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Twitter India Just Released Its ‘Most Followed’ List Of 2017. And Guess What Stands Out?

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9/10 are men.

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And most of them are actors, one is India’s most social media savvy PM, one female actor and one cricketer whom India is crazy about. Having been on Twitter for over five years, and seeing hardly any diversity among Indians on Twitter who are followed by millions, I really think it’s time for a change. I mean, Salman Khan literally tweets “Hahaha hehehe sorry” and he has almost 29 million followers?

In the pursuit of gunning for 2018 to be the year we follow more female, trans and non-binary voices, here’s a quick list of recommendations from me. I honestly don’t know about many trans and non-binary Indian voices on Twitter and would love it if you could tweet this piece out with your recommendations, or comment below and add suggestions. Let’s build this list together, shall we?

1. @Shamwoo: Shambhavi Saxena (Writer, ‘Asexual Feminist Vegan Bitch’, as per her Twitter bio)

A fierce voice on all things that kick the gender binary and the stereotypes that come with it, Shambhavi’s tweets are funny, insightful, and layered with super useful information for the woke millennial. She also tweets about asexuality and her experiences as someone who identifies as asexual – a perspective that is so important in our heteronormative society.

2. @KarnikaKohli: Karnika Kohli (Social Media Editor at The Wire, ‘Damaged adult, chai lover’ as per her Twitter bio)

According to me, one of the finest social media editors working for an independent publication, Karnika is extremely vocal about politics and its intersection with media. She isn’t afraid of questioning those in power, and tweets article links that usually turn out to be insightful reads.

3. @thirunangai: Grace Banu (Engineering student, trans activist)

India’s first trans engineering student, Grace Banu from Chennai is a bold voice urging for equality and asking for accountability from those in power. Her recent petition on why the government must reconsider the Trans Rights Bill 2016 has garnered mass support.

4. @Tejaswi2406: Tejaswini Tabhane (Student, ‘Ambedkarite Buddhist | Sweet nerd’ as per her Twitter bio)

The 18-year-old who schooled Shashi Tharoor about how it was his privilege that made him grow up in a seemingly ‘casteless’ society, Tejaswini is probably the most woke 18-year-old on Indian Twitter. Her timeline is full of news, views and opinion that rarely make it to mainstream media. 

5. @MerrilD: Merril Diniz (Head of Communications at SHEROES India)

Merril’s poignant and questioning voice serves as a reminder that accessible public spaces are not the norm in India. A fierce advocate for disability rights, Merril says it like it is. And as a part of one of the country’s largest women networks, she shares unheard stories of powerful women and perspectives about women at work.

6. @KhabarLahariya: Khabar Lahariya

India’s only newspaper run solely by women from rural U.P., Khabar Lahariya is challenging a largely male-dominated, corporatised media through gritty, honest journalism in regional languages. Following them on Twitter is also about following what they stand for, and how they aim to change the face of media in the coming years.

7. @hirishitalkies: Richa Kaul Padte (Managing Editor of ‘Deep Dives’)

Richa has just written a book called ‘Cyber Sexy’, on rethinking pornography in India. In a country that stigmatises porn and sex, Richa manages ‘Deep Dives’, a path-breaking publication that explores the intersection of sexuality and the internet. Follow her for some inspiration to break taboos and some excellent writing.

8. @mskalki: Kalki Subramaniam (Trans rights activist)

A bold voice on Twitter, Kalki questions stereotypes against trans people and shares news and updates about her community that rarely make it to mainstream media. One of her recent tweets was deeply thought-provoking for me: “If a cis woman wins beauty title her life changes for best, if a trans woman wins a beauty title she remains as a sex worker or beggar.”

These are just eight names from the hundreds of people I follow, and the many kick-ass women who fill my timeline with a lot of inspiration and insight. Let’s build this list together – and make it more diverse in terms of class, caste, gender, topics and profession. Please tweet this out with our recommendations, and I’ll update the list as we go on. Feel free to tweet to me @lipi_meh with your suggestions too. Let’s challenge ourselves to follow more diverse voices in 2018. Peace. 

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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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