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Shehla Rashid Threatened For Supporting Inter-Religious Marriage, Shuts FB Account

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Have you ever googled Shehla Rashid? She has often been in the news for her long-time association with the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). When Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the JNU Students’ Union was arrested, along with many others, Shehla took charge and presided over the protests, till they were released. We shouldn’t forget the fact that she has been an activist for many years. In the past, she has strongly voiced her protest against the rise of right-wing Hinduvta fundamentalism, wrongful arrests, human rights violations and assaults (of all kinds) on the freedom of speech.

All the arrests and the fiasco surrounding JNU students allegedly shouting “Pakistan zindabad” brought Shehla Rashid and Kanhaiya Kumar under the radar of right-wing bullies. Shehla has been prone to more such attacks for being a woman (especially from a particular religion), but this hasn’t stopped her from voicing strong opinions on public issues.

However, as much as she’s been involved in political protests, it would seem that she’s also been equally bullied. In my opinion, she’s always been a victim of cyber-bullying – for her strong political stances, her pro-Dalit stance and her constant questioning of the government.

Even though Shehla has waged a war against right-wing trolls for long, recently, she was forced to delete her Facebook account after getting rape threats from Muslim trolls. She was attacked for saying that Muslim women have the right to choose partners, and for extending her support for an inter-faith religion. She had said these while referring to the recent murder of Ankit Saxena, who was allegedly murdered by his Muslim girlfriend’s family.

Shehla went on to ask if the Muslim community would allow their daughters or sisters to marry someone outside their religion. However, after the backlash, she may have realised that the people attacking her weren’t right-wing trolls – and that they probably meant business. Consequently, she may have felt scared enough to deactivate her Facebook profile.

In my opinion, this kind of thing happens all the time. Groups of a particular political (or even religious) faith often try to intrude upon a majority of social media (especially Facebook) groups. They raid pages/twitter handles of known public figures – and sometimes, they even create R-rated twitter tags to embarrass public figures just to impose their political points.

But, the fact remains that these tactics are the same as the ones high school bullies may use against a teenager – even though the cyber-bullies may say otherwise.

In Shehla’s case, right-wing trolls didn’t take long to jump on the bandwagon and point out that she deserved it. To me, this is like telling someone who has been raped that they deserved it.

However, this line of reasoning holds that if a person did something objectionable, then it’s completely okay for the opponents to respond along similar lines. As a society, we need to rise above such impulses. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will make the world blind.

I think that Shehla’s case this time doesn’t revolve around the issue of what she said. Instead, her actions till the present day is the reason why different groups are still so irked with her. Additionally, in the past, there have been massive, politically-driven spear campaigns against JNU students to suppress the uprisings and the pro-Dalit movements, which question the current government at the Centre.

As I read through the screenshots of her Facebook profile (which has since been deleted) and scroll through her twitter feed, I can’t help but think of a scene in high school, where a group of students are trying to play a prank on another student. In some cases, the student being bullied may be so humiliated that they become scared to explain to everyone what actually happened.

To speak of this issue even further, in my opinion, some kids may become venomously mean – either because someone was mean to them, or because no one was there to check on them. This kind of behaviour can spread like a venom. The same is applicable to the bullies on social media.

Perhaps, we will all agree that it’s wrong to bully or play a dangerous prank on a high school kid. Neither is it okay to deface the social media handle of a popular figure with malicious comments and abuses about her character, work, family and whatever one can think of. In fact, we would be much better off if we didn’t have to resort to such behaviour.

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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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