This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Nikhil Kumar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Dear TV News Networks, We Desperately Need You. So Please Clean Up Your Act

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By Nikhil Kumar:

When I went to college, I started watching the news on cable networks, especially The Newshour with Arnab Goswami. It used to be my primary source of information. It helped me form my opinions about politics and society among other things. To further whet my appetite, I subscribed to a newspaper. As days passed by, I began to feel a dissonance between the two sources. Sometimes, I even came across articles that were diametrically opposite to what I saw on television.

Whereas the newspapers, for all their deficiencies, had proper demarcations of its news and opinion sections, cable news channels had no such thing. Every story was so laden with opinions of politicians that the actual facts seemed to fade into the background. I used to watch these news debates every day and it used to amuse me. Gradually, it became painful to watch. I couldn’t take it anymore. So, I stopped watching cable news. There was too much of opinion masquerading as news. The very notion of the press as the fourth pillar of our democracy subsided subsequently.

Cable news is a highly passive medium. Newspapers, on the other hand, are an active medium of information. This seems at odds with our conventional wisdom that television reports as things happen and papers aggregate everything for another day. Psychologically, I think it is not the case. A person reading a newspaper has a very conscious knowledge and control of the material he/she is going through. He/she can change the page when he/she wants.

But isn’t this even truer while watching cable news networks for we can, at any time, switch channels? I don’t think so. When people are given a hypnotic dose of opinions that appeal to their individuality, their deepest fears, and their wildest emotions – things that push all the wrong buttons. They are definitely less bound to push the right button on the remote.

So, here is my plea to cable news networks.

You have hammered down debates to high-decibel knee-jerk reactionary talk. You have become a personification of everything that is wrong with our public discourse – uncivilised cacophony, uninformed rhetoric, and a disillusioned public. By allowing the loudest voices, however hollow, to speak freely while suppressing the rational calming ones, you have caricatured yourselves to an extended public relations arm of the political elite and the corporates. It is an obscene theatre of horror at its best.

Most of you appear to have become 24*7 biased and relentless propaganda delivery organisations under the rubric of news networks. And the worst part of it all is that we desperately need you. We never needed your help more immediately. Right now, you seem to be helping the politicians, the corporates, the ideologues, the partisan pundits and the like. You are an integral part of their strategies, so much so that you have no conscious awareness of it. You have become partisan hacks. The people do not swim in the same ideological soup that you do. They have logic, you know.

You are in a unique position, you have such a great opportunity to get politics changed, to change the status quo – from marketing and strategy to real policies that ‘impact’ people (if you still think they exist). But in the bitter and hurtful pursuit of ratings, you have yielded yourself hostage to the political cacophony that defines our times.

When you say that you hold politicians’ feet to the fire, that is deceivingly disingenuous. While you pamper those who align with your views, you denigrate those who do not as if they have no right have a different view. This pursuit of a rectilinear propagation of thought is not only against the values of our Constitution, it borders a similar disposition that our freedom fighters fought so hard against.

You’ll say that you do debates where you have representatives from each side and they express their views. If this is a debate, then God help us! You are not a debate show. To have a proper debate would be great. Of course, BJP representatives believe Modi is doing a good job, an AAP spokesperson believes Kejriwal is doing a great job and an INC guy believes Rahul Gandhi will do a great job – they are supposed to do that. But are they really making honest arguments?

All you do is treat inconsequential gossip as a serious concern. You have a responsibility to the public discourse, to affect practice and policy, and you fail miserably at it and we are all in a bad shape for that. So, stop hurting us!

This article originally appeared on the author’s personal blog.

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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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