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These 9 Individuals Prove That It Takes Just One Person To Make Change Happen

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By YKA Staff:

Editor’s note: On November 12, Youth Ki Awaaz, along with Facebook India, presents its annual flagship event, CONVERGE. It’s going to be a power-packed day long festival, featuring a series of talks by change makers whose stories define our generation. In its third edition we hope to make it a bigger, better, and bolder event.

Here’s more about the speakers who’ll be sharing their stories and a glimpse of their amazing work:

Monika Khangembam

Founder, Women and Youth for Peace and Development

converge-2016-monika-khangembamA young, bold voice from Manipur, Monika has been an active advocate against the draconian AFSPA Act for the last 7 years. She is the Founder of Women And Youth for Peace and Development (WYPD), an Imphal-based NGO which was founded in 2015. It focuses on empowering women in rural Manipur as well as women who have been widowed by the present conflict in the state.

Monika is a loud voice against the discrimination faced by North East Indians in the rest of the country, her recent Facebook post sharing a particularly haranguing experience at Delhi’s airport went viral, started an important conversation and received overwhelming support on social media.

She is also the Curator of Global Shapers Imphal Hub by the World Economic Forum.

Tenzin Tsundue

converge-2016-tenzin-tsundueActivist, Tibetan Freedom Movement

Born to a Tibetan refugee family in the Spiti Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Tenzin Tsundue is a part of the Tibetan freedom movement. is socio-political activism has taken him to 15 different jails in Tibet and India, and also to 20 different countries to talk about Tibet. He was awarded the Picador-Outlook Prize for non-fiction in 2001, and is the author of several books including “Crossing the Border”, “Semshook: Essays On Tibetan Freedom Struggle”, and “Tsengol: Stories and Poems of Resistance”. At the moment he is working on a new book, a collection of enduring stories of Tibetan exiles.

Tanmay Bhat

Co-founder, All India Bakchod

converge-2016-tanmayTanmay is one of the co-founding members of AIB – India’s funniest and edgiest comedy collective that has revolutionised comedy content in the country.

What makes AIB stand out is the fact that through humour, they have started important conversations on various social issues, their campaign on net neutrality received nation-wide support. Tanmay, in his personal capacity has also talked about some very important topics like feminism, fat shaming and Indian politics.

At CONVERGE, hear him talk about how comedy can be used to create conversations that drive social change.

Deepak Ramola

converge-2016-deepakCo-founder, Project FUEL

In the past 5 years since civil war started in Syria, over 4.8 million people have been forced to leave the country, and 6.1 displaced within the country. We’ve read about it, watched heart-breaking videos, and yet, there is a large disconnect between us and the ground reality because of which we fail to truly understand the horrors Syrians have been made to go through.

Deepak, who has been working as a life skills educator in India since the age of 17, wanted to change that. As part of Project FUEL, which he co-founded, Deepak collects life lessons from people all over the world and turns them into interactive and performance activities to pass on the learnings. He is currently on a 90-day journey across Europe for ‘The Masterpiece Tour’ where he is taking life lessons for people affected by the recent migrant crisis – both refugees and citizens of countries that have provided asylum to them. He will share these experiences at CONVERGE.

Ankur Warikoo

converge-2016-ankur-warikooCo-founder and CEO, Nearbuy

Ankur was one of the first people hired by Groupon (one of the most famous deal buying portals in the world), to head its India office in 2011. However, the startup didn’t do well. Even after being rebranded as ‘Crazeal’, not much changed. That’s when Ankur decided to change things around. The venture was turned into an independent entity, and renamed as Nearbuy.

The platform is active in 33 cities, with about 50,000 buyers. And while it’s not making profits just yet, it’s not in losses anymore either.

At CONVERGE, hear Ankur share his story of success and failure as a startup entrepreneur in India.

Ritumoni Das

converge-2016-ritumoni-dasCo-founder, Kat-Katha

G.B. Road is home to about 4,000 sex workers in Delhi. It is also one of most crime-prone areas in the city. Not only are the living conditions extremely difficult, the residents face harassment at the hands of authorities if they ever ask for. Leaving her lucrative government job, Ritumoni co-founded Kat-Katha in 2012, a one-of-a-kind NGO that works with women who live on G.B. Road to improve living conditions; and with their children through education and skill-training programs. Ritumoni has also worked with the HIV intervention program of NACO in this area.

Pradeep Raj

Para-Athlete, Disability rights activist

converge-2016-pradeep-rajFor probably the first time in India, the Paralympics in Rio got recognisable attention in mainstream media. With our 19 athlete contingent coming back with 4 medals, their performance can only be described as spectacular. But even then, live telecasts of the event weren’t aired on Indian TVs.

Pradeep, a national level table tennis player is an active advocate for the rights of people with disability. He is the
General Secretary of an NGO called ‘Association of Disabled People’. Among many others, Pradeep has received the IBN7 Super Idol award, Achiever’s Award 2010, and the National Youth Award 2011-12 for his work to promote disabled sports and advocacy for the rights of people with disabilities.

Sabbah Haji

Director of Haji Public School

converge-2016-sabbah-haji-1Having spent most of her life in big cities, Sabbah moved to the mountain village of Breswana in the Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir. At 7,000 ft, it is practically cut off from the rest of the state, making quality education a distant dream. Along with her family, Sabbah runs Haji Public School. What started with 2 teachers and 35 students in 2009, now has over 350 students and permanent staff of over 20. The Haji family’s mission of setting up good schools here is to “make education accessible to the inaccessible”. Dozens of Indian and international volunteers stay there as well and help teach the students, as they learn about the village and its people themselves.

Alessandra Orofino

Co-Founder, Our Cities

converge-2016-alessandra-orofinoAfter completing her education in Columbia University, Alessandra came back to her hometown in Rio to find that a lot of young people did not have an outlet to channel their frustrations over how the city was functioning. With the belief that the city isn’t just a space governed by policies and authority, Alessandra founded Meu Rio, an online platform that allows citizens to have a say in what’s happening in the city.

Meu Rio was received with much enthusiasm and soon became the largest mobilisation network in Rio de Janeiro. It has now expanded to a global level as Our Cities, an online platform that develops tools for civic engagement and participation in cities.

So come, join us as these incredible individuals share their stories with us. Click here for more details. 

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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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