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17 Powerful Voices That Stood Out On Youth Ki Awaaz This Year

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2016 was a big year for Youth Ki Awaaz – for one, this was the year you truly owned the platform as yours, directly publishing your stories and sharing them ahead with thousands! Over the years, you’ve created and strengthened this community of smart, forward-thinking individuals and this year too, you pushed the envelope even more, and didn’t hold back when it came to writing about issues that we as a society continue to struggle with addressing.

From moving personal stories of dealing with abuse or mental health issues to sharp political commentary, from entrepreneurial journeys to the struggles a student in India is put through – you spoke about it all.

Here’s a look at some of the strongest voices (in no particular order) that defined our year and started some very important conversations.

1. Amrit Mann explained what people don’t understand about life in the army

Following the attack on the Pathankot Air Base which left seven defence personnel dead, Amrit overheard two men she describes as ‘educated, suited-booted gentlemen’ discussing how the family of the martyred soldiers were lucky because of the big compensation they would receive. Being an army officer’s daughter, this hit her hard, the result was this powerful story that describes just how hard it is to have a family member in the defence forces.

Daughter Of An Army Officer Explains What People Don’t Understand About Life In The Army

Follow Amrit on Youth Ki Awaaz.

2. Ishan Arora took us through the success stories of some of India’s top brands

Our business analysis specialist published some insightful stories on the edge Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali has over its competitors, why Paper Boat has become such a hit with our generation, and how washing powder Nirma became India’s leading detergent. Our favourite though, has to be the story about how Pulse candy became such a national favourite with barely any advertising. Ishan’s stories were read and loved by over 100,000 people!

Is The Pulse Candy Success Story For Real?

Follow Ishan on Youth Ki Awaaz.

3. Saunvedan Aparanti who wrote fiery pieces about how caste oppression is a harsh reality in India

After four Dalit men were publicly flogged in Una, Gujarat, for skinning a dead cow, human rights activist Saunvedan wrote on Youth Ki Awaaz about how caste-based violence and oppression operates across the country. His fiery open letter to the upper-caste grocer who reportedly hacked a Dalit couple to death for a ₹15 debt, is a must-read.

“Dear Mr. Mishra, So I Heard You Beheaded A Dalit Today And Axed His Wife To Death”

Follow Saunvedan on Youth Ki Awaaz.

4. Tamoghna Ghosh who wrote her personal experience of what happened when she was ‘made an engineer’

India’s education system creates a high-pressure environment for students, who are pushed to become part of a rat race, especially when it comes to engineering. Kota in Rajasthan is (in)famous as the hub for coaching engineering aspirants, and where hundreds of these students face so much pressure that many are even pushed to suicide.
Tamoghna’s bare-all story of her experience in Kota, feeling like a “robot”, and coping with depression, was read by over 70,000 people and touched a chord with a lot of us who’ve been a part of this messed up system.

“After Kota, I Was Just A Robot Programmed To Crack IIT-JEE And Think No More”

Follow Tamoghna on Youth Ki Awaaz.

5. Jolly Mohan, whose story about inaccessible toilets created on-ground impact

Jolly is a 29-year-old executive who works at a multinational bank. As part of YKA’s campaign with WaterAid India to spread awareness about the reality of toilet access in the country, she wrote about how as a wheelchair user, she does not have the facility of an accessible washroom in her workplace. Read by over 170,000 people and shared by over 20,000 people, this story led to Jolly’s workplace to make “every damn effort” to make the washroom accessible for her. More power to you, Jolly!
Despite Being Perfectly Healthy, I’m Forced To Wear Adult Diapers To Work

6. Sumedha Biswas, who almost started a movement against sexist and unfair rules at Christ University

On July 28, Sumedha wrote an open letter to Christ University in Bangalore, criticising the administration for keeping classes at a time when a bandh had been declared throughout the city. Following this, numerous students from Christ University wrote in – sharing their experiences with the administration and revealed some regressive rules imposed on the students. All of these stories were read by over 100,000 people!

Here is the story that started it all:

“Dear Christ University, I Cannot Fly”: A Student On Travel Pains During A ‘Bandh’

Follow Sumedha on Youth Ki Awaaz.

7. Sindhuvasini Tripathi, who questioned why visible bra straps make us uncomfortable

Women’s innerwear has always made many uncomfortable, and visible bra straps are the worst apparently. Most Indian girls have grown up with code names to alert their female friends of visible bra straps that need to be immediately covered up. This discomfort is rooted in the patriarchy that does its best to control women’s bodies and sexuality and finds a way to justify rape culture. Sindhuvasini, with her bold story, slammed these notions brilliantly.

हमारी ब्रा के स्ट्रैप देखकर तुम्हारी नसें क्यों तन जाती हैं ‘भाई’?

Follow Sindhuvasini on Youth Ki Awaaz.

8. Prem, who wrote an extremely moving piece on caste oppression and inter-caste love

After watching the acclaimed film “Sairat”, Prem wrote a touching piece on how inter-caste love is the “ultimate assault on the caste system” in today’s times. The story resonated with many young people and was shared widely. Prem is also the co-founder of the brilliant ‘Dalit Panther Project’, which he has introduced on Youth Ki Awaaz here.

By ‘Daring To Fall In Love’ I See Inter-Caste Couples Challenge India’s Oppressive System

Follow Prem on Youth Ki Awaaz.

9. Vedanshi Bhatia, who smashed taboos around menstruation through her personal experience

The Youth Ki Awaaz community is proudly known for how it continues to break the stigma around menstruation and busts myths around it, that otherwise often harm women’s health. Exposing just how important these conversations are, Vedanshi shared her experience from a village in Uttarakhand, where she was made to drink cow’s urine to ‘purify’ herself, as both men and women there believed that a menstruating woman is ‘dirty and impure’. Thank you, Vedanshi for highlighting one of the many ridiculous myths that surround menstruation. The more we know about them, the better we can fight them!

I Was Asked To Drink Cow’s Urine When I Got My Period In An Uttarakhand Village

Follow Vedanshi on Youth Ki Awaaz.

10. Vinayana Khurana, who woke us up to just how inaccessible India is for people with disabilities

We first got in touch with Vinayana for #Access4All – a campaign jointly run by CBM Trust India and Youth Ki Awaaz, aiming to create impactful conversation around the need for making public spaces accessible in India. As part of the campaign, Vinayana shared her experience of growing up with cerebral palsy, and the challenges she faced simply because our infrastructure and services aren’t planned keeping persons with disability in mind. Following this, Vinayana has become a regular contributor and has shared many more stories with us, each bringing up a new perspective on living with disability which most of us tend to overlook.

“I Had To Wait An Hour For The Lift Because My Wheelchair Couldn’t Go In”

Vinayana also featured in a video that showed how Delhi’s posh Khan Market is inaccessible for people in wheelchairs. The video, was seen by over a million people!

Follow Vinayana on Youth Ki Awaaz.

11. Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist who wrote about why shooter Heena Sidhu’s refusal of compulsory hijab was a victory in itself

In October, ace Indian shooter Heena Sidhu made news for withdrawing from a tournament in Iran, refusing the compulsory hijab. Activist and journalist Masih Alinejad, founder of the brilliant ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ movement against compulsory hijab in Iran, wrote about how Heena’s bold stand is a step forward for women’s rights in Iran. Masih also wrote another very important piece on why before attacking Trump, the President of Iran should fix the human rights violations in his own country.

“It’s Not Heena Boycotting Iran, But Iran Boycotting Women Who Refuse Compulsory Hijab”

Follow Masih on Youth Ki Awaaz.

12. Mir Basit Hussain, who brought out the story behind Burhan Wani

“My son was forced to pick up the gun” – in a powerful interview with Ahmed Wani, Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s father, journalist Mir Basit Hussain brought out an extremely important aspect about the rise of insurgency in Kashmir. The interview, which was read by over 70,000 people, and quoted heavily by mainstream media after Burhan Wani was killed, remains one of YKA’s most significant exclusives of 2016.

‘My Son Was Forced To Pick Up The Gun’: Muzaffar Ahmed Wani On His Son, Burhan

Follow Mir on Youth Ki Awaaz.

13. Nikhil Anand Giri, who exposed the rampant sexism at Banasthali University

“Banasthali University or a jail for girls” – Nikhil’s bold piece about this university in Rajasthan’s Tonk district sparked many conversations about equality for women students and created a debate on social media as well. Shared over 13,000 times, Nikhil’s story also blew the lid off student suicides at the university.

बनस्थली विद्यापीठ यानी लड़कियों का जेलखाना

Follow Nikhil on Youth Ki Awaaz.

14. Iswarya V., who called out the film industry’s ‘stalking’ problem

India’s films have for years, passed off stalking as ‘intense love’ or ‘romance’. Iswarya started a petition campaign called #CallingOutStalking and demanded for change. Her piece on YKA points out the exact problem with the glorification of stalking! We are super happy that her petition went viral, and got the support of hundreds.

Why Movies Must Stop Celebrating Stalking In The Name Of ‘Love’

Follow Iswarya on Youth Ki Awaaz.

15. Abhishek Prakash, who wrote an open letter to CM Akhilesh Yadav regarding the horrific Mainpuri incident

In a shocking incident, a woman was publicly beaten up in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri for resisting molestation. Abhishek Prakash, a member of the U. P. Police force, wrote an open letter to the state’s CM, highlighting the crimes against minorities in the state, and demanding change. In his powerful letter, Prakash says that he felt the blood stains on the woman’s body were on his khaki uniform, as he had failed to protect an innocent citizen. In just 24 hours, this piece was read by over 24,000 people and shared over 15,000 times.

मैनपुरी घटना पर एक पुलिसवाले का अखिलेश यादव को खुला खत

Follow Abhishek Prakash on Youth Ki Awaaz.

16. Shreen Vaid, whose eyewitness account about a woman threatening to attack Delhi metro passengers with an axe, created a storm

An eyewitness account of a shocking incident was first published on YKA ( and even made front-page news on the Times of India this December), by ace writer, Shreen Vaid. Shreen narrated the incident where a woman was caught carrying an axe on the Metro in detail and questioned the Delhi Metro’s security procedures. “Today the security missed an axe, tomorrow they would miss a gun or a bomb,” she wrote.

Eyewitness Account: Woman Pulls Out Axe On Delhi Metro To Attack

Follow Shreen on Youth Ki Awaaz.

17. The anonymous writer, who broke the silence around some very difficult, sensitive and important topics

We’re extremely grateful that our community perceives YKA as a safe space where they can openly express vulnerability and write about sensitive personal experiences without any fear of being judged or labelled. These two stories were among the ones we received anonymously this year, and they helped break the silence around child sexual abuse and abortion respectively. We really respect the writers who shared these stories with us and cannot convey in words the impact they have had on others who might have suffered similarly. Their words gave others courage and that, in the end, is what the YKA community is all about.
What They Don’t Tell You About Getting An Abortion

Trigger Warning: ‘Don’t Teach Me About Sex Ma, Uncle Already Showed Me’

It has been an absolute joy to read and share these stories on Youth Ki Awaaz. We hope to see more powerful narratives that start the change. You could be on this list next year, get started now!

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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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