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I Still Want To Believe In Aung San Suu Kyi’s Humanity And Greatness

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We gathered courage from Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle to bring democracy in her country. Her struggle for emancipating people who were deprived of their basic human rights gave us the hope to believe in her unconventional non-violent tactics.

But here we are again – feeling betrayed by our longings. In October last year, when the unrest happened in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and thousands of Rohingya were forced to leave their homeland and fled to neighbouring countries, I still kept my belief in Aung San Suu Kyi. I was hoping that Suu Kyi would take measures to stop the issue as soon as she felt that her reign in Myanmar was stable. Like many of her admirers, I was also hoping that she would rise against all odds and establish the fact that humanity would flourish. We are still waiting to see flashes of lights in one of the darkest hours of our time.

She has already proved that if one has an unwavering resolve and is geared up to face any difficulty to achieve their goals – sooner or later, the results will be positive. We used to assume that she reflected the rare combination of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. But for someone who was once an inspiration, how radically she has refused to point out the plight of the Rohingya population in Myanmar!

During Suu Kyi’s detention by the military junta in Myanmar, a lot of people around the world put their trust on Suu Kyi and protested for her immediate release. They were overwhelmed when Suu Kyi got the Noble Prize. When Suu became the de facto leader in Myanmar (after her party, National League of Democracy had a landslide victory in the 2015 general elections) our elation knew no bound. Even now, when I watch the biographical movie, “The Lady”, I feel rejuvenated enough to hail this victory of humanity.

But after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya militant group, attacked police posts on August 25, the situation in the Rakhine state has worsened. The military has started its brutal operation, which has led to more than 2,50,000 people fleeing to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. This has made it more difficult to handle the plight of the increasing number of persecuted Rohingya.

The armed forces in Myanmar retain powerful positions – and it is difficult for Suu Kyi to exercise control over them. The way they are killing and torturing one of the most persecuted minorities in the world is absolutely unacceptable. But, in her recent interviews, she has mentioned that the army is dealing with terrorists who have attacked the military after whatever the country has done for them. For a leader who is the state counsellor and enjoys more power than the President, how can she remain silent about the inhuman way in which the military is committing mass murder?

The only way Suu Kyi can protest is by raising her voice against one of the most brutal regimes in the world. However, instead of countering the army’s way of dealing with the crisis, Suu Kyi seems to be supporting the military’s activities. She has even asked the US Ambassador to Myanmar not to use the term ‘Rohingya’. This indicates that she is following the citizenship law imposed by the military junta in 1982, which didn’t consider the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar.

In her Nobel Lecture, she had said: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds for conflict.” When seen in this light, it would seem that the Rohingya have been suppressed for years and that the ‘arrangements’ made for them ensure that they remain one of the most poor, needy and vulnerable communities of the world.

Aid agencies are not being allowed to provide humanitarian support to the people displaced or isolated by this violence. When UN officials wanted to investigate the situation, Suu Kyi’s government put restrictions on their activities. In their hunt for the militants, the distribution of food, shelter and much-needed materials has been stopped. When asked about the reports and evidences pointing to the violence and brutality, Suu Kyi has denied or discarded these reports.

I still want to believe in her greatness. After all, she was the one who retaliated by saying“It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” I will not go to the extent of supporting the petition for revoking her Nobel Prize, which she once undoubtedly deserved.

I want to believe that Suu Kyi is the great leader who I look forward to when I see humanity in need of one. Like me, many people are hoping that Suu Kyi will eventually realise and address the inhuman treatment towards the Rohingya community and will take preventive measures to stop this unacceptable violence against humanity.


Featured image sources: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images, Nicolas Asfouri-Pool/Getty Images
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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.

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.

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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, 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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