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These 8 Things Give Us Hope That 2016 Will Be Much Better Than 2015. Do You Agree?

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By Artika Raj

While party poopers gonna be a poopin’, we do believe that the beginning of every new year brings with it the hope that this year is going to be different! Whether it be the resolution to finally start eating healthy, start that Dear Diary or just about anything – something about the change in the calendar year marks a triumphant beginning for most of us. In that spirit, 2016 looks promising to us especially because 2015 gave us some pretty big moments that, in their after-effects, should make for an exciting 2016.

1) The rockstar Supreme Court gave Section 66A of the IT Act the boot:

How does sharing your opinion, agreeable or not, over a free space like the internet even begin to count as a criminal offence is beyond most people’s logic. But while the State saw otherwise, the SC put things right by removing this ‘draconian’ provision from law books.

Illustration by Maitri Dore
Illustration by Maitri Dore

2) Indian Air Force to include women fighter pilots:

For far too long, just unbelievably far too long, women officers in the IAF were restricted from joining as fighter pilots because they were thought to be ‘physically not suited’ for flying fighters and the idea of what would happen to them as POW seemed too horrifying. Of course this restriction made no such sympathetic overtures to the men, whose ‘honour’ needs no ‘protection’. Fortunately, the light of day shone upon minds and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha declared that the IAF will now recruit women as fighter pilots! When the machine doesn’t discriminate over who’s flying it, then?

IMG_66413) Kerala got its first Transgender Policy and West Bengal, its first transgender principal:

Boo ya! Finally, the tide has begun to turn with first dents being made in the binary (and absolutely ridiculous) definition of ‘gender’ as only male and female. Firebrand activist Akkai Padmashali inaugurated Kerala’s pioneer policy that looks at rights of trans people, a welcome first, and later called out the central government for refusing to decriminalize homosexuality from YKA’s very own platform, CONVERGE. With the SC ruling recognizing the rights of trans individuals, their increasing participation and inclusion in the mainstream suggests a step forward. Manabi Bandhopadhyay became West Bengal’s first transgender college principal while Tamil Nadu saw its first transgender police officer in Prithika Yashini.

4) Some good initiatives for the mother and child:

While still not completely there, child mortality rates (deaths under the age of 5) saw a significant reduction from 12.7 million per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015. This was the first year the figure went below the 6 million mark. With more state forces slowly working towards achieving this MDG, 2016 should bring much better results. Even for mothers, especially working mothers, the government brought relief by making a 26-week maternity leave the norm across private companies and later also mandated that companies have creches to support them better. Not to be left behind, the SC had earlier in the year made it lawful for unwed mothers to be legal guardians of their children, something that was previously caught in a mess of complications.

With these steps to take care of the mother and child, at least, the future has a chance at a healthier report card!

5) Menstruating and proud of it. Indian women AND men say no to taboos:

2015 was a powerful year for women as they decided to take matters in their own hands and fight back the patriarchy that dogs them at each and every step. From a movement like Pinjra Tod that united women, college-going and otherwise, against discriminatory hostel timings that seek to lock women up while men have all the freedom, to something like #HappyToBleed, taboos got a major whiplashing in2015. Nikita Azad penned an open letter on Youth Ki Awaaz to the keepers of the Sabrimala temple, taking them to task over saying a ‘purity-checking machine’ would have to be invented in the future for women before they are allowed temple entry. Menstruation, a normal bodily function for anyone with the requisite set of organs has for far too long been treated as ‘impure’ and something that a woman should be ashamed of. But no more.

In 2016, women are going to refuse to be tied up in those shackles for sure!

6) The ‘Demographic Dividend’ or youth of the country aren’t just good for the ‘economy’ but drive the country’s moral compass too:

jadavpurThe energy of young people in this country is the fire that it is powered on, and anyone who thinks they can tame it for their personal interests is just plain wrong. Student protests in India saw an unprecedented rise in 2015, right from the #Hokokolorb movement in Kolkata, to the Occupy UGC movement in Delhi, to the FTII agitation in Pune. No part of the country remained untouched by students raising their voice against unfair treatment, or the jeopardizing of their careers by an irresponsible institution.

Young minds that are tomorrow’s leaders not just learnt the lessons in their classrooms, but taught quite a few significant ones to the rest of the country – ‘Where the mind is without fear…’

7) 1000 women stand for UP Panchayat elections in a move that had the pillars of patriarchy trembling:

Tradition, custom and what ‘she cannot do’ are the obstacles thrown a woman’s way when she steps out of the house. And in the Uttar Pradesh heartland, these can take an especially ugly turn. But undeterred by social taboos, threats of violence and even family pressure, around a 1000 women stood up as candidates in the local Panchayat elections, with 400 of them going on to bag seats! While the Parliament still remains stuck at whether to implement 33.5% reservation for women, guess the message of these women to those in power is clear. Diversity of representation in positions of power is an absolute necessity and these women have shown that inroads are being made into this at every level.

8) People power to the rescue during Chennai floods:

Image source: Twitter
Image source: Twitter

In the worst rains to be seen in a 100 years, it was just sheer humanity that saved the lives of hundreds in Chennai towards the end of 2015. As large parts of the city remained submerged for days, people opened their homes to take in others, cooked and distributed meals to the needy round the clock, those on social media put updates about available help from each and every corner while restaurants, malls, and theaters kept their gates open to take in anyone who needed a place to stay. #ChennaiRains became the mantra of rescue and the best of human spirit was on showcase at this time. Faith restored!

While these might just be 8 of the most popular examples from 2015 that show how change is well on its way, equally commendable are the little-talked-about stories of people helping each other on an everyday basis, planting a tree, rescuing a puppy and many such that are worthy of our praise and make us hopeful for an even better 2016.

Do you agree that 2016 mein #HawaBadlegi? Tweet to me at @artikaraj.

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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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