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Why You Should Attend This LGBTQ Themed Literary Fest In Kamala Nehru College

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CREAEditor's Note: With #QueerWithoutFear, Youth Ki Awaaz and CREA have joined hands to advocate for safer and more inclusive campuses for LGBTQ+ students and break the silence around the discrimination faced by students who identify as queer. If your college or school has an LGBTQ+ support group, a campus queer collective, or an initiative that’s pushing for a safer campus, share your story!

The theme of LitLuminous’, the annual literary fest of Kamala Nehru College’s English Department, is always related to pop culture, such as “Harry Potter”, “Game of Thrones”, etc. However, this year, we, final year students in the department, decided to do something different. Inspired by one of our literary theory lectures, we chose a theme that is important not just to literature but also holds relevance in our daily lives. “LGBTQ: Literatures Going Beyond The Quotidian.”

Maniza Khalid, a core team member of LitLuminous’ 17, explains, “by providing a platform to critically discuss LGBTQ+ narratives in our immediate surroundings, we wanted our fest to broaden mindsets and call for creating a safe space for the LGBTQ community.” Both teachers and students in our department feel strongly about the injustices meted out to the LGBTQ community and this fest is our way to sensitise students and make the university an inclusive space.

In a country where homosexuality is still criminalised, it is important to question and contest social, religious and political discourses which seek to alienate an entire section of our society. The aim of LitLuminous’ 17 is to counter the view that being queer is something ‘new’, ‘unnatural’ or a ‘western imposition’ – illogical arguments that a majority of our country still believes in. By tracing the history of the community in a variety of both classical and contemporary works, we aim to explore not just literature produced by and about the community, but also analyse the representational politics in its depiction in the media, documentaries, visual arts, and popular culture.

The fest endeavours to create an opportunity for unearthing lost voices and narratives of people with non-binary identities and in the process, create a space for all attendees to understand them better. For doing this, popular gender rights activists Divya Dureja, Vikramaditya Sahai, Amalina Dave and Rajorshi Das will discuss the reinforcement of stereotypes within the LGBTQ community, the social pressure on individuals to adopt a permanent sexual/gender label and the dialogue between gender identity and sexual orientation.

LitLuminous’ 17 has also called for literary papers on the topic LGBTQ Representation in South Asian Narratives in order to explore the history and development of the community. Many South Asian countries have homophobic stances, which is why narratives of LGBTQ people aren’t focused on enough. Thus, the fest will bring these effaced narratives to the forefront. At the same time, it will highlight and discuss works that have done justice to the history of the community. Wayne Wang’s film “Snow Flower” (2011), set in Nepal, Visakesa Chandrasekaram’s “Frangipani” (2014), Parvez Sharma’s “A Jihad for Love” (2007), Devdutt Pattanaik’s rereading of the Hindu mythical character Shikhandi and “Other Tales They Don’t Tell You” (2004), Bruno Morandi’s photographic series “Hijras of Pakistan”, Xulhaaz Mannan’s LGBTQ magazine “Roopban” in Bangladesh, Ruth Vanita’s poetry, etc.

We have also organised fun events such as fanfiction writing, treasure hunt, slam poetry and an online photography competition. For one of the events, we sought poetry on the LGBTQ community. As a part of this, we received a poem with the lines: “Your love is indecisively bipolar.” My love isn’t bipolar, your thoughts are just unipolar. I feel these lines give a glimpse to how powerful LitLuminous’ 17 is going to be!

We’ve received support to hold the event not just from our own college but from students of other colleges as well. The fact that so many people are encouraging us, gives hope that someday, the LGBTQ community will feel as comfortable and safe in the university as they deserve to. If LitLuminous’ 17 manages to end homophobia on campus even by a percent, we, students of the English Department of KNC, will feel that the event was successful.

Image source: Mohima Hossain/ Facebook, Zabeeh Afaque/ Hindustan Times Via Getty Images
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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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