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The Reality Of A Journalist’s Life Beat My Preconceived Notion, But I Still Want To Be One

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Ducking the clichés of opting for conventional career options like medicine and law, some people decide to enter the ‘tunnel’ of creative and professional courses. They decide to endure the journey through the tunnel, waiting to uncover the amazement and experience the exclusivity of choosing professional courses. I use this analogy, and the word ‘tunnel’, not to highlight their alleged inferiority, compared to other streams, but figuratively to depict the unexplored, mysterious and unknown road that not many people traverse on, but is full of opportunities.

Leaving my science background after qualifying for the competitive exams and being just one step away from studying in a good MBBS college, I decided to take a firm (and filmy) decision of pursuing the career of journalism and mass communication, with the aim of exploring my writing skills and becoming a hardcore journalist.

Just like every other course, the reality and practicality beat our preconceived notions. While my idea of the course was limited to being in front of the camera and reading news, I realised how faulty my notion was, after attending college. I made friends in different colleges who, willingly or due to compulsion, ended up in similar courses facing the same problem of misplaced notions. The complete picture wasn’t that perfect. We learnt how this branch of applied humanities had a plethora of options and numerous areas of specialisations, with various avenues to explore and take recourse to. Journalists work round the clock, there’s no stopping- that’s what we had gotten ourselves into.

“Mic mil jata hai toh kuch bhi bolte hain aaj kal ke reporters” (once reporters get hold of the mic, they say whatever comes to them), is what I hear the elderly talk about in waiting rooms, or while travelling in public transport. And, I feel there’s a lot that goes unacknowledged and unnoticed. There’s not a single student in this stream who does not have the fire, passion and vigour to bring about change and to write the right. Fighting hierarchy, exposure to reality during internships and seeing the ‘system’ from up close is what acts as a deal breaker and, eventually, drowns the enthusiasm at some point.

Journalism, as a career choice, hasn’t been a go-to for many in the past, but over time, it has become a profession chosen out of love. Also, with time many colleges have started offering it. But, in today’s scenario of paid media and the general public condemnation of present-day media tactics, being a student in the same field, is exhausting yet adventurous.

There is a certain code of ethics, principles, laws and precedents set by our Constitution, which all of us are taught to abide by. Unfortunately, in the contemporary scenario, its applicability is only on paper, and not in action. The simplest practices of not revealing the victims’, survivors’ and/or abusers’ names are not paid heed to; and, since news channels present the news extravagantly, it interests the general public and feeds their curiosity, thereby giving leeway to such unethical display by news channels.

“A journalist is expected to deliver unbiased truth to the public to educate them, keeping their personal opinions aside.” This is the definition we write in our theory papers, while we see the biggest and the most influential news channels defying this statement every day, and picking sides for parties in power. The most recent series of stings conducted by Cobrapost is the biggest example to back my case. It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between the entertainment industry and the news industry.

The media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy. As budding journalists, we need to understand the amount of responsibility our profession carries, the ethics it symbolises and the opportunity cost of the choices we make.

Amidst the agenda-setting tactics of the media, I see the general public, unaware of the news that’s being fed to them, suffer the most because misinformation is worse than no news. The credibility of a lot of sources of news is disputed and, hence, there’s a need for awareness of the information we consume. We must make it a habit to be careful of what we believe in.

Let us not be blinded by the opinions and choices of the reporters, and not base our opinions on the partial news we are served. Let us, the public, make that choice. There is a long way to go, but that is the ideal way. In a world, where the ideal is increasingly becoming utopian, let’s try to defy that norm by promising ourselves vigilance, impartiality and awareness.

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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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