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As A Student Of Aligarh Muslim Univ., This Is Why I’m Proud Of Its Fiery Youth Activism

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By Mohammad Rafay Qadri:

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Source: Yasir Arafat Turk’s timeline, Facebook.

Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) grew out of the efforts of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, a great visionary, activist and social reformer. It is an institution of national importance (Seventh Schedule, Article 246 of the Indian Constitution). Since Sir Syed himself was himself an activist with a missionary zeal, youth, or student activism at AMU has been a prominent feature of student life. Youth activists have played a significant role in bringing about changes which are important for both AMU, and the nation. Free of any favouritism on the lines of caste, creed, and regionalism, youth have fought for equal rights for all.

If we define youth activism, it may simply mean participation of youth in any movement seeking social change. Youth in AMU have played lead roles in public protests and advocacy against issues of crime, corruption, injustice against marginalised groups like minorities, national events that impact the life of the general public and even international matters like war, etc. AMU youth have been regularly organising peace marches, debates and group discussions to sensitise students on campus, national and international happenings.

Recently, AMU students took up the cause of two campus deaths. One was that of Hyderabad Central University research scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide, which is suspected to have been triggered by the university administration’s pressure on since he was a Dalit and an activist himself. The other was the murder of Alamgir, an AMU student, right in the heart of the campus in broad daylight. Students are demanding justice for the deaths of both of these students.

Currently, the Aligarh Activist Society (AAS) is playing a major role in voicing the concerns of students regarding various social issues. AAS is a group of students formed to promote intellectual discourses and student activism in AMU.

AAS recently raised funds for the AMU chapter of the Occupy UGC movement. Several students of AMU travelled to Delhi and took part in the movement against the HRD Ministry’s decision of doing away with non-net fellowships. Well, the matter is under a review committee and it is hoped that it will be resolved soon in favour of the students.

In January, a delegation of 10 research scholars met the Vice-Chancellor Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah, demanding the withdrawal of the Academic Council’s verdict to consider the children of AMU employees as internal students in university admissions. They convinced the V-C of the discriminatory ills of this decision which led to the V-C calling an emergency meeting of the Academic Council. He later announced the withdrawal of the decision through media.

These days, the matter of AMU’s minority ‘character’ is under intense discussion. A delegation of social activists from AMU met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. It was to draw her attention to the central NDA government’s stand on the minority character of AMU. Ms. Gandhi said that she was well aware of the issue and assured the delegation that her party would take all the necessary measures required to put pressure on the NDA government.

Several other examples can also be given to highlight work of youth activists at AMU. Some young Aligarian activists are trying to bring together students of all backgrounds to raise their voice against campus issues like discrimination in selection to various student clubs, allotment of scholarships and admission into the Ph.D. programme etc.

Senior students like Yasir Arafat Turk, Ameen Ahmad and others are playing a vital role in organising various social activities in AMU. The latter is the coordinator of AAS while the former is highly popular among students that are from economically weak backgrounds. He works independently and claims that he does not need the help of any banner for fighting for the causes he believes in.

Many argued that the student activism would disappear in an era of competition among students to pursue professional courses to ensure a better career, or for going for higher education. People also say that as most students now come from a ‘non-elite’ background, they might not be attracted towards social and political activism because of a lack of resources for them to be able to manage their study and activism simultaneously. But, this clearly has not been the case in AMU. Students remain a potent political and social force and only the modes of their involvement in activism have been changing.

Students are less likely to vote and less likely to join political parties. But they are more likely to take part in online petitions, join boycotts, express views on online forums, involve themselves in advocacy social networks and participate in demonstrations and protest movements.

People should come together and help students build their campaigns. Help youth activism and let the message of students travel to a larger audience.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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
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