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Patriotism Is Dead And It’s Time To Bring It Back Into Our Lives

By definition, patriotism is the “ideology of love, devotion and support to one’s country and a sense of alliance with other citizens who share the same values. Patriotism is a sense of belonging and pride that’s associated with one’s country.”

Our patriotic fervour is mostly dead or limited to cricket fields. It is probably the only thing that an Indian could die for and even there, if our team loses, many people resort to violence and processions. Can you think of any other instance where you could really feel the entire population of India coming together to back you up? I wish such protests were held for the innumerable social dilemmas our country is going through.

For today’s youth, India is reduced to being a mere launchpad for entry into the US, UK or other cash-rich countries. We feel that only a foreign label on our foreheads can show our true value to the entire world. This is a dangerous trend for we are losing our own identity in the process of trying to fit in the western crowd and culture.

The same Indians who claim to have a cleaner environment in their foreign abode are seen being careless back home. The same people become narrow-minded with respect to women, limiting their freedom to work, to dress and pretty much everything else. The same people are willing to pay more taxes without cribbing and settle for meagre jobs putting their ambitions on the back burner in the hope of better lives. How sad is it to the see that the vast majority of young India is willing to write off their youth and vigour to contribute making another country rich without a thought to give back anything to their own country. Let’s stop asking what is it that my country has given to me, rather let’s question ourselves – what have we given back to our country?

On top of this setback where young people are abandoning our country for greener opportunities without an ounce of pride in their origin, the social media provides further fodder by highlighting only the negatives of our country. Not a day passes without the media giving us news about – rape, casteism, murders, religious killing, corruption, poor politics, pathetic infrastructure, natural and manmade calamities, poverty etc. Since when has journalism reduced to mere sensationalism and spreading of negativity? I agree these are the realities we are living in, which needs our awareness and attention, but let’s not tag, that this is happening only in our country. Every country in the world is struggling with the same plague. However, they choose to showcase their achievements and focus on problem-solving than declaring despair.

It is so unfortunate to see desperate measures taken by our government to inculcate patriotism into its citizens. Never would I have imagined the necessity of the national anthem being played in cinema theatres and the enormous debates surrounding that. This well mirrors the fact that with passing time, our values and principles have eroded, and gone are the times when an average citizen could conjure the memories of countless men and women facing immense hardship and sufferings in their heroic struggle for independence. The very essence of what went behind to get the freedom we have today has lost its glory. The national days are merely seen as a holiday and their celebrations are limited to schools and colleges. Even there, it’s sad to see that the students participate in fear of losing marks or paying a fine. An entire generation is clueless about perhaps the most significant day of our country.

We need to reclaim pride in our country, we need to redeem our patriotism before it’s too late, before our next generation stands aloof to the struggles of our great freedom fighters and showcases nothing but disgust and disconnect towards their motherland. Let’s start with some simple steps here:

  • Let’s share stories and struggles of our national heroes like Bhagat Singh, Subash Chandra Bose, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Mahatma Gandhi, Bharathiyar, Veera Pandiya Kattabomman, Jhansi ki Rani, Vallabhai Patel and many more with respect and reverence.
  • Let’s constantly look out for young Indian achievers in the field of science, education, innovation, sports etc and make those a common household name.
  • Let’s revive our traditions, in terms of attire, food, artefacts, festivals, practices and feel proud in being who we are.
  • Let’s focus on what we could give back to our society, to our city, to our state, to our country, instead of wanting things to come our way, the way we desire.
  • Let’s stop evaluating success only in terms of ‘comfort’ and ‘money’. Let’s evaluate success in terms of how many lives we touch, how many souls we heal, how much peace we feel and bring in our lives and in others.
  • Let’s stop being a consumer of poor social media content in terms of news, movies, songs etc. Let’s raise the bar and demand meaningful and relevant content.
  • If politics is marred by corruption, let us take a lead. Let us make a new constitution, let us set criteria for age, education, experience, background, for the very politicians who govern our country. Let’s try and fail than not try at all. Let’s take baby steps to a new and transparent India.
  • Let’s respect every other citizen, from all walks of life. This way, we will acknowledge each other’s struggles, purpose, work and add meaning to each other’s lives.
  • Let’s not expect and limit the feeling of patriotism to just armed military forces. Each one of us is a hero and each one of us have a responsibility towards our country and its well-being.
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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.

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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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