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Not Gods, But Revolutionary Philosophers And Thinkers Define Religions

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Truth be said, all religions depict/teach the same thing. I believe that the original teachings of all religions are literally the same. We just don’t have the time to read about the teachings of other religions.

Jainism (Mahavir Jain), Hinduism (Shankaracharya, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Vivekananda and many others), Christians (Jesus), Islam (Prophet Muhammad), Sufism (Bulleh Shah, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai), Sikhism (Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, Guru Ravidas) – all of them were teaching the same things. These people were not gods, nor were they the messengers of gods. They were the great philosophers – the revolutionary ones in their own time. They gave revolutionary ideas from their own understanding of the society. And for me, a revolutionary is someone who change the course of people’s lives and that of society.

They were all rational in their own way, during the time they lived. All of them desired progress and taught and spread the revolutionary ideas of their time. In my opinion, they can even be called social scientists who tried to teach a ‘scientific’ theory, to bring a ‘scientific’ temperament into society. These philosophers never rejected the idea of God -probably because science was not as advanced in those times as it is, now. Humans were not able to control nature back then. So I find it very likely that most of them believed in the existence of God.

Then came the onslaught of religion and its long-lasting effects. And bang, things started to change. The relief provided by the true teachings of these philosophers gradually started to diminish, resulting in more miseries than ever before. People started fighting and killing each other in the name of religion.

In my opinion, the concept of religion was brought forth by some powerful or power-hungry people and authorities to divide and rule over the people and the countries. This is a kind of politics rulers have been playing from the very beginning, and it is still used in order to rule.

Similar arguments can also be given for the rise of the concepts of caste and race.

I don’t think that the religions were ever progressive, but the philosophers were. However, they were only ‘made to look’ progressive by adopting the revolutionary ideas of the philosophers and the social scientists. Religions were constructed on the basis of those philosophers – philosophers, not gods.

Be that what it may, but power-hungry people did two things:

1. They formed religions out of philosophies.

2. Then, they made the people fight in the name of different religions.

In that context, I agree with what one of my friends said: “Religion is nothing but a political manifestation of philosophy.”

Religious reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy fought for progressive reforms in Hinduism. He fought hard to abolish practices like sati and child marriage. He struggled a lot to do so, because orthodox Brahmins firmly opposed his ideas. He convinced the British to ban these practices and to formulate a law on it, though the British government never wanted to indulge themselves in ‘local practices’. Given the influence Raja Ram Mohan had, his ideas were gradually accepted by the religious authorities. If they hadn’t done so, people would probably have rebelled against the priests and the authority figures – or may be, they would have simply stopped following it.

As Megginson inferred from Darwin’s theory, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.” In a way, I believe that religions continued to reform themselves in order to survive and to rule.

Today, if you say that one religion is progressive while the other is not, it is only because of reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Time has always demanded the presence of revolutionary people and their revolutionary ideas. But, the supply is much lesser than the demand.

Powerful people do not want the masses to know the truth. Rulers do not want people to be critical thinkers. However, as long as the masses are not awake, we will not be able to progress. Proper education is the only way to give rise to critical thinking, to make the supply chain better and more efficient. But the authority figures are absolutely not willing to provide you this leeway. They don’t want you to become a rebel.

At the end of the day though, the choice is always ours.

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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.

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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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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
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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