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DU And JNU Have A Clear Message For ABVP This Election

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Congress-backed National Students Union of India (NSUI) has bagged the top two posts of President and Vice President in Delhi University Students Union elections today, while RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has had to contend with the Secretary and Joint Secretary’s posts.

While it may look like a case of sharing spoils, it is a major setback for ABVP, which had emerged victorious on at least three of the four posts for the past five years.

This follows a sweeping victory for the United Left Front in Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU). All India Students’ Association (AISA), Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Students Federation (DSF) joined hands against a common nemesis to emerge victorious on all four seats.

With these two defeats for ABVP within the space of a week, the writing in Delhi’s university spaces seems to be on the wall. The message, loud and clear from Delhi’s university students, seems to be – anyone but ABVP.

Riding on a right-wing wave across the country, ABVP had been ruling the roost in DUSU for quite a while now. However, of late it seems like their agenda of Hindutva and ultra-nationalism has only backfired.

Following what happened at Ramjas College in February this year, Delhi’s top universities have set a precedent. That these are progressive spaces with no place for fascist forces, irrespective of the political environment across the country.

Students were beaten, stones were thrown at peaceful conferences while faculty members and journalists were publically threatened. The highly notorious Satender Awana of ABVP, former DUSU President, had led a charge against the “anti-national and communist” forces in what was supposed to be a peaceful event, irking an entire fraternity of students and teachers alike.

Similarly, following their surprising victory for the post of Joint Secretary in JNU in 2015, ABVP tried to bite more than it can chew by trying to divide the campus by trying to create a ruckus in February 2016. The incident involving the arrests of student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khaled helped in consolidating an even stronger position for the Left Unity, with them winning all the four seats for the past two consecutive years.

The ABVP may like to believe that it has made significant inroads in a traditionally left-dominated bastion like JNU by finishing second on all the four seats this year. However, the DUSU defeat shows that students have chosen the strongest possible alternative to the one party they did not want to win – ABVP.

If one takes a close look at the numbers, it can be seen that the ABVP has finished second best in both the elections. However, both JNU and DU have chosen parties which have a traditional foothold in their respective spaces, not taking a risk with a new entrant. This is evident with AISA’s and NSUI’s dismal results, in DU and JNUSU respectively.

Campus politics in Delhi University is often replete with divisions along region, language and caste lines, among others. To win an election, parties would need to get these many different groups on their sides. Under the Hindutva umbrella, ABVP had been able to surpass these many divides and create a binary. And they reaped the benefits of this binary while smaller groups were busy fighting each other.

Similarly, in JNU, while various factions of the Left were busy disagreeing and debating with each other, ABVP represented itself as the only voice of the right. That is how it was able to tap the void in the campus.

However, learning from their mistakes and fed up of their acts of depredation, all factions combined to oppose a common enemy on both the campuses. All the other issues were kept aside and it all boiled down to an ideological battle.

The examples of these two universities show that by keeping differences aside, a strong opposition against the Sangh Parivar and its offshoots can be mustered. If this can be replicated at a national level, things may not be as easy for Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janta Party as well, come the 2019 elections.

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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.

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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.

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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