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“I Write Because Words Are Magical And Can Change The World”

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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!

Why do I write? That is a tricky question. Different people write for different reasons—to vent their anger, to remove their loneliness, to give themselves a voice to be heard, etc. The reason I write is that I believe the written word has the power to influence people, the power to create change. People tend to believe much more in the written word than they do in speech.

I believe words themselves are magical, they are from a fantasy land. Using words is like casting a spell or dabbling in witchcraft which can bring any kind of world alive right before your eyes. But most importantly, they are a joy to behold, and the satisfaction that I get from writing something down, by creating something—a child of my own, nurtured and shaped by me—is something else.

Close up woman hand writing on notebook
I believe the written word has the power to influence people, the power to create change.

I am more of a fiction writer, and therefore, I used to make up crazy stories in my head from the age of five. I didn’t even know how to read, so I used to bring books from school and then force my mother to read them out to me. I think it was always in my genes to write. My family was always a big supporter of education and always believed that one never stopped learning. My grandmother was an avid reader and so was my mother.

My grandfather had actually said with his last breath that he wanted me to be well-educated. My father would have turned out to be a writer himself if life had allowed him. He used to devour so many books at a time, much like I do now, but he also had a habit of noting down any lines of prose or poetry that he thought were well-written. He had a trunk full of such notebooks, and still goes back to them whenever he gets the time.

So it was quite inevitable that I would turn out to be a writer too. I still remember the first time my work was ever published. I was really small then, in class 3 or 4. We were asked to write a few lines on how we had spent our Durga Puja vacations. I had written a small piece on it – like about five to six lines about the places we went to and other things. But my teacher was so impressed that she gave it to the Principal, who published it in the annual school magazine. The pride and joy that I saw in my parents’ eyes were enough to make me believe that my path was set. And since then, I have been writing and making up as many stories as possible. I was the go-to person whenever there were any speeches to be written or a paper to be presented, and my teachers would read out my stories in front of the class as an example of good imagination. I was even chosen to be the school reporter in my last year of school for the Times of India. And on and on it went, until I actually started earning from my work.

Now, let me come back to the question of why I write. I know that this website is mostly a platform for people to comment on any socio-political issues going on in our country, while I am mostly a fiction writer. I am not one of those crusaders who write to inspire people to revolt, to bring about social change, to voice my opinion on the debilitating condition of our government, to comment on tragic world affairs. No, I am not one of those youths who are just so angry with the way things are that they need to talk about it to someone or they will burst. Now it’s not that I don’t feel for any issue at all or that I don’t care about anything that goes on in the world and live in a bubble. No, I am as much affected by any socio-political issue as the next person is, but I have a slightly more passive approach to it.

You see, I don’t believe that just expressing your anger on social media is going to help. I think that if people really do want some kind of change, then you have to go out there and make it happen. Take responsibility, go on the roads and bring down the people responsible.

Because let’s face it, sitting behind a computer or a television set and just commenting about how the country is going to the dogs is not going to help. If you think something is wrong and has to be changed, then you have to dirty your hands and feel the pain yourself. It has become more of a trend to just sit back and rant on social media websites. People just wait for something to happen and they can start blaming any organisation, caste, community, creed, or individual.

Take the Kathua case, for example. When news came out about an eight-year-old having to suffer such brutalisation for the sake of creating a religious divide, everyone immediately took to social media about how our society is flawed and we are such hypocrites and the government is unable to take action, and so on. But would these people help another girl who they meet on the road being eve-teased or bullied? They are more likely to say that it is none of their business. And I am not just making this up, I am saying this out of experience. I had witnessed two girls being harassed by a sleazy gentleman in a public place in broad daylight and no one lifted a finger to help them until I myself called the police. So what is the use of ranting so much about change on social media until we actually do something about it?

Now I am not saying that people should stop sharing stuff about such issues completely. But people should also confirm whether the news they are sharing is actually true or not. What I’ve realised is that many people want to keep up this persona of being socially aware but they don’t really care whether any news is truthful or not. Or maybe it’s just that our society has become so used to being oppressed, molested, screwed in the name of economy, caste, religion, etc. that we have developed this thick skin that until something happens to us personally, we do not care. We have developed these two personalities – an online and an offline one – a crusader of social justice, and a lover of comfort.

Now since I am more of a fiction writer, I have my own way of dealing with such situations. Instead of just taking up the support of social media anonymity, I couch all my anger, despair, hopes, and need for justice, into a nice little story of history or mythology or elves and goblins, cover it with a sprinkling of sarcasm and dark humor, and wrap it up in a sweet pill that is easy for people to swallow. So, why do I write? Because I believe that words are magic, and all good stories have the power to defeat evil and restore peace and justice to the world.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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