This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Areef Hussain Shaik. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

In A Left Vs. Right World, I Write To Fight For A Balanced Opinion On Social Issues

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Editor's note: Youth Ki Awaaz has turned 12, and this post is a part of #WhyIWrite, a campaign to celebrate Youth Ki Awaaz users who have spoken up about issues that matter to them. If you'd like to share what motivates you to write, publish your story here!

My life is full of blessings. From humble beginnings to reach where I am today, it was only possible because of the rich and diverse experiences, opportunities this beautiful country offered me. I feel a lifelong obligation to so many amazing people who helped me throughout my journey. People from different religions, regions, background, and beliefs. People who come together and help each other to grow, forming a magnificent rainbow,  showcasing the glory of our nation.

‘Unity in diversity’ – that’s the beauty and ethos of this country.

So naturally, whenever I see polarised arguments about social issues, I get very disappointed. Stereotypical narratives, ideological segregation, groupism, and whataboutery annoys me.

No result will be achieved by one side continuously blaming another side on a handful of issues. Blindsiding the turmoil that their own side is creating. I feel it’s never black and white, there are so many shades in between and so many underlining nuances. People should take some time to understand them before passing judgments without adequate analysis.

Especially it’s very saddening to see the youth getting acquainted with this type of discussion. Even some of my close friends who are educated, and good human beings at the core, are choosing one side and continuously blaming the other. I felt something needed to be done. That’s when I started writing. My intention from the beginning was to find common ground. To talk about the specific issue but not specific side or entity, to compare the pros and cons before making conclusions, to look for what can be improved than to cling to the past of what went wrong.

I wrote a blog for some time and became active on social media, posting about issues I have knowledge about and are close to my heart. But there is always a dissatisfaction that the situation, in general, is not improving. The ruckus of the mainstream media was only fuelling this animosity. The information flow was top down, not bottom up, with some pseudo intellectuals debating about social issues in the primetime news, shoving their ideology into the minds of the audience. There was no platform or opportunity for young people to think on their own. Resulting in left vs right in every goddamn issue.

But things changed after the rise of ‘Youth Ki Awaaz’. It was quite literally a mouthpiece for the youth. Diverse opinions and perspectives of so many people were celebrated on this platform. Where every voice matters. From politics to social taboos and injustices, from the environmental issue to unpleasant personal encounters every issue worth speaking were spoken of. It was a beacon of hope for me and an exciting opportunity to contribute my 2 cents.

My very first post was a quick one. It was about the unemployment crisis in India. While most people were just blaming the government for ‘selling pakora for livelihood’ rant, I wanted to shift the focus on the ‘play safe‘ culture cultivated by our parents and schools. My point was that only ease of entrepreneurship can create more jobs in India. This short post was appreciated by the editors of Youth Ki Awaaz and gave me the zeal to write more.

One of my impact making stories on this platform was about Patanjali group. While writing this piece I made a conscious effort to take the middle ground, I wanted to showcase both sides of the growth story of Patanjali with facts and statistics. This post was well received and it was overwhelming to see my mere thoughts resonate with so many readers.

So the message I want to give to every young person out there is to make the most of this chance. You never know the power of your unique perspective. Don’t let petty roadblocks like time management and lack of encouragement stop you from writing. As they say ‘If you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse’.

RED from Shawshank Redemption says “Some birds aren’t meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright” — This platform may very well be your chance to fly…

My hearty congratulations to ‘Team Youth Ki Awaaz’ for 10 successful years.

Keep fighting and may the force be with you!

PS: Bonus tip for budding writers – My secret weapon in getting motivated to write, this beautiful song from cat stevens.

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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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