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Will Hillary Clinton’s Work Towards Gender Equality Undo The Damage Of Past Controversies?

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By Anam Mittra

hillary clintonNever has the oldest democracy in the world, in its 240-year independent history, had a female President. You would think that a country which saw an active and historic suffrage movement would have already achieved this.

The current presidential elections in the United States (US) is being closely watched with bated breath, as a seasoned female and an openly ‘Socialist’ male politician, battle it out for a Democratic nomination. If Hillary Clinton wins this nomination, she would come one step closer from 2008 (when she lost to Obama) to clinching the title of literally being the most powerful woman in the world.

The question is- will 2016 be her lucky year?

Hillary Clinton’s curriculum vitae would make the best of us jealous and impressed in equal measure. A graduate of the prestigious Yale Law School, she was the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation (1978) and was named the first female partner at the Rose Law Firm (1979); both in Arkansas. After being listed as one of the ‘100 most influential lawyers in America’ in 1988 and 1991, she went on to becoming the first female Senator from New York in 2000. In a series of ‘firsts’ which would be topped by her post of Secretary of State in the Obama administration, she is now in her second presidential race which seems to be as closely contested as the previous one.

A cursory glance at her campaign website throws up photographs from her campaigns and you can notice the strong female presence at her rallies and speeches. Women are an important variable for Democrats. In the 2012 elections in the US, of the total votes polled by women, 55% voted for Obama in comparison to the 44% for Romney. In her manifesto, Clinton has promised to work towards equal pay for equal work, access to essential services like abortion and paid family leave. Additionally, she has detailed measures for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses including preventive measures as well. Clinton has a history of actively working for women’s rights in the capacity of a Senator and First Lady.

Yet, there have been reports of plunging support for Clinton from the very group that has always been a loyal demographic. There have been reports on how women’s support for Clinton has been shrinking the past 2 months. Clinton was ahead of Bernie Sanders (her chief rival) by 45 points amongst women, but this has now dropped to a difference of just 19. The gap despite being significant is a tremendous cause for concern and requires a bit of digging into Ms. Clinton’s past and her tryst with controversy.

Bill Clinton owing to the Lewinsky scandal (and other charges of sexual assault) was almost impeached during his tenure as President. Hillary, being the First Lady, got sucked into the whirlwind of her husband’s alleged actions, and her personal conduct during that time may now be hurting her present aspirations. History has caught up with Clinton after she accused Republican hopeful Donald Trump of having a ‘penchant for sexism‘, and he retorted by pegging her as a ‘hypocrite’ given her husband’s ‘sexual misconduct’ in the past.

Hillary Clinton’s defence of her husband at the time when these allegations came forth is now being viewed as being strongly anti-women. She had undertaken an ‘aggressive, explicit direction of the campaign to discredit’ those who were coming forth with stories of having consensual and non-consensual sexual relations with Bill Clinton. Memoirs of previous aides have revealed that Ms. Clinton used words like ‘floozy’, ‘bimbo’ and ‘stalker’ for these women; this tends to be the typical misogynist response for women who break their silence about sexual injustices committed against them.

Presently, young women who are enthusiastic supporters of Clinton, are stumbling across evidence of Bill Clinton’s controversial past. Hillary Clinton’s demeanour at the time might influence thinking voters and eat up into her voter base. Her supporters are calling this a planned character assassination, but with the US Presidential post up for grabs, all gloves are generally off.

Clinton’s stand on women’s rights, like her stand on LGBT rights, has been fraught with controversy. When she was First Lady she looked on as Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, 1996; a federal law barring recognition of same-sex marriages. Today, she has received endorsement from the largest LGBT rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, for presenting the ‘most robust and ambitious LGBT Plan any candidate for President has ever laid out’. Rational, thinking voters should give Hillary Clinton the benefit of doubt; in the capacity of First Lady her actions and words would have to contribute to her husband’s survival in the White House. That will be seen as opportunistic by some, but that is politics and expecting idealism is just naïve. She has introduced myriad policy measures in her more overtly political roles that seem to have partially undone the damage, given the support amongst women and the LGBT community.

Hopefully, this will be enough for her to stay afloat.

You must be to comment.
  1. Guru

    If you want gender equality, why do you need male providers? Men must earn for women, men must pay alimony, men must pay on dates, men must pay child support, the billions spent by women annually on shopping products come from the pockets of fathers, husbands, and boyfriends.

    As for Hillary Clinton, the only reason feminists support her is because she is a woman, not because of her abilities. Hillary Clinton has been caught breaking the law, buying Facebook likes, and two million of her Twitter followers are fake.

    https://youtu.be/uf7MR0f4XDI

  2. Timothy C. Ray

    Hillary Clinton has done nothing for women in the real world, her support of anyone is suspect, her tenure in the Senate was an abysmal time spent, Hillary abandoned women in Africa and worse in Haiti….time to come off the lauding and into reality https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c2oBh1yDhc

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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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