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After 72 Years Of Independence We Are Still Struggling For Freedom And Liberty

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The average lifespan in India has shot up from 32 years to 70 years since independence. Encouragingly, India’s per capita income has also increased from Rs 2248.26 to Rs 4,85,624.70. The country is currently placed as the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP measures and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). It means India’s GDP in the first quarter of 2018 was 34768.27 INR billion, ranking third after China and the US. In 1947 around 1,500 villages were electrified, and now about 97% of the villages have electricity. After 190 years of British rule, the privilege of seeing a classroom and be educated was only 12% as against 74% who are literate today with almost 100% literacy achieved by the State of Kerala. It is important to remember, and a case in point is where every major decision regarding the change of government since 1947 has been through the power of ballot boxes and not through any armed forces involvement. Interestingly countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and even France with so much military power and strategic alliances could not succeed in achieving the way India did it.

It’s now been 72 years of Independence. As the country commemorated its independence day, honouring thousands of stalwarts and freedom fighters who laid down lives for the vision of Independent India, we need to look back at those years of freedon, and undoubtedly we have a great deal to celebrate. We are finally set free from the clutches of the British empire. But one thing that always sticks up our minds and reminds us very frequently is – poverty, casteism, corruption, unemployment, illiteracy, and now lynching? We still have much more to do, have many challenges to address, and even a great many obstacles to bring down. Being a free nation, we forget that each victory came with wounds. We forget why we have the scars. We need to set ourselves free from the grips of caste and religious biases in which we often indulge. With that newness of rebirth comes the temptation to compare everything and everyone with where we are now.

I remember my maternal grandfather who fought for the freedom of the country. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of one and all. His village had no electricity, water was scarce, and a train, which passed by the nearby village once a day, was the only connection to the rest of the world. Calling British imperialist rule a form of slavery, my late grandfather Dukkipati Nageswara Rao involved himself in the Indian Freedom Movement to end British rule of India. He was a man of vision, a freedom fighter who rejected violence.

He met Mahatma Gandhi along with many others in Gudivada during the Independence movement. He belonged to the freedom fighters that walked the Gandhian path and contributed a great deal in terms of his time, resources, and vision to make the freedom struggle a mass movement in the country. He was barely twenty when he heeded Gandhi’s call for non-cooperation against the British and took it to the villages.

Midway through my work, I realised I had just enough food in my pantry, my rent was paid, and my car hadn’t died on me yet. Seventy-two years after we have gained independence and the years passed by and we haven’t been able to send all our children to school. Knowing what is “real” on the internet is becoming increasingly more difficult. Poor student-teacher ratio, crumbling infrastructure, corrupt officials, caste differentiation, you may have to grease the palms in many a case, even in schools to get a child admitted we need to pay a certain amount of money to these various levels, lack of proper toilets and sanitation, are the primary reasons that have kept the students from enrolling. Others like socio-economic factors such as abject poverty, access, child labour, child marriage, untouchables, and people from various social classes like scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes who are not given the rights due to which they are often ill-treated, abused and manhandled. The rate of crime has also increased in the cities. Women, sadly women irrespective of age, face eve-teasing, molestation, and sexual harassment.

In most cases, the perpetrators are acquaintances, auto and cab drivers, bus operators, and servants. Most of these cases are often not reported because of the social stigma. It’s saddening to see that women are ill-treated, abused and are left to live in crumbling and dilapidated old-age homes.

Coming to the country’s economy, it is worth mentioning that various sectors are showing a downfall. The IT sector is experiencing a slowdown, and there’s a subsequent fall in job creation, adding to the misery. The solution to widespread unemployment lies in identifying and bridging the broader skills gap, offering better labour policies, training and creating more opportunities on information technology, trade and commerce, taxation, regulation, education, and fiscal and monetary policy. Skills gap often refers to the massive pool of untapped talent which usually has severe consequences like economic underperformance, social unrest, fear, anguish and despair. To make the situation worse, a strong religious polarisation is currently underway in India.

Lynching and mob violence has started getting undue attention and response during recent times. Names such as Junaid, Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Ayub Pandit are some of the unfortunate reminders of the mad, frantic, and frenzy mood of fear and communal violence gripping India. There are tough questions to be answered about prejudice, resentment, tolerance and identity. We are, therefore, turning into a breeding ground for anger, frustration and resentment.

In this digital age, with damaging content only a swipe away, how can parents protect their children from being swept up in a tangled web of pornography, violence, cyberbullying, and online harassment? While these apps can be entirely innocent, they also contain explicit content— content that would upset any parent.
Just imagine when media and other people continuously send you messages throughout the day. All hell breaks loose.

According to the NCRB 2016 report, around 39 crimes are committed every hour. Regrettably, over the past few years, violence against women in India has risen. The figures are well articulated and are statistically supported. The data presents a grim reality of women being targeted and being the victims of horrific crimes like trafficking, prostitution, molestation, online harassment, and rape. The NCRB data reveals that the crime rate against women rose from 41.7% to 53.9%, between 2011 and 2015. As many as 3,27,394 cases were reported in 2015 alone, including 34,651 cases of rape, 4,437 cases of attempted rape, 59,277 kidnapping and abductions, 7,634 dowry deaths, and a whopping 1,13,403 cases of domestic cruelty, among others.

The impetus for protecting a girl child can be made possible through education. A massive awareness campaign should be made available to the various masses in the segment. Women should be given equal importance in their role to protect the girl child. Literacy should be encouraged; we must also liberate ourselves from the caste and religious biases in which we often indulge. According to Transparency International, “It is heartening to know that systemic corruption is worst in India. India continues to be among the most corrupt countries in the world.”

Social and political corrupt practices are a way of life. Tax evasion is one of the most popular forms of corruption. We are having a free run of the parallel economy that’s currently underway in India; the corrupt practices raise difficult questions about morals and spiritual values, prejudice, tolerance and identity.

Toilet, a Love Story,” picturizes a movie to relate something that speaks boldly to 1.2 Billion people to one of India’s most pressing public health concerns. This has also brought in various elements of India’s frequent questions about the culture of impunity for its cropping up again and replicating of the rich and powerful.

India surpasses Canada, Australia, France and Italy regarding total wealth possessed and USA and China rank the top two positions of the wealthiest nations. India has total wealth more than France, Canada, Australia and Italy while the US and China top the list of the wealthiest nations in the world.

The services provided by ISRO in successfully launching Mars in its very first attempt has been commendable. Mangalyaan; Attempts are made to send an astronaut on Mars by 2022 and become the four the country to do so. India has moved up to 44th position on the IMD’s World Competitiveness Ranking 2018, up one rank from last year. India has found its place amongst the most competitive nations when it ranked as the 40th position from amongst 137 countries which participated in the Global Competitiveness Report in the year 2017-2018 which is published by the World Economic Forum.

But a more serious problem is emerging. With an estimated 300 million people clearly under the poverty line and with a low per capita income is further aggravated by the estimated shortage of about 25 million jobs. More people are educated, more new jobs are created, and poverty is removed, as it is estimated at about 32.5 % of the population still lives below the poverty line. The Tribal people, Dalits, and casual workers remain the poorest class in India.

The number of poor people will keep on increasing if such a significant amount of jobs won’t be created. It is not about putting a man on the moon. It is not about being the topmost industrialised nations in the world. It is nor launching rockets or several more satellites. It’s about various dimensions like the per capita income is increased. It is when poverty is no longer prevalent. It is when the health of every individual in the the country should be assured and well taken care of, employment which is made available to one and all, when the corrupt do not raise their ugly heads, girls are well protected and are given ample opportunities for their growth, violence and hatred should be diminished, casteism and discrimination is wiped out and no longer practised, it is on that day that India will be truly independent of me.

 

 

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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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