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An Open Letter To PM Modi: Not The Time To Celebrate, But To Deliver Your Promises

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Dear Sir,

With eyes full of hope and desire, India elected you as the Prime Minister of our country. What was the mandate given to the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)—a party often targeted for its communal moves? What was the reason behind your selection as the strongest leader of world’s most diverse nation?

Was it to run a massive publicity campaign in which you spent nearly ₹712 cores? Or was it about portraying the image of a strong leader? Someone, India needed the most at the time to assure a population of 1.3 billion that you have the solutions to our existing problems? It was a hopeful mandate given to you by people who were fed up of scams and poor governance in the nation. People needed a solution to the internal issues that our country was facing. India wanted a corruption-free government that would work towards the benefit of the rural masses. The youth wanted employment. We needed someone to hold peace talks with the Naxalites so that they can be brought into the mainstream. It was the hopeful eyes of the poor tribal people, Dalits, and Muslims who were assured, through several speeches and rallies, that you will improve their quality of life.

When the results were declared everyone was happy, except for the Congress party. It was the first time in Indian history that the BJP had won with such a huge majority. Many claimed this victory as the victory of truth over corruption. On May 27, 2014, Narendra Damodardas Modi took charge as the Prime Minister of India. When the portfolios were distributed among different ministers, it felt like a wave of fresh air is flowing throughout the country. The media was co-operative towards the government. And the government soon started implementing several new policies in different sectors.

The modification of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan to Swach Bharat Abhiyaan was praised and promoted but it was all in vain. The government mostly concentrated on the publicity campaign and no proper implementation was seen at the grassroots level. Although the government claims that the sanitation coverage area has gone up from 42% in 2014 to 64% in 2017, in the cities and smaller towns, tonnes of garbage is still being dumped in improper locations.  Even the Swach Bharat survey done to rank cities their cleanliness and sanitation levels had several loopholes in it. They were purely based on public opinion. The deprived sections of the society were also ignored in the campaign.

Another major initiative taken by the government was the Digital India campaign. Its objective was to make monetary transactions as well as grievance redressal systems completely digital, but due to the lack of understanding and accessibility of digital devices, several women and villagers suffered at the time of Demonetisation. The ‘Smart Cities’ campaign and the bullet train project are still a distant dream for a country whose large population still lives in slums and in hazardous locations.

What disappointed us the most was the government’s inaction in the field of education. The results of states boards in Bihar showed loopholes in the government run schools of our country. The decision to scrap the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) program, and continue with the old assessment system for CBSE affiliated schools, all done in the name of a new education policy, shows how we are moving backwards. Our universities fail to find place in the world rankings. Despite being centres for intellectual growth, our universities have turned into war zones for political fights and ideological suppression.

Among the 42 central universities looked after by the UGC, which falls under the HRD ministry, several have faced serious issues which still need addressing. Faculty shortage, lack of funds resulting poor infrastructures, and lack of promotion of research in academics are just a few of the factors pulling us behind.  Lack of planning, the bureaucratic attitude of the governing agencies, and lacklustre performance of the concerned state governments have hampered the growth of the newly established central universities. A more serious challenge faced by these institutions is the recruitment of senior faculty members, mainly because of reasons like faculty mobility. During the elections, you had assured us that you’ll create two crore jobs but you have managed to provide job opportunities to 2.75 lakh people only. And the IT sector is struggling hard to create more job opportunities.

As a young citizen of this country, I have great hopes for our educational institutions and don’t want hooligans to turn our universities into war zones for different groups. I don’t want my country to lose another Rohit Vemulla. I don’t want the lynching of another Akhlaq in the name of protecting religion. I want you to speak up against these barbaric acts which are spreading hatred and violence among the different communities. I believe it’s not the time to celebrate anything. It is not the time to spend crores on advertisements and organization of festivals commemorating your three years of governance.

It is the time to create a platform for the marginalized so they can speak up for their rights. The states should work on improving the quality of life in rural India. We need to enhance our academic infrastructure, fill teaching positions and create a healthy environment for students and promote research in our colleges and universities. Only then can we prepare the youth of this country for the challenges that await them.

I want you to fulfil all the promises you made during your rallies prior to the 2014 elections. This way you won’t have to spend crores on advisements; your work will speak for itself through the development of the country.

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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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