Experiment: Will It Succeed?

32,000 People In Delhi Will Be Dead By 2025, All Because Of This Avoidable Reason

5. #LoveWins: The Supreme Court Of The United States legalises same-sex marriage across all 50 states of America

White House_Love Wins

6. Sundar Pichai became the CEO of Google.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai gestures as he addresses a news conference in New Delhi, India, December 16, 2015. New Google leader Pichai pledged on Wednesday to use India as a testing ground for its products as the U.S. tech giant targets hundreds of millions of consumers in the developing world set to move online in the next few years. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi - RTX1YX7I
Image source: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

43-year-old Sundar Pichai was Product Chief at Google until he was made CEO this year. He is an IIT Kharagpur graduate and the first Indian to hold the top-most position at Google.

Also read:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Speaks Up On Intolerance In USA. And There’s A Lesson For India

7. The displacement of Syrian refugees became the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since the Rwandan genocide in 1994

Aylan Kurdi

Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body was washed ashore when the boat he and his family were travelling in capsized. Those who stand to lose the most from all this are the Syrian children, for whom home and family have been all but shattered, leave alone their education and future careers.

Also see:

All Of Us Are Responsible For Why 3 Year Old Aylan Kurdi Is No More

[Y]ral: Watch To Understand What The Life Of A Refugee Fleeing His Homeland Looks Like

8. 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested from his school in Texas for building an electronic clock that ‘resembled a bomb’.

A homemade clock made by Ahmed Mohamed, 14, is seen in an undated picture released by the Irving Texas Police Department September 16, 2015. Mohamed was taken away from school in handcuffs after he brought the clock to his Dallas-area school this week and the staff mistook it for a bomb, police said on Wednesday.   REUTERS/Irving Texas Police Department/Handout via Reuters   THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTS1FML
Image source: Reuters

Ahmed’s arrest led to worldwide outrage as this was a clear example of racial profiling and Islamophobia leading to the outrageous notion that “all terrorists are Muslim”. Post this, US President Barack Obama condemned the incident and invited Ahmed to the White House.

Also see:

USA’s Most Wanted: Ahmed’s Clock

9. Viola Davis became the first woman of colour to win the Emmy Award for ‘Best Actress In A Drama Series’

Actress Viola Davis holds the award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series for her role in ABC's "How To Get Away With Murder" during the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California September 20, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTS238W
Image source: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Viola Davis gave a stirring speech after her win stating that the biggest thing that separates women of colour from anything else is opportunity. She added, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

10. Writer M. M. Kalburgi was murdered, leading to a raging debate on freedom of speech and expression in India.

Dr Kalburgi murder protest

After Dr Kalburgi was shot dead, many writers, scientists and filmmakers across the country returned their state-conferred awards in protest. A nationwide debate on intolerance arose, with various protests all over the country.

Also read:

The Murder Of Dr. Kalburgi Signals The Death Of Free Speech, Reasoning & Dissent In India

As Over 30 Indian Writers Return Their State Awards, Will Those In Power Please Stand Up?

11. An angry mob attacked and murdered Mohammad Akhlaq, a man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, after accusing him and his family for eating beef.

Relatives of Mohammad Akhlaq mourn after he was killed by a mob on Monday night, at his residence in Dadri town, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, September 29, 2015. A Hindu mob killed a Muslim man in India over rumours that he butchered a cow, unleashing violence that police on Wednesday blamed on tension fuelled by politicians who seek strict protection of an animal many Hindus consider sacred. Akhlaq, a blacksmith, died after being kicked and beaten with stones by at least 10 men in the town of Dadri, 50 km from the capital, New Delhi, on Monday night. Picture taken September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTS2FRB
Relatives of Mohammad Akhlaq mourn after he was killed by a mob at his residence in Dadri town Image source: REUTERS/Stringer

Akhlaq’s death caused a huge uproar all over the country. Along with the imposition of a beef ban in some states across the country, this incident started a nationwide debate on religious intolerance and atrocities committed against minorities in India.

Also see:

After Dadri Lynching, Read Farhan Akhtar’s Powerful Letter To The Govt. And People Of India

[Y]Ral: Is The Beef Ban Justified? This Is What The People Have To Say

12. A Youth Ki Awaaz visual started a global conversation on abortion rights.

maitri dore abortion abort the stigma

As part of our #AbortTheStigma campaign, illustrator Maitri Dore made this visual that reached close to 5 million users online and garnered more than 170,000 reactions from people across the world. Various conversations about sexual and reproductive health rights and a woman’s right over her own body started because of this visual and they continue till date.

Also read:

From “We love this!” to “Fetus Fetishists”: What You Felt About Our Illustration on #AbortTheStigma

13. It was a great year for transgender rights in India!

Durga 1
A Durga Puja in Kolkata is organised by members of the transgender community with a transgender Durga idol (left). Also, India gets its first transgender college principal in Manabi Bandhopadhyay (bottom right) and transgender mayor in Madhu Kinnar (top right).

Also read:

What Does India’s First Trans College Principal Think About LGBT+ Rights? A YKA Exclusive

Kolkata’s First Durga Puja By Transgenders Promises To Be Amazing

14. Nitish Kumar became the Chief Minister of Bihar for the third time

Nitish Kumar

In what was considered a historic election, Nitish Kumar won Bihar Elections 2015 and took over his third term as Chief Minister. The elections were important also because it was a defeat for BJP, a significant one considering PM Modi’s landslide victory in the 2014 General Elections.

Also see:

Youth Ki Awaaz’s Coverage Of The Elections: Bihar Elections With Ojha

Video Series: Bihar Ki Baat

15. #ParisAttacks: City faced two terrorist attacks, in January and in November

Paris Attacks 2
Citizens in Paris say ‘Not Afraid’ after terrorists killed twelve journalists from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s team.
Paris Attacks 1
The Eiffel Tower lights up in the colours of the French flag after three coordinated terrorist attacks killed over 130 people. Various monuments around the world lit up in the colours of the French flag as well, in solidarity.

Also read:

Je Suis Charlie – No One Deserves Death For An Expression

How NOT To Respond To The Paris Attacks

“City Of Love Is Heartbroken Today”: Social Media Reacts To #ParisAttacks

16. Suicide bombings in Lebanon, Beirut, killed over 40 people.

Residents and Lebanese army members inspect a damaged area caused by two explosions in Beirut's southern suburbs, Lebanon November 12, 2015. At least 37 people were killed and more than 181 wounded on Thursday in two suicide bomb blasts in a crowded district in Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah. REUTERS/Khalil Hassan       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTS6PMO
Image source: REUTERS/Khalil Hassan TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTS6PMO

The suicide bombings in Lebanon were the worst terrorist attacks in Beirut since the end of the Lebanese Civil War. They happened on November 12, 2015, a day before the Paris Attacks. There was heavy criticism on the difference between the reactions to both the attacks with the media and governments being questioned about whether the lives of citizens in first-world countries matter more than others.

Also read:

If You’re Outraged About Paris Attacks But Clueless About Beirut Then Read This

17. Awaaz Network projected an image of PM Narendra Modi alongside the Nazi Swastika on the Palace of Westminster, to protest against his UK visit.

Modi Not Welcome

Also see:

Awaaz Network Explains Why They Used The Nazi Swastika To Protest Against PM Modi

14 Photos That Show The Other Side Of Modi’s UK Welcome That The Media Didn’t Show You

18. Chennai faced the worst floods in a 100 years.

Chennai bridge
A bridge collapses at the outskirts of Chennai due to heavy rains.

In November and December, the city of Chennai battled with the worst floods in almost a century with close to a 100 lives being lost. However, human spirit defeated this calamity as organisations and relief initiatives were set up in real time to prove help and people across the country contributed to these efforts in numerous ways.

Also see:

14 Photos That Show How Chennai Rains Haven’t Dampened The People’s Spirit

An IAF Helicopter’s Amazing Rescue Of A Pregnant Woman During The Chennai Flood

19. Members from India’s LGBT+ community came together in Delhi to celebrate pride and raise their voice against Section 377.

Delhi Queer Pride

The 2015 Delhi Queer Pride March was proof of how discriminatory laws can’t dent LGBT pride in India. With the Indian Parliament recently rejecting MP Shashi Tharoor’s bill to scrap Section 377, this is a crucial time for the fight for equality to continue.

Also see:

14 Beautiful Photos That Show How Discriminatory Laws Can’t Dent LGBT+ Pride

‘Officially A Homophobic Country’ Cries Twitter After Parliament Rejects Bill To Scrap 377

20. Canada PM Justin Trudeau created history by welcoming Syrian refugees as Canadian citizens

Justin Trudeau 1

“Tonight, they step off this plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada,” Trudeau said. The Prime Minister also made news for his Cabinet, which is the most diverse in history. When asked why he chose the ministers who he did, he said, “Because it’s 2015!”

Justin Trudeau 2

Also see:

That Moment When Justin Trudeau Created History By Welcoming Syrian Refugees To Canada…

21. A fiasco took place at the Miss Universe pageant 2015 when Miss Columbia was announced as the winner instead of Miss Philippines.

Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez (L) is crowned by Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega, also of Colombia, after Gutierrez was initially announced as the winner during the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada, December 20, 2015. Host Steve Harvey said he made a mistake when reading the card and and Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is the actual winner. REUTERS/Steve Marcus ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTX1ZJNO
Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez (L) is crowned by Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega, also of Colombia, after Gutierrez was initially announced as the winner during the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada, December 20, 2015. Image source: REUTERS/Steve Marcus
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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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