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Crook Over The Clown: Trump Or Clinton, What Choice Do American Voters Really Have?

By Bhumika Sharma:

July 28, 2016 is history. Not like, how each and everything that has taken place or has happened and each day that is over is past, and thus, in casual terms, is history, but in a manner that is symbolically different. Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, former New York Senator and former Secretary of State created history by officially becoming the first ever woman to be nominated for the President of the United States or as some would say, in a more politically incorrect sense, for the office of the most powerful (wo)man in the free world. This, further created covert possibilities of the world getting to see Bill Clinton as the first ever ‘First Gentleman’. Well, surely a step higher up in the ladder of advancing the feminist cause, among other things.

Michelle Obama at DNC 2016 delivering a rather memorable speech. Source: Alex Wong/Getty
Michelle Obama at DNC 2016 delivering a rather memorable speech. Source: Alex Wong/Getty

The four days of the Democratic National Convention were endeavored with fostering the slowly eroding spirit of American idealism, optimism and hope-mongering, in sharp contrast to a certain demagogue’s (read: Donald Trump) continual hate-mongering, in pursuit of the unfortunate goal of acquiring the presidency. This is complimented by the ultra-unfortunate fact of him having made it to the nomination. From one of the last major speeches being delivered by the Obamas that aimed at reinforcing the ideals upon which the country stands – the large-heartedness of the American people and the unending commitment to hard work and advancement- the story, the American Dream, and how Clinton is the most qualified and fit for realising the Dream; to hubby Bill’s nostalgia-driven, personal narrative of the dating experience with his wife, aiming to humanise Hillary’s image, DNC 2016 can be seen as a major assertion of as to why America desperately needs someone like, or rather, Hillary Clinton herself.

But, let’s face it: is Clinton really the best that the White House, or in fact, owing to the not-so-implicit prowess of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the entire world deserves?

The American Presidential election is always a watershed event, considering the complexities of contemporary world politics and the intertwined nature of international relations. But what makes the 2016 polls all the more momentous is the fact that the race this time is between two heavily flawed human beings.

On the one hand, we have an apparently Putin-obsessed, xenophobic rabble-rouser, seasoned in the art of fear-mongering and hate-whipping with the aid of mostly hypothetical and dystopic visions of what the future holds.

Not quite promising, is it? Now consider the alternative.

On the other hand, is an ineffably scandalous face with an infamous biography of piled-up controversies that range from her undertakings in the professional domain to a more intimate and personal life-crisis, resulting from her husband’s extra-marital ventures, or the Lewinsky scandal.

There is the email controversy that sprouted due to her use of a private server while at the State Department and the alleged mishandling of classified information. Moreover, there was the Benghazi incident or the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012 that took away the lives of four Americans and led countless people to raise their brows regarding Clinton’s preparedness as the Secretary of State. Then there is the evergreen image of the Clintons cozying up to big money – it is this chronic experience of decades of scandals that has had fatal consequences and has eroded Hillary of the most quintessential character trait of a popular public servant – her trustworthiness.

The 2008 election was about toppling between feminist sympathies and racist sensitivities, a choice and a question between either the first female President or the first black President- two historic calls of which the American electorate answered the second. This was evidently for good, for what Obama has left behind is an exclusive legacy of brilliant political tactics, a vital characteristic of a strong leader that helped him pull the country out of recession and bring justice home by ordering for the successful assassination of Osama bin Laden, for one and the display of a cornucopia of personal qualities like his ability as an excellent communicator, sheer integrity and good humour to name a few – virtues that will cause not only Americans to miss the Obamas (the First Lady, Michelle as well, who is like the face of tranquility amidst the cacophony of American polity), but the world on a bigger scale. But after all things considered, 2016 seems to be more like choosing the lesser of the two evils. And it is the unfavourability ratings of the two candidates that seem to justify this analogy.

Hillary Clinton might seem to be a plausible possibility relative to Donald Trump’s inscrutable vulgarity, but perhaps not the most inspiring choice for presidency. And the fact that this American political stagnation has resulted in circumstances with no good alternative in place of the two now official nominees is not just saddening, but it might also have far-fetched effects on the world politics.

So in this 21st century world, defined not just by intricately laid down material interconnections but also equally interconnected destinies, it is apparent that what shall be put to test this November, is the American people’s judgement and preference for, as I once read somewhere, the crook over the clown, or vice versa.

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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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