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A Separatist Leader’s Daughter Topped J&K Boards And Social Media Only Had Hate To Offer

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“Wonder Woman”, a 2017 American superhero film based on one of the largest and oldest American comic books from DC comics, directed by Patty Jenkins, opens with the voice of Gal Gadot, who plays Daina Prince/Wonder Woman:

“I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place. But I knew so little then. It’s a land of beauty and wonder, worth cherishing in every way,” she says. “But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness simmering within. I learned this the hard way, a long, long time ago.”

This may be true for someone who recently outclassed everyone else in the CBSE Board Examination. I assure Gal Gadot that the daughter of Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (JKDFP) chief Shabir Ahmed Shah has come face-to-face with the simmering darkness in a harder way.

On May 26, this year, daughter of separatist leader Shabir Shah, who is currently in Tihar jail, topped the CBSE Class 12 exams in Jammu and Kashmir. A student of Delhi Public School (DPS) Athwajan, Srinagar, Sama Shabir Shah secured 97.8% marks.

Ahead of this news, many people in Kashmir realized that the world suffers from an incessant shortage of appreciation, good and informed manners. Some people, instead of congratulating the girl, started challenging her outlook. Others were busy circulating her videos and uploading screenshots of pictures on freshly created Instagram accounts despite knowing the difficult circumstances she faced with her father in Tihar. Almost none of them gladly praised the young student.

In some parts of the world, young people are often taught fair treatment, how to widen access to their dreams and how to disagree in a civil manner. But a particular section of people around the world wants nothing to do with this. In these peoples’ imagination, the families of political leaders appear and disappear all day long in what they call as unlawful clothes, and disgrace follows.

In 2016, when Afzal Guru’s son scored distinction in his 10th class board exams, a fake quote in the name of Anupam Kher sought the rechecking of his papers to which Ghalib Guru responded, “Anybody who is interested to check my papers he/she can check and my marks will not slash but surely will increase.”

After this statement, people in Kashmir kept their screens buzzing with “Ghalib’s befitting reply to Anupam Kher” posts on social media.

Everybody started to shift their focus towards Ghalib and flooded their social media timeline in support. Even now, another young student is facing a crisis but this time people are not ready to uphold the moral responsibility to support her. Some people blame this tragedy on gender inequality in the valley while others have a different story to tell.

According to some in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, some girls on social media networks are creating the wrong kind of attention for themselves in an attempt to be viewed in a certain way. Instead of being recognized for their intelligence, thoughts and ideas, they are objectifying themselves. They believe that this creates a general notion about girls among countless social media users who then see every other girl with the same thought.

One of the reasons, they think, is that women are in a constant battle to be seen as equals and this prevents progress because their goal shifts from doing something good in society to being seen as equals. So when a girl achieves something based on her intellect, these users deny her capacity and see her in the same light.

According to Statista, which generates data on social media and users, social networking is one of the most popular online activities with high user engagement rates and expanding mobile possibilities. It states that social networking penetration worldwide is ever increasing and it is estimated that in 2019 there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the globe and these figures are expected to grow up from 2.46 billion in 2017.

2018 is the year of pride in Jammu and Kashmir. Sama Shabir, daughter of Jammu and Kashmir separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah, has topped the 12th board examination in the state. This time inspiration came to our doorsteps, but most social media users have ignored the hardships she faced in the midst of the Indian fury. Some users are also questioning her studying in one of the elite schools in Kashmir.

Contrary to what some users are showing to their audience outside about Jammu and Kashmir, there are still people who are proud for her.

A Srinagar-based journalist and editor, Majid Maqbool, while reacting on the issue wrote on his Facebook timeline, Sama Shabir has excelled and done what she was supposed to do despite difficult circumstances. Now those circulating her vidoes speak more about themselves than her, or her father. Leave her alone. Better still, mind your own work. Or support the education of a pellet hit student, for example. Elders, adults who provide lengthy juvenile arguments, criticizing her and commenting on what clothes she wears, should think about spending a week, minus Facebook, in a jail cell or confined to their homes, to imagine what decades of incarceration and separation means for the daughter, and her father.”

We need to rise up from the wild accusations, false claims and show respect to the family.

May sense and peace prevail in its true sense!

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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.

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.

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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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