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By Gulraj Bedi:

In my opinion, politics is more of a mind game than anything else. The supporters and well-wishers of almost all the political parties have this habit of flooding social media circles with scandalous, fake and malicious posts in order to frame rival parties. In response, those framed claim such charges to be scandalous misinformation if not anything else. I, in all fairness, would like to believe that this process makes the masses realise that messages posted on various social media platforms cannot be trusted without verifying the facts and figures.

In the absence of reliable social media messages and campaigns, the Indian democratic setup is at risk. Unreliable messages posted over social media platforms may trigger a massive and destructive misinformation campaigns. A misinformation campaign has enough power to overthrow the Indian democratic setup. Technology is a powerful tool. It possesses the power to make or break a person, no matter how powerful and formidable. Just one fake frivolous tweet and the entire reputation and stature of a person goes all the way down into the dumps.

It goes without saying that businesses, skills and jobs would change with a change in technology. With physical markets and showrooms facing stiff competition from e-commerce portals like Flipkart and Amazon, I can afford to say that traditional business models are certainly in for a complete makeover. A vast majority of the general public understands that technology has transformed the way masses interact, but when it comes to politics, people behave as if technology does not matter.

I’d like to give an example: Politicians who make use of commercial radio in order to communicate their messages and opinions enjoy an upper hand over those who don’t. Even when elections were held in India’s national capital Delhi, people could hear Mr. Kejriwal on their radio sets. Using the radio might seem a bit outdated, but speaking on the radio helped Mr. Kejriwal to put his thoughts across to all the sections of the society. Radio still has maximum penetration in India.

AHMEDABAD, INDIA - APRIL 30: Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate of Indias main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) takes a selfie after he cast his vote at the seventh phase of the Indian Election in the Indian state of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, India on April 30, 2014. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Image credit: Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Let us take a look at yet another example: The general elections held in the year 2014 saw Narendra Modi and BJP using social media in order to mobilise the youth. The brand Modi used social media to organise events, make more decentralised the local choice of leaders to address issues at different individual pit stops. In politics, the next battlefront is social media.

The impact of social media was evident in the recently concluded JNU controversy, where Kanhaiya Kumar came under the scanner for allegedly shouting anti-national slogans. Half of India is convinced that Kanhaiya led the student community in shouting anti-national slogans. Fake videos and fake commentaries spread like wildfire on various social media platforms and played a huge role in this particular piece of propaganda. It really helped other forms of media. Television news channels, too, allegedly aired doctored videos and wreaked havoc courtesy of misinformation.

A taste of the mischief social media is capable of was witnessed in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. Pictures of dead bodies lined up in long and orderly rows were circulated over WhatsApp to spread rage and hatred. The prosperous jats of western Uttar Pradesh had access to some of best smartphones that could support WhatsApp. The population of smartphone users has grown by leaps and bounds. Smartphone prices have been falling quite sharply and the penetration of smartphones in India has seen a significant rise over the past couple of years. The trend is likely to continue in the future as well.

The Rs. 500/month cost of telephony that Reliance introduced way back in 2003 is believed by many to be a turning point in India’s telecom history. Strategies similar to this might be inevitable. Well, that is what I would like to believe. In China, the penetration of smartphones went up from just 20% to a whopping 80% in a couple of years, said the head of Lenovo while in India. In the years to come, a vast majority of Indian voters would have access to smartphones and broadband connections. Smartphone users are believed to use a wide variety of social media apps.

Social media is nothing less than a revolution. It has the power to either make or break a person. These apps’ potential for abuse happens to be immense. How to prevent happens to be a challenge for all of us. Well, there’s no point in waiting for a flood of malicious images and videos to suffuse social media and then going on a clarification spree. The right time to act is now….

Also read: From 0 to 25 Million: How Rural India Is Going Digital With Social Media.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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