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US Needs To Engage With Trump Voters Instead Of Labelling Them ‘Racists’ Or ‘Sexists’

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By Nikhil Kumar:

It has become a trend these days to bash Donald Trump. Well, he has become the President-elect of the United States so he must have done something right, don’t you think? Many say, “Well, Hillary got more votes than Trump.” Of course, she did. Alas, she isn’t the President-elect. And we have to live with it.

So, why did it happen? A reality TV celebrity with a history of sexist and racist thinking who has had to face bankruptcy many times – how did he become President? And it is happening not only in the US. In July, we had Brexit in the UK. Nationalist right wing political parties are on the rise all over the world – Switzerland, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Greece, France, Denmark, Austria and Germany. The centrist and the centre-left have lost a lot of political ground in countries around the world. So, how did we get here?

The ‘we’ has become a hypothetical pronoun in communities. A person who doesn’t agree with our views is labelled and shamed. We do not listen and talk to the ‘racists’ because it is a social stigma – how could you be seen with a racist? And to say that they do not want to talk is another example of how comfortable we are with our assumptions.

Most liberals refuse to label terrorism as being ‘radical Islam’ for example. And rightly so. But why do we not refuse to label the Trump voters or the Brexiteers? How can we label tens of millions of people around the world? How can we call them a ‘basket of deplorables’?

People with leftist liberal thinking have become victims of self-righteousness. We think that we are right and do not care if the person in front of us doesn’t agree. Why? Well, aren’t they just racists, or sexists, or right wing maniacs? And the other person thinks correspondingly about us too. And that leaves hardly any room to appreciate the context behind the thinking. We have become victims to a mindset of disposition.

With a war in the Middle-East that does not see any foreseeable end, refugees are flowing into communities and societies that had never had touch with a different culture than their own? And they constantly receive news about the vagaries of Islam and Muslims. How then do we expect them to be willing hosts? It is, but human, to resist cultural change, especially one that you find threatening, even if wrongly so.

All this leaves a lot of people confused. There is hardly any initiative for one to talk to the other. The liberals ride on the righteous high horse of helping refugees and terming others racist while a sense of confusion brims in the minds of a lot many. This void is very uneasy and dangerous. And then, a few politicians come along promising to ban the refugees. They have a simple explanation for all the confusions. And that is – these people are ‘bad’ people and bring their ‘bad’ culture with them. So, a person left unattended by the liberals because he had different views, suddenly has been appealed to by emotionally charged rhetoric that assuages their confusions. And now liberals are even more loathe to the idea of conversation.

Social media and blogs have turned this problem even more irreconcilable. The filtering of news sources by attending only to those that conform to our own beliefs have left us in a bubble thinking where we meet people who mostly agree with us. We are completely out of touch with the other bubble where they have diametrically opposite views. People in both the bubbles know that the other exists but we are much more comfortable with being where we are.

So, I return to the complaint that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a big margin. But is that a good thing? Maybe it is a consolation for her supporters but I don’t think it is a positive sign in the long run. It just shows that Clinton bubbles was largely concentrated in some specific areas where she won heavily while the Trump bubbles were widespread.


Look at the Brexit voting data:


Most of the ‘Remain’ bubbles were concentrated in particular areas while the ‘Leave’ bubbles in other areas. And there was very little osmosis in between.

This is not a classic political political divide. It is a much more complex interplay which cannot be understood without a conversation. It is upto liberals to begin that conversation if we wish to reconfigure the political reality that we face now. We cannot afford to leave space for people who appeal to our least common denominator.

“E pluribus unum” – is the motto on the seal of the US. Its meaning has come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation — illustrating the concept of the melting pot. Most modern nations have try to emulate values.

Today that melting pot has fossilised ideas that refuse to transact. Unless that transaction takes place openly, the melting pot will be just a utopian imagery. And we cannot afford that.

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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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