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Your Online Privacy Means Nothing, And There’s Not Much You Can Do About It

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When you sign up on Facebook, you are asked to provide your personal information (name, address, email, etc.). At the end of the page, it is mentioned that Facebook won’t leak your personal data to any third party. But, in reality, it has been alleged that Facebook (and other networking giants) are providing data to the US government, without making it known to the users, apparently for the sake of the country’s security.

Here come the questions of privacy, security, the power of the internet and multi-nation giants. With the emancipation of the internet, a new set of problems and opportunities have arisen in the world. This, in turn, has shaped a new debate about possible government intervention in data and personal privacy.

The question arises: why, when and where should the government meddle with your personal data? Here, there are two poles of the debate:

Opinion 1: Does the government have legitimate rights to interfere with a person’s data for the sake of the nation’s security?

Opinion 2: If the government can intervene with such data for the sake of the nation’s security, what would be the relevance of liberalism that we have been celebrating for the past few decades?

For The Notion Of Data Security By The Government:

Those adhering to the notion of data security by the government claim that even though people have phones, online accounts and personal liberty, these amount to nothing in the face of the nation’s constitutional provisions and its security concerns. This means that in the name of terrorism, criminal records, money laundering, the government can sue anyone.

Additionally, they claim that with widespread connectivity between people around the globe, the level of racial, religious and cultural connectivity has also risen to new heights. In his cutting-edge essay, “The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order”, Samuel Huntington mentions that the cultural and religious identities of people will be the main source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. The issue is especially relevant, since it has blended with the advantages of connectivity around the world.

In fact, according to an article published in The Guardian on February 22, 2015, the chances of becoming radicalised through the internet are much higher than being radicalised in places of worship. It is no wonder that the authority claims, that radicalisation has spread rapidly through the use of social media.

Against The Notion Of Data Security By The Government:

Many activists are doubtful whether the data captured by the government can remain safe forever. They ask what’s the guarantee that the information won’t fall into the wrong hands. They even claim that to uproot any dictatorial government, the free flow of information is a must.

Social media and the free flow of information have both played major roles, during the Cold War and  the Arab Spring. In fact, social media has become the new political battlefield. Here, no politicians are the ultimate winners. Whenever there is a sense of public disarray expressed through social media, politicians rush to address it immediately.

To save virtual data of users, encryption could be useful. The technique is very useful in translating data into secret codes, which can later be unencrypted by secret keys or passwords. Some even believe that governments intentionally use malwares or spying tools to extract data from people.

These days, in the realm of geopolitics, many countries are also using such tools to counter their foes. The alleged cyber-attacks by China on the US and Russian hacking activities during the US elections are some recent examples.

Man using Facebook
Are we safe enough while surfing Facebook?

In recent times, the issue has grown much deeper, and we are faced with some deeply uncomfortable questions:

1. Who is ultimately responsible for handling personal data online? Is it a company, the government or a group of people?

2. If all personal data online is encrypted, then who should have the key to unencrypt it?

3. Is it beneficial to hand over encrypted data to a company, a government or a group of people?

There are several examples where governments, companies and groups of people have used technology vivaciously:

1. Drones use infrared cameras, GPS and lasers. They are controlled either by a remote control system or a ground cockpit.

In recent times, technology has won over social problems. For example, the Department for International Development (DFID) funded drones to supply blood and medicines to mothers and babies in rural Tanzania. Indeed, this has evolved into a cutting-edge technology in our fight against diseases and medical emergencies.

2. is an aviation database. It is updated in real time with information about 150,000 flights, 7000 airports, 500,000 aircraft, and 1000 airlines.

3. is an online citizen-based movement committed to making a change. Avaaz uses the tools of social media, online petitions and online campaigns to address social problems.

Declining Internet Freedom And Possible Solutions

 According to the Freedom House Report on “Freedom on the Net 2016”, the level of internet freedom has declined for a sixth consecutive year. More governments have started censoring information for the public and increased surveillance on them by using privacy tools.

According to the list, the top three countries with free internet are Estonia, Iceland and Canada, while the top three countries with partly-free internet freedom are Brazil, Colombia and Nigeria. The countries which have performed the worst (with no free internet) are China, Syria and Iran.

Why have government authorities started to censor the internet freedom of the public masses? Why has there been a series of crackdowns on online activists? The rise of the right wing, radicalisation, unemployment, mistrust in democracy and the global political crisis might be some of the reasons.

However, the rise of internet connectivity has made globalisation more participatory, with the world witnessing a much faster growth. Why then is the government still so obsessed with online data? Can artificial intelligences (AIs) solve the data management issues of the world? Or are there other ways to solve this crisis? Brainstorming seems to be the need of the hour!

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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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