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Globalization and the resurgence of cultural identity

In 1980 a movie came out that drove a significant amount of people to accept that globalization poses a threat to cultural identity. “The Gods Must Be Crazy” highlights a simple way in which that globalization threatens cultural identity. In this movie, the Sho tribe of the Kalahari Desert believes that it has been gifted with a special treat when an empty glass Pepsi bottle falls from an aircraft flying past the area. Because the Sho are a resourceful people, they find many uses for this bottle. Unfortunately, the Sho are not accustomed to having a limited resource. Their belief is that everything that had been given by the gods was sufficient for everyone. The existence of a single bottle, symbolic of globalization and its influences, threatens their cultural identity as jealousy, anger, and the concept of personal possessions and greed begins to infiltrate their tribe. Even violence, inexperienced by this tribe for years together, creeps into their hearts as they fight over the single Pepsi bottle. By its very nature, globalization does require some compromise of cultural identity. This is as true for tribal cultures as it is for us. This movie demonstrates how tribes can be affected by the infiltration of the outside culture.

In the modern or urban context, so to speak, it has become strangely fashionable to see everything through the lens of “globalization”. It means the “end of history” for some, or the “revenge of history” for some. Beyond the immediate impacts of the emerging communication systems and infrastructural technology, the term globalization has come to mean almost any process in which a contrasting community, who possess unique languages and lifestyles, are being integrated into a wider humanity.

The world is not yet a global village and in all likelihood is not going to become one. There are pockets of people across the globe who are of the opinion that globalization is overshadowing their cultural identities and that the traditional way of life is losing its valor. The critical question is, and will remain: will people surrender to the mighty forces of globalization or assert the importance of and preserve their cultural identities? Will globalization be the motivation of cultures to defend themselves or be the downfall of them altogether?

The Internet is exploding with the promotion of cultural identities. Leave alone creating a global village, the Internet seems to be advocating further cultural diversity. An example of this phenomenon is as follows: Technorati tracked blogs in 81 languages in June 2008. Brands like Google, Facebook and YouTube have enjoyed stellar growth, mostly because they offer local language sites. However, this has not prevented local brands from holding their ground and standing tall in the face of such an invasion. Baidu remains the search engine of choice in China; Youku for video streaming. MIXI is the most widely used social network in Japan. These brands remain well-established and unshakable not just because they are pioneers in their respective fields but also because they are perfectly aligned with the local culture. These are not the only instances where local cultures have stood their ground against global giants.

In the fashionable Dong An shopping Centre in the Wang Fu Jing district of Beijing,one will find a small boutique called Mu Zhen Liao. Here, young, discriminating and elite Beijingers come to choose clothes, not from the designer labels of the West, but ‘classical’ Chinese clothing: elegant qipaus, cheongsamsand finely tailored jackets in beautiful silks and other traditional fabrics. These clothes, interwoven with immense detail and finesse are the same as those worn by the wealthy Manchurian elite in the Qing dynasty of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Thus, they reflect an ancient cultural history. But they are not in any simple sense ‘traditional’ clothes. The young women wearing them in the streets will turn as many heads amongst the locals as amongst the western tourists. The fact is that ten or fifteen years ago, a shop like Mu Zhen Liao would not have existed in China. A chain store with branches in many of the provincial capitals – exists, in cultural as well as economic terms, as a consequence of globalization.

Hollywood must probably be making more profit from television-watchers outside of America than in it. It sells costly, high production value, glossy programmes at discounted prices to the television networks around the world. If it costs India or Pakistan $100 million to buy an episode of X Files, they are getting a product that cost $5 million to make. Thus it is impossible for Third World countries to produce local programmes of the same quality and financial value. Although television pushes the youth of Asia to venerate global icons and superstars, one fact remains. The biggest audience is always for local shows! Cheap and cheerful Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian or Indian programmes are preferred over Friends, Star Trek and Suits. Eventually, we all want to look in a mirror and see ourselves.

In the Indian context, too, cultural globalization is considered as an agent of keeping cultural traditions alive. Increasing access and exposure to media helps in bringing more awareness about cultural diversities and promotion of local cultures. Globalization also encourages the propagation of certain Indian cultural elements. The new means of communication empower local communities to cultivate their respective cultural practices so that they can be showcased to the entire world. In addition, there grows a number of cultural entrepreneurs in India who undertake the marketing and spreading of cultural resources and goods to the external world. As a result, Indian food, herbal products, handicrafts and art objects are popular and available in all corners of the globe. Indian traditional medicine or Ayurveda, health care systems (yoga), classical songs and music as well as dances are gaining a tremendous popularity in the global scenario. In the restless world outside, the Indian philosophy of ‘non-violence’ and ‘peace’ is gradually spreading throughout the world. Indian film industries, especially the Bollywood films, have made a significant contribution to the global entertainment market. Nowadays, Indian film actors and actresses as well as the experts from the Performing Arts and other cultural fields are gaining a global following.

Reviving culture may take more than just preserving or propagating it. Handing down the culture of one’s community in a pure, unadulterated manner may depend on certain social institutions and agencies. The “Salad Bowl” Theory is a way to reduce the threat of globalization towards cultural identity. An immigrant family may choose to teach their child the native language and rely on local school systems to teach the child English. This helps the family maintain an important part of their cultural heritage – language – while still ensuring their child receives the benefit of living in another culture. Globalization does affect cultural identity. However, it does not need to threaten it. Each culture can choose for itself what it wants to keep and want it wants to share. In this way, every culture might find itself benefiting from exposure to other cultures.

In the new age of globalization, people are becoming more and more concerned about the uniqueness and singularity of their own culture. Cultural identity has begun to provide global significance to local consciousness. A sense of self, community and nation is emerging. Cultural identity has begun to answer questions of “Who am I?”, “Where are we going?” and “What do we Have?”. It is being subtly understood that “I” actually emanates from “We”. Since people derive their identities through their cultures, they will defend them. In an understated manner, globalization brings with it, an awareness of cultural identity. If truth be told, globalization enhances cultural identity and people become more keen on preserving the sui generis nature of their beloved cultures. Globalization leads to a feeling of “togetherness” and unity and a sense of “deeply-rooted-in-one’s-culture”.

Globalization is not simply homogenization. When we view globalization in terms of culture, we must notice that people are not passively accepting the influence of globalization. They have great subjectivity and freedom to change and create culture. Globalization, in a deeper sense, promotes cultural identity. With the development of science and technology, people are in closer contact than ever before. They become much more concerned about their cultural identity. They are constantly searching for their cultural roots and defending them. If we can respect the diversity of people and their cultures in this new era, it can lead to a global community that is entrenched in the value of “unity in diversity”. Cultures may no longer be local in the traditional sense, but still different and constantly evolving. Hopefully, this may lead to a new variety of globalization that will not be synonymous with homogenization.



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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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