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How This Radio Station Is Helping Fight Racial Discrimination In Bengaluru

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Being a person from north-east India and living in a metropolitan city is not easy. It is even tougher if you have not grown up in the city and have migrated for your career and only have your organisation as your support system! A new place far away from family and friends. Others would also have similar problems but it becomes complex if you have an added dimension of being at the receiving end of discrimination that many people from north-east India face. Particularly, girls and women.

I hear that there are many people from north-east in Bengaluru alone and we contribute a lot to this economy in this fast growing city in India, majorly in the service sector. The migration has been primarily due to a lack of industries in the region, mass corruption, unemployment and, to a great extent, to escape the ill effects of armed conflict. In many cases, it’s also due to the aspirations generated from movies about securing a bright future in the cities. Bengaluru also offers a very good climate with moderate temperatures in the summer and monsoon. This appears to be the greatest attraction for people from north-east India to choose the city over other destinations for education, jobs and starting business ventures. The migrations have only increased over time after news of people succeeding in the city reached others back home to inspire them.

Northeast community with ex-Commissioner of Police, Bangalore City Police Shri N.S Megharik and Vanitha Sahyavani Women Helpline during crisis case

It was only in 2012 that things began to change for us with the sudden rumours that were doing the rounds with a threat to our lives and safety. The people from north-east India responded in time and Bengaluru witnessed a large-scale movement from the people who fled overnight, leaving their jobs, their homes, getting on flights, getting on trains if flights could not be afforded and even buses, if nothing else worked. It was as if no one wanted to be here! The railway stations were crammed with hundreds and thousands leaving Bengaluru.

Northeast community with ex-Home Minister, Shri K.J George during crisis case

The beauty parlours were deserted, the spas looked unmanned, the restaurants and hotels looked as if the entire staff had gone on strike. The whole city looked deserted! I was one of the few people who did not flee and who decided to fight back and stay on. It was during this high alert period that I found the close relationship the people of north-east India had with the city and how a new trend of discrimination against us was rising from a select segment of the society. While many people loved us, there was clearly a section of people rising against us who did not want us to be here.

This gave birth to leaders from north-east India in the city to come together and start working on addressing issues of racial discrimination and attacks by giving support to victims in securing legal aid, safe space for rehabilitation, linkages to counselling and media and even medical services as and when required. These focused efforts have been carried out ever since but we found the rate of crimes were not decreasing. Our success was in giving support to people and in speaking out about our issues to the masses. We knew we had to work at deeper levels and work on the intellectual discourse and starting conversations on a larger scale if we wanted to make a change.

Radio Active Team at the Miss Northeast and Northeast Food Festival 2016 as media partner

With Radio Active, the first community radio station of Bengaluru, we found a unique direction to influence and educate people about the north-east, its people and culture, and by way of these conversations, reduce discrimination at its foundation. Pinky Chandran suggested that we should have a program on the radio that covers the north-eastern way of life, food, handloom and attire, festivals, music, aspirations, success stories, role models and we should also have RJs who are from the north-east of India. That gave wings to our dreams for our community and we worked to mobilise our youth and could identify aspiring RJs. They were not just going to embark on an exciting career in broadcasting media but would be contributing a lot to the empowerment of north-eastern people living in Bengaluru.

Radio Active is the only radio station that truly understands the culture and unique identity of north-eastern people. It is the only radio station that airs a program devoted exclusively to the north-east titled, ‘Northeast Ki Awaaz’. So, many newspapers, TV channels and web media companies have given coverage to our issues but haven’t looked at our dignity and pride favourably. It is the only media platform that doesn’t project us as pitiful victims but as people with talent and honour.

RJ Lakshmi from Radio Active interviewing northeast persons at the event of Miss Northeast for a radio program

In 2016, the home minister of Karnataka, G Parameshwara released the jingle for ‘Northeast Ki Awaaz’ during the Miss Northeast and Northeast Food Festival held in Bengaluru. Radio Active’s involvement in supporting people from north-east India goes beyond just radio programs and the radio station has always promoted all the activities and events organised by people belonging to the community in the city. Be it fashion shows, rock concerts, food festivals or handloom displays.

Radio Active is going to celebrate the 10th Anniversary on June 25, 2017, in Bengaluru. I wish all my north-eastern brothers and sisters come to the celebrations in all their strength and express our solidarity and friendship to our faithful friend in Radio Active which has worked to amplify voices of different communities over the past decade.

Radio Active team supporting activities of northeast community in Bangalore
Radio Active, the voice of the northeast, transgender and many other communities

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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