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In A Country Where Speaking Truth To Power Is Silenced, 10 Indians Share Why They Write

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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!

As Young Ki Awaaz completed 10 years in March 2018, hundreds of users stormed the Internet with #WhyIWrite. They wrote about what inspires them to write, proving that in a country where trolls run amok, those who speak truth to power can’t be silenced. From discussing the healing and cathartic power of writing, to seeing it as a means of sharing one’s angst, anger, feelings and more, the reasons are aplenty. Take a look at 10 such reasons:

1. Abha Khetarpal: Through my writings, I aim to dismantle the idea that living with a disability is either something to be pitied or an inspirational act.

 

“I believe that if young persons with disabilities also start writing about their unique set of personal accounts and share experiences of their families in areas like healthcare, education, and employment, all of this can personalise advocacy.”

2. Shahla Khan: I write because I am angry.

 

“The more I watched the news… I felt that rage, that helplessness. I was sleepless for nights. I saw the protests by the students and the police brutality too. I wanted to do something but didn’t know what. At that point, I had this thought about the power of writing and how I could use it to help the cause of saving women from male violence.”

3. Ankita Sharma: Because women deserve to be heard.

 

“It’s cathartic. I have been tagged a feminist in my circles because of the pieces I write and I am proud of it. Everyone should write, in my opinion. Writing for me is about ideas, it reaches out to people and believe me, I have seen people changing their views over a well-crafted writeup.”

4. Aman Sinha: To unlock the achievements of my life.

 

“Think of those moments – when you were too drunk, the rush of enthusiasm when India won a match, the dances we did on our birthdays, the beautiful rhythm of the music we listened to. Happiness and confidence create a loop to unlock achievements. In the end, I have a few companions who can dance to any song after two pegs of alcohol. I wonder if my friends will be crying on the last day of college.”

5. Yash Marwah: Because I have seen change spark more change.

 

“I wrote about Gurmehar Kaur on Youth Ki Awaaz. About why Kiren Rijiju is wrong about her and people who are polluting her. I wrote about my personal problem with the goons that have messed up our universities. I wrote about environmentalists and the Save Aarey issue. That made me change things myself, rather than just write about it. I write about change and changemakers because the will to change is contagious. Just like the will to sit back and watch the world burn.”

6. Minakshi Bujarbaruah: To share unheard stories from Assam and the northeast.

 

“Journalism as a profession has also primarily been male-dominated and this is more so when one speaks of the northeast and Assam. There are only a few women writers who have made it up there and considered ‘successful’ enough. Irrespective of the success bit of it, it is time women are encouraged to write. To write not only to publish, but to develop an art and skill of writing, to enjoy this beautiful experience of penning down, to voice the angst, to subvert the dominant narrative, to question and to critically argue.”

7. Quratulain Rehbar: Writing is how I tell the world about the real Kashmir.

 

“Kashmir, I believe writing has helped everyone here counter the negative narrative of Kashmir. To correct the facts, I write about reality. I write when someone is killed in Kashmir and about the injustice faced by them. I write when our rights are repeatedly violated. I write to narrate the pains of funerals which have become a norm now. I write when the ones who rule us make repeated farce promises.”

8. Rachit Shah: Because whether we realise or not, our words are making a huge impact.

 

“The issues our parents struggled with are different from the issues we strongly feel about. They had to work hard to earn the bread and we have to work hard to deal with social media anxiety. Each generation has had a unique set of problems. The advantage we have though is that we have the luxury of getting heard easily. The online platforms allow us to voice our points, spread awareness and in turn, find company to work with on these issues. So let’s keep our words flowing, whether we realise it or not, it is making a huge impact.”

9. Priyanka Pardasani: For me, writing is therapy and rebellion.

 

“I feel that writing is a physical manifestation of all that happens inside of my mind, so in order to keep my body healthy, I write to express all the pain I feel.”

10. Akshita Prasad: Because I see women being owned, discarded and silenced

 

“I write because I see that political statements are often rhetoric; I see women being owned, discarded, and silenced; I see the toxic myth of real masculinity that patriarchy perpetrates and the lives this myth shapes; I see marriage equality being granted as a privilege that should be met with gratitude and not as a basic right.”


Why do you write? What inspires you, what pushes you to write? Publish your story with #WhyIWrite here.

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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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