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‘Make Your Country Great Again’: What’s Similar Between Politics In India, USA And France

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In Nazi Germany, people harked to the traditional ‘blood-and-soil’ ethnic sort of nationalism.The result was that more than 6 million Jews were killed in the name of ‘blood-and-soil’ nationalist values. This was in stark contrast to the nationalism that originated in France during Napoleon’s era, which resorted to civic nationalism and endorsed liberal values.

It is troubling that many countries are still shifting from universal, civic nationalism towards ethnic nationalism. As this piece in The Economist states that positive patriotism has taken the form of negative nationalism.

The most recent example of this is Donald Trump, who ran his presidential campaign, purely by endorsing hate and racism. His campaign agendas included building a wall along the Mexican border, deporting illegal immigrants and ‘making America great again’.

Staying true to his electoral promises, one of his first executive orders was the infamous ‘travel ban’, by which he banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States (US). Inspired by populism, the trick here is to use simple and direct language – for example, “we’ll make America great again.” Complexities are not necessary. Just cater to the majority and you have the winning recipe. False ideas are repeated time and again – till everyone believes them to be absolute truths.

In fact, the economic depression of 2008 has a lot to do with this sudden rise of the right. People believed that the ‘elites’ had failed them. They believed that their jobs had gone to the immigrants, and that liberal values were to be blamed for that. They needed a change. Moreover, someone needed to tell them that America was going to be great again. That ‘someone’ turned out to be Donald Trump.

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pro-capitalism. However, he is also a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which seeks to establish India as a ‘Hindu rashtra’.  The ideology of Hindutva intends to represent all Hindus, who constitute about 80% of India’s population.

Meanwhile, Muslims continue to be targeted in the name of the ‘holy cow’. The RSS also exerts a huge sway over education and media in India. Voices of dissent are being strategically curbed by changing ‘debates’ into ‘binaries’. Anyone who voices his/her dissent is often tagged as an ‘anti-national’. In this regard, media houses (especially) are being selectively and strategically targeted.

The consequences of this sudden rise of the right can also be detrimental for the European Union (EU). In France, although Marine Le Pen, the charismatic far-right leader of the National Front (NF) has lost to Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist leader, she still reached the second and final round and was able to garner a large number of votes.

Unfortunately Le Pen’s campaign was strikingly similar to Trump’s. She catered to people’s nostalgia, anxiety and antipathy towards the liberal international order. Just like Trump, she held the immigrants responsible for their economic problems. In fact, Le Pen promised to pull France out of the European Union (EU) by holding a ‘Frexit‘ referendum on their EU membership. Had Le Pen pulled this off, the EU could have been in a dire situation, with Britain already having decided to exit the EU.

Catering to the xenophobia among the people, Britain’s ‘Brexit’ vote in June 2016 was also the result of the sentiments of people turning. Activists rallied against immigrants, while shouting“We want our country back.” It’s no surprise therefore that Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the politician held most-responsible for Brexit, visited Trump.

A similar story is being played out in Turkey, where it’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has vowed to build a ‘New Turkey’. Erdogan’s victory in the recently-conducted referendum now gives him unprecedented powers, including that of dissolving the Parliament whenever he wants to. He has complete control over the country now, and can take it in any direction he likes. This, despite many reports claiming that the votes were manipulated, and that Erdogan had cheated his way towards victory.

Modi and Erdogan at the Hyderabad House, May 1, 2017
Erdogan and Modi – a meeting of the far right? (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

In rich countries, pessimism plays a major role behind all this. The existing inequality hurts people too. One of the major factors behind the rise of Trump and Le Pen is the belief that things were better in the past. The past is continuously glorified, while minorities and immigrants are always blamed for the existing troubles. In this situation, ‘simple promises’ outlining ‘easy fixes’ obviously attract the masses.

Social media is being used very effectively here. Rumours are spread and hate-mongering is done by propping up ‘alternative facts (alt-facts)’. One of the prime examples of this is Breitbart News, an initiative by Steven Bannon, who was the chief strategist in Trump’s campaign.

The apparent failures of the centre-aligned parties and the left have also contributed to the rise of the right. People are easily giving in to the promises of such leaders, because the majority is being influenced to believe that they are exploited and victimised by the minorities.

Interestingly, in the US, only 37% of the people in the 18-29 age group voted for Trump. According to an international survey, in France, 77% of the people in the 18-24 year age group favour globalisation. It is very essential that the next generation needs to resist this new wave of nationalism, so that we may once again live in a cosmopolitan world.

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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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