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7 Steps To Get You Started On That Piece You’ve Waited Far Too Long To Write

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You saw something. An idea struck your mind and you realised that this is something you want to address. The medium you choose? You decide to write a story!

Writing personal stories and experiences is mostly a straightforward process. The more in-depth pieces, needing a careful analysis of theories and complicated concepts are a little trickier.

While both styles share a common foundation. The big question is – where do you begin?

It does sound like an intimidating goal. Especially for first-time writers. But believe me, when I say, it’s really not that tough.

Here’s a little guide that might help you research for your first article or help you out with your 150th!

Step 1: Decide Your Topic And Find An Angle

The most important part of beginning your article is to decide your topic (duh) and find an angle that makes your piece different from others.*

(*Note: You need a ‘different angle’ because, in today’s social media age, the most obvious angle has been worked on within the first hour, and you’d end up with a story many have already read about.)

The simplest method to do this is to break down the topic and then think about the following things:

  • Why are you interested in this topic?
  • What’s the new angle you have?
  • Why does this topic/angle matter now?
  • Why will reader want to read this?

If you can answer all of the above, let’s move on. If not, it might be time to go back a little, brainstorm and then come back to check.

Step 2: Read Up On What Others Are Saying

Now that you have a broad topic and angle, it’s time to do some deep searching. You may have read up a lot on the topic already – (I usually open a Google doc, and save every link I read. Believe me, this doc is important and will be used in almost every step here on) and now it’s time to filter it.

If your story is absolutely unique, you can, of course, skip over this next list, but I’d recommend to give it a glance once.

Here’s what I suggest you should do:

  • Try to figure out why dominant media has missed out on what you want to address.
  • This one is important: Look for a narrative that completely disagrees with yours. Then, figure out why. Sometimes, sadly, they may bring up a point that totally takes down yours. It sucks, but this is important.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re good to go ahead. However, if you’ve stumbled on something that kills your idea, I’d suggest you go back, read up a little more and try again!

Step 3: Get Some Perspective And History

Trying to understand what is happening, why, and for how long it has been going on, will be extremely valuable for your piece.

Just like any good fictional story, your piece too, would need a bit of context, which will only come from when you do lots and lots of reading up (remember the Google doc we talked about? Use it here too!).

Especially if you are looking at theories, concepts and research to be quoted in the article, do think of these points:

  • What’s your source?
  • What is the context this piece is using to talk about your topic?
  • Who is ‘saying’ the information? Can they be biased?
  • What does the piece you’re reading want to prove?

Understanding context is extremely important while writing. It can make or break your story, and greatly affect the reader’s perception.

Step 4: You’ve Collected The Information, But Is It Relevant?

Since you’re almost at the writing stage, you need to take a broad look at the information you actually want to use in your piece.

You have the points that you know will work. But are they going to hold up as ‘credible information’?

What works:

  • Something you saw first hand
  • Conversations and interviews, reports from newspapers and trusted news websites
  • Trusted books, journals, etc.
  • Public information platforms

What really doesn’t:

  • Your personal opinion that cannot be substantiated
  • The views of someone who was clearly biased or have been taken out of context
  • Reports from fake news sites or forums like Quora, Shankland.com, iknowerb.com, etc.
  • Something you heard, but could never trace for proof.

Once you have a general understanding to ensure that your information is good to go.

Step 5: Figure Out Who You Can Talk To To Support Your Story

Interviews or quotes are extremely helpful when you wish to back up your arguments. You can either source them yourself or use the internet and media to quote existing statements. For both, here are a few questions you should ask yourself before including quotes from anyone into your narrative

Think about:

  • Why does this person’s opinion matter?
  • Have they publicly taken a stand on the matter before? If yes, then what is it?
  • What do you think they’ll say to help your narrative?
  • What if they say the exact opposite of what you want them to say? If they advocate for the opposite, it’s a good idea to put that in too. This helps make sure your article is balanced and looks at all perspectives (yes even if you do not believe or back the ‘other perspective).

Step 6: Decide How You Want To Present Your Argument And Define A Structure

Now I know you might be probably thinking, “Well this is not what this piece is supposed to be about.” But keeping a basic idea of how you want to present your information (long form, photostory, short crisp opinion article using infographics, etc) is something that shall help you when you research tremendously.

If you want to say use infographics, you would most likely wish to focus on numerical data whereas if you wish to do a long-form story, context and in-depth research will be what you’ll be looking for.

Step 7: It’s Time To Write!

If you followed all the tips above, I’m pretty sure you’re good to go.

Remember that plagiarism is never appreciated and your own opinions are extremely important.

In today’s day and age, writing can be a powerful tool, and it’s up to you to harness it in order to bring about a change. Thousands have done it, and now, it’s time for you too!

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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 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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