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Patriotism And Nationalism Are Two Different Concepts, Confusing Them Can Be Dangerous

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About 70,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens evolved from East Africa. Realising the need to socialise, they started clustering together in the form of tribes.  Tribes grew, the human population expanded covering almost the entire landmass. Borders were drawn, governments were set up, sovereignty was claimed and states were formed. People started finding out commonalities and things like religion, language and ethnicity came out as a common denominator. A pride was associated with that ‘oneness’ that marked its superiority over others and “Nationalism” was born.
Today, Nationalism is probably one of the most debated topics. Being a nationalist is a matter of pride. Donald Trump even converted nationalism into a complete political campaign and claimed: “When a person is a nationalist, there is no space for prejudice”. But the figures tell an entirely different story. Hate crimes have shown a significant increase in America after Trump’s was as president of America. The problem arises due to the complexity of the topic and the emotional attachment of a person with his nation. Nationalism is usually used in an idealistic context rather than a pragmatic one. Secondly, complicating nationalism with patriotism makes it even more difficult to understand. People often confuse nationalism with patriotism and are increasingly used to mean the same thing. Patriotism and nationalism are two different concepts and confusing them can be dangerous. Patriotism is the love and devotion to one’s country and support for its interests, while nationalism is extreme patriotic feeling where one believes in the superiority of their own country over others. It would not be imprecise to term nationalism as ‘patriotic racism’.

John Lennon believed that without nationalism the world would have been a peaceful paradise, but we must also comprehend that without nationalism we would have been living in tribal chaos. Nationalism up to an extent is good, but hyper-nationalism is not! The feeling of superiority of one’s nation, culture over the others induces hatred which leads to lack of respect for other cultures. Over 6 million Jews were persecuted by the Nazi army, and Hitler used nationalism to convince the German masses. The intuition of Germans being superior to others led to nearly 17 million deaths. The entire human race evolved from East Africa, how can one be superior to other?
Not far from home, The use of nationalism as political propaganda by Bhartiya Janata Party(B.J.P.) and its ideological parent organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(R.S.S.) is perilous. Projecting communalism as nationalism makes the secular environment of the country very vulnerable. Communalism of the majorities(Hindus) is even more alarming. When minorities are communal we can see it and understand it but the communalism of the majorities is apt to be taken as nationalism, and the same seems to be happening. The glorification of ancient India and Hindu culture is acceptable. But marking it superior to other religions is not. It is an integral part of a progressive society to challenge old customs and traditions and change them if the circumstances demand it. Evil and inhuman practices were abolished after someone challenged it with a stronger rationale. But nationalism usually blocks our rationale instincts as we are carried away by emotions. MNCs have even started capitalising it. Entire marketing is done keeping this exaggerated emotion of nationalism at the centre which blinds us. Advertisements manipulate our feelings when plotted around the army, soldiers etc. Ever wondered why Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan are cast in these advertisements? The capitalisation of nationalism is a flourishing industry now.

Patriotism is good and healthy. It means you want to do something for your country and improve its existing conditions. But being unreasonably proud, however, suggests that despite all the shortcomings like high rape rates, poverty, corruption, sexism, casteism, and flawed political, judiciary and educational system, we are somehow proud. Which somewhere implies that we are okay with all the above things. First, let’s change things that are shame worthy cause there are a lot! Being unreasonably proud of our country, culture etc is impudent.
The surge of hyper-nationalism in recent years after BJP came into power can be detrimental. It is naive to put ancient traditions on a sacred pedestal and to follow them blindly. Best ideas must be embraced no matter when and where they are born.

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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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