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How Areas Of Governance Are Opening Up To The Youth

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By Trina Roy:

Our demography and political space have been gradually changing over the years. In these times, the youth are being seen as our valuable demographic capital. There is both the need and encouragement for young individuals to start contributing to governance and political spaces in areas beyond joining the bureaucracy or directly contesting elections.

“Politics” had started to be largely seen as a space with several negative connotations. Political patronage, “muscle power”, financial clout were the most common avenues through which one could enter the political sphere. The only other job that could enable oneself to influence policy or impact society at large was by preparing for years to clear the (very) highly competitive civil service exams and land a job in the government.

But, today, the young interested in the public policy/social sector have more avenues to work in their field of interest. There is a renewed interest visible among the youth to participate, shape and work from within the governance and political system. The opportunities are available at different levels – as a researcher in a think tank, as political consultants working on electoral campaigns or on constituency development for legislators, an intern in a government institution or as a volunteer in an NGO.

In the West, think tanks play an important role in aiding the government in deciding policy frameworks. This trend is in its nascent stage in India, but the numbers of such organisations are steadily increasing. Indian think tanks like Centre for Policy Research (CPR) have always offered an interesting opportunity for people interested to work in the policy space.

In the recent past, we have seen some prestigious think tanks from the West, like the Brookings Institution start their operation in India. The trend is expected to grow, and we could see more such institutions in India in the future. Internships at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the former Planning Commission have also been coveted opportunities for the youth to engage in the policy sphere. These institutions follow a rolling intake policy accepting applications throughout the year.

Work at the grassroots level is fast gaining popularity as the interest to understand complexities in policy implementation attract the youth today. NGOs offer interesting opportunities in various sectors like Education, Health, Rural Development, Environment, etc.

A lot of state governments including Haryana and Maharashtra have started fellowships that seek young individuals who could help support the implementation efforts of the government in key areas. There are opportunities to work with political consultancies like IPAC, Samagra or Fourth Lion that cover areas ranging from election campaigning to constituency development. Even the NITI Aayog and Union Ministries have called for young professionals looking to make an impact and offer specific project related opportunities lasting a couple of years.

One opportunity worth discussing more is the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship. It is a two-year programme where fellows as ‘facilitators of development’ support the district administrative setup. It is an initiative run by the Ministry of Rural Development to engage young professionals with the District Collectors and help ground level institutions build capacity.

In the parliamentary policy space, the Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament (LAMP) Fellowship is a unique chance for young Indians to be mentored by Members of the Parliament for a period of 11 months. During the course of the programme, the Fellows work full time with an MP providing research input to the MP’s parliamentary interventions, and this requires following the parliamentary functioning and legislative developments diligently.

The Fellows, among other things, would brief the MP on important legislations, prepare questions and provide input for debates. LAMP Fellows also engage with policy makers and experts from diverse sectors through participation in several workshops on important policy and development issues to understand the space better. The fellowship invites applications on a yearly basis and is currently accepting applications for its 2017-2018 programme till February 12, 2017.

Fellowships and internships are excellent mediums to bridge the gap between the policy-governance space and young India’s aspirations.

Very often these experiences serve as stepping stones for the youth to join the public sector space, shedding the disillusionment that usually surrounds it. The youth today is motivated to come forward and share the responsibility of governance, dispelling any previous cloud of ignorance. No longer is it perceived as the “bad world” of politics, and young people are willing to come together to bring reforms and new ideas to the table.

The author is the Program Officer at PRS Legislative Research.


Image source: Prasad Gori, Hindustan Times/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, 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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