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The Working Class Shall Not Wait

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Most recently, a number of news regarding the life of labour has been heard across the country and outside. Workers of the world have been at the receiving end of exploitation from the age of feudalism itself. They are the ones who actually move the system even though the tools of control are in someone else’s hands. The vehicles that we see, the roads we travel, the buildings in which we reside, the food which we eat and even the clothes we wear are made by the workers in the society. They actually build the society around us. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their work, Communist Manifesto stated, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

The working class or the proletariat have been facing exploitation in all the courses of history. Both capitalist and feudal modes of production existed side by side, but one had to win. Due to feudal ties upon the land and other general feudal organisations, capitalists didn’t get the freedom of centralising capital. But through the evolution of manufacturing, it doomed the feudal system steadily and the new system of profit oriented capitalism came into existence. It didn’t help the working class but ruined their life even more. The bourgeoisie were the middle privileged class that originated with the help of feudal society.

Marx observed that the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production. The way they make a profit is through exploiting the proletariat. In this era of neo-liberalism, where the media propaganda lies in different types of societal glamorous components like music glorifying violence, anarchism, tolerance of drug uses, television soap operas with unprogressive and conservative propaganda, etc, it has made the society not believe in the idea of unions or raising concerns while its neighbour is in trouble.

All these years capitalism has made the working class believe that they should ‘work more’ for earning and blame not their employer but fate for not being on the right path. A mainstream media that only glorifies the success stories but won’t let the proletariat figure out that exploitation would come to an end when they unionise, call for reforms, relief of provident fund and other benefits.

Dissecting Farmers’ Problems

While we talk about the working class groups that really help in moving the day-to-day structure of the social system, it has to be analysed on the basis of the field of work in which each exists and manages to survive.

The agrarian crisis started when globalisation and open market intruded into the farm economy. When the world capitalism was facing crucial failures, steps were regularly taken to modify the economic policies with the help of World Trade Organization in many developing and underdeveloped countries. Economic reforms monitored by capitalists crawled into the third world countries through the luscious term ‘globalisation’.

Puppets of capitalists – neoliberals – in those third world countries worked inside the society to make them believe that it would bring relief, but, it further damaged the situation by giving capitalists the power to make changes in national and even in provincial (within state) economic status.

Farmers and farm workers have to be referred to differently. There are big farmers and marginal farmers. In the case of India, the aftermath of the Green Revolution helped a smaller section of the rural farmers to become bourgeois farmers. The 2011-12 agricultural census shows that almost 5% of the farmers control 32% of India’s farmland. Even though the intense pressure of population on land, challenging weather and loss of fertility in soil accounts for today’s agrarian crisis, this could have been overcome if planned and effective reforms were made from the second five-year-plan itself.

The agrarian crisis alone killed over three lakh farmers since 1995, the data from the National Crime Records Bureau tells us.

In the rural areas of India, this condition exists even today due to lack of literacy and materialistic education. While referring to the need of literacy and materialism in educating the proletariat, it means they need to have the knowledge of differentiating things according to those matters.

Addressing Domestic Workers And Rag Pickers

People that we see each day picking up garbage, raking leaves, cleaning the windows of shops, filling potholes, scavenging (even though it is illegal, many manual scavengers continue to exist and some get killed) keep the city clean while we make it dirtier each day. They usually maintain the social stability for the smooth running of the elites in day-to-day life.

Domestic workers constitute of those who are doing part-time or full-time or even a life-time in the field. There are over 67 million domestic workers across the world out of which 80% are women. Even though they have rights and acts to protect them, most work as slaves.

Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.

Today in India, an average domestic worker earns only ₹6000 to ₹9000 a month. The people working in this unorganised sector are being utilised as slaves for minimum pay and a significant number of such workers face sexual harassment. Sex work is not a job offered but it is a path that lit up for a section of society when nothing is left other than illiteracy and unemployment. Slavery has many faces in each country.

There is an oppressed community living and being forced to do job under an oppressor. Being a slave in another social, cultural and environmental condition does not mean it is not slavery. In pre-historic times, since men had muscular power they went out hunting and women would take part in cooking and other activities.

Now the reason why women are most commonly employed by capitalists for domestic work is that they are prepared to work for a low wage to earn a ‘little extra’ for themselves and their family for a single crust of bread. Women who were exploited as a commodity by slave-owners and medieval feudal lords still continue to be like that even after centuries.

Rag pickers and garbage workers who earn a very small amount each month (those under private agencies) aren’t an organised section. They work on daily basis for the same reason as that of a petty bourgeoisie who works in an a/c cabin. The work load is different in both situations, even though the pay is similar. Addressing these issues in a social system is somehow related to analysing how wealth is distributed. The lower section of society has remained the same for the past 50 years. But that of the higher section has become bigger and bigger by consolidating its wealth.

God Is Corrupt

Working class people undergo lots of struggles each day in their workplace amidst the existing suffocating social structure. Since the belief in god and supernatural power exists in the society, many from the working class have no alternative and mostly end up at temples. Many from the working class become superstitious and start blaming their forefathers and fate.

A daily wage worker, being faithful that one day their living condition will change prays to the same god a bourgeois middle class entrepreneur prays to. The god here plays the role of a CCTV camera which can only be a surveillant. Because ‘creator’ or ‘god’ is a brainchild which evolved as an idea with the help of a significant factor – fear.

In philosophical materialism, such a thing does not exist. As I mentioned earlier, this is the reason why the need of materialism in education is necessary. Everything around us is composed of atoms and molecules. The palpable products that we see are extracted from the environment. The role of religion, caste, god and faith drives human to believe in non-existential elements which in turn play a major role in the communal polarisation of the society. What capitalists fear the most is an educated as well as a unionised proletariat. So capitalists make use of these elements to divide the proletariat into groups and prevent them from unionising.

A display of proletarian women’s poverty and indigence will bring a different benefit: it will help wage-slaves, both men and women, to understand their condition, look back over their ‘life’, ponder the conditions for emancipation from this perpetual yoke of want, poverty, prostitution and every kind of outrage against the have-notssaid V.I Lenin in reference to the need of how the proletariat should become the vanguard of a new era. The world witnessed the most powerful and effective proletariat revolution in 1917 in Russia when the Tsar imperial government was overthrown.

The present commodity fetishistic society has a way lot to understand and learn. In a capitalist world, more than 800 million lack access to clean water; 795 million people are undernourished, millions die due to preventable diseases and other alarming statistics exist as well.

These people suffer not because we lack the ability to solve these problems but because it is not profitable to do so. When half of the world’s entire wealth is controlled by 1% of the world population, it is time for each to examine where the problem lies. Is it with the society that constitutes the working class or the growing imperial capitalism? For answers, one has to look into one’s own society.
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Image source: Uriel Sinai/ 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.

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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.”

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.

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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 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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