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Here’s How The Youth Are Going To Change Governance In India

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India is a country with an abundance of resources. Our development, to a large extent, depends on these resources and human power working efficiently.

India is known the world over for its diversity, vibrant cultures, heritage, the prevalence of agriculture, and being the ‘youngest country’. But it is also known for the delay in services, improper governance, youth unemployment, violence towards women, and high levels of pollution in its cities. The recent initiatives by the Government of India in several streams have helped India to move towards more effective governance and innovative problem-solving.

My ‘Idea of India’ is centred on how a participatory democracy can develop a country holistically. A participatory democracy means the media, research institutions, leaders, bureaucrats, policymakers, governments, and every citizen collaborate towards achieving a common goal. To make a participatory pattern in the country, we need a practical strategy that works from the grassroots. We know that a District Planning Committee (DPC)- a constitutionally recognised planning body – plays a key role in bottom-up planning in every state government. But, in reality, there are no active DPCs in states like Telangana or Tamil Nadu. Therefore, there is no active local leadership or participation in gram sabhas.

A Strategic Youth Team Can Make A Difference

To reduce the inefficiencies mentioned above, we might form a strong multidisciplinary team of young professionals. Understanding the intricacies of government policies is just one requirement. Bringing in knowledge from various fields is another. Members should be diverse – sociologists, psychologists, political leaders, political and financial analysts, environmentalists, health professionals, educators, lawyers, journalists, scientists, entrepreneurs, feminists, and local government representatives.

This team can be altered as per the sectional area, from local governments to the Centre. And these would be its tasks:

To Address Data Gaps

Sometimes government schemes don’t meet their targets because of data gaps. To remove these, the Young Policymakers Team can gather, collate, and study information from various public institutions, as well as independent research, academic journals, and websites.

Real-time information will be gathered through participatory methods like interviews, observations, surveys, and more. Then follows a comparison of secondary data and field-specific data. In tandem, there must be a discussion involving academicians, professionals, elected members and other stakeholders.

We can achieve this through three methods: the use of participatory techniques; mapping government initiatives; and preparing a draft document of findings.

Techniques like social mapping, resource mapping, ‘Problem Tree’ analysis, and seasonal mapping an help capture the needs and concerns of different categories, like youth, adolescents, adults, women, people from SC/ST groups, people with disabilities and more.

The next step is studying the official response to these. Establishing partnerships with relevant government agencies and other stakeholders (community organisations, NGOs, development organisations) can help devise initiatives and interventions.

And the final step for the team, after collating data (from both the use of participating techniques and mapping of the initiatives), is to prepare a Draft document, to be circulated among opinion makers, seeking their views.

These three measures will be the basis for a priority discussion among the team on how to strengthen the system.

Making Gram Panchayats Active

The task of the Young Policymakers Team will be to identify the problems of leaders in local governments and create leadership enhancement strategies. To that end, it would be helpful to partner with the National Institute of Rural Development, the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development and others that work on leadership enhancement in village panchayats. These Institutions can frame training programmes in such a way that leaders gain immense knowledge about village panchayats, their importance, functions, areas of priority, and funds generations. Even people who may be illiterate should be able to actively participate in the gram sabhas.

The Team should also take an interest in making women aware of their powers in the village panchayat. Women must know how to involve themselves in village development planning, in improving the standard of living, how to be part of the implementation process, as well as monitor and evaluate projects.

Vigorous efforts are needed to realise the potential of women – one of these is the importance of 33% reservation for women in panchayats, while another is to make women entrepreneurs and promote self-help groups and cooperatives.

Effective Implementation Of Government Policies

The Government of India has recently launched visionary policies for youth development. Take initiatives like Jan Dhan Yojana, MUDRA, Digital India, Start-Up India, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojna (Skill enhancement of Youth especially SC/ST, backward groups, women), or Stand up India (which promotes entrepreneurship among SC/ST and women by giving loans in the range of Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 1 Cr). Each has benefitted several youths in the country. Unfortunately, its effects are not uniform. Rural areas still fall behind, because of the local governments’ lack of awareness. The Youth Team can partner with these governments to raise awareness about career development opportunities. It can also create a database about a youth’s qualifications (through Employment Card Generation offices). Selection agencies can recruit youths, and provide skill enhancement course or entrepreneurial support.

The recent National Policy of Education, 2016, is a visionary document holistic youth development. Under it, educational Institutions must include counsellors or psychologists to motivate children to realise their potential. It also recommends introducing social work programmes for youth to give back to grassroots development

To Restructure Public Institutions

Of the many public institutions, the health sector needs an overhaul. The majority of Indian citizens spend 20 to 30 per cent of their income on health. Due to several problems at government hospitals, many are turning towards private hospitals which charge exorbitant amounts of money for health services.
India has allocated crores of rupees to improving public health. Our government hospitals have excellent doctors. But we still face major problems like poor infrastructure, delay of the arrival of medical equipment, work overload, and inadequate support staff.

To make the system smooth, the Youth Team, which consists health experts, psychologists, resource management experts, social workers, and local government specialists can approach local leaders, district administration, and local citizens. Together, they can work with local medical college institutions, Corporate Social Responsibility institutions, philanthropists, and NGOs, to provide affordable medical services. An active District Planning Committee (comprising of the Health Superintendent or health officials, local leaders, local governments, district administration) can substantially improve things.

All the above might be challenging, but the sincere, coordinated efforts of a youth-led team can make a huge change. This means opportunities for our youth to flourish, youth participation in political leadership, breaking the glass ceiling, good governance, and a healthy environment.

Villages can become self-sufficient, with better agriculture, infrastructure, education, health, and empowering women. And was that not the dream of figures like Gandhi, Tagore, Jayaprakash Narayan, and Vinoba Bhave?

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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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