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How Regional Politics Can Change The Game In India (Wait, It Already Has)

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By Saurabh Verma:

PicMonkey CollageI think universities should add a new course to their existing curriculum, which is – India. I bet it will be the toughest subject because no one will ever understand what India is, why India is, and how India is. India is the biggest wonder. It’s very difficult to analyse and interpret the masses of this nation. A myriad festival of democracy was recently celebrated here. The results of the elections held in five states are finally out. Every political analyst, in the country, is analysing and interpreting these elections in their own manner. And, I am one of them.

Assam

Starting with the Assam elections, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has had a tremendous win in the state. I was watching various news channels as the results were declared, I saw most of them giving credits to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the victory. News channel experts claimed that the RSS had built the foundation for the BJP win. This could be a factor but there are many others as well. The role of Sabarabanand Sonwal who is likely to be the Chief Minister (CM) of Assam can’t be neglected. He has been active in the politics of Assam for several years now starting with the President of a student union. The story of his success is a remarkable one. Among other factors can be the issues that BJP raised: infiltration from Bangladesh being one of the most important ones.

West Bengal

In West Bengal, BJP has faced massive humiliation. Though, their vote percentage and seats increased (10.2% and 3 respectively) as compared to the previous assembly elections (4.4% and 0). But that proved quite meaningless for them. Mamata Di will now continue to serve as the CM of West Bengal. It looks like the janta loved the efforts she put in. Although, she was charged with corruption in the Sharda Chit Fund scam and the recent Narada Sting allegedly showed the top leaders of her party taking hefty bribes just before elections; the TMC still won and did so with almost no competition.

Tamil Nadu

It was explicit that Amma (Jayalalithaa) would return to serve a second time. Though the opinion polls did create some confusion professing that her party will be the runners-up in this elections. But the people of Tamil Nadu simply love Amma. She was able to win, even without doing enough rallies. Looks like her policies for the poor – Amma canteen; gold to girls; laptops, notebooks and geometry boxes to students – were quite her plus point.

Kerala

The only place where the communist party was able to save itself was Kerala. It looks like the alleged Oommen Chandy solar panel scam really did act up against Congress.

Puducherry

Congress and their allies AIDMK won with a majority of 17 seats from the total of 30.

The results show a new trend of regional parties in the national politics. It is evident that they will play a crucial role in next Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Nitish Kumar’s plan to create a new front against the BJP to tackle them seems to be working as is evident with the two victories – that of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Relations between the West Bengal CM and Bihar CM are quite good. And so is Nitish’s bond with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. They can all together try to woo the confidence of Jayalalithaa from the south. But, like in the past, it’s hard to convince the ambitions of leaders because of that one ‘apple of discord’ amongst them: that of the post of Prime Minister.

The second point, I noted, are the populistic policies of parties to gain more seats. It worked for Mamata, Jayalalithaa as well as Samajwadi Party in the Uttar Pradesh with laptop scheme, unemployment allowances, etc. These policies help maintain some placating relationship between the government and the people. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) played the same card in Delhi and see, they won so well. This might make other parties follow suit by making pro-poor policies for collective development to gain more votes. However, I feel that these policies will not help in the long run in the development of India. Where are we are heading? Just wait! And watch out for the next elections of the biggest state of the country – Uttar Pradesh.

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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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