10 Contributions Of Gandhi That Changed The World

We all at some point in our lives, come to identify with a hero. Some are disguised as figures of fantasy on the big screen – like Spider-Man. Others, like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, prefer to come as they are- an underdog struggling alongside the masses; a story that resonates and intertwines across many continents and cultures.

Almost every Indian is well aware of Gandhi’s public image as the social reformer, politician, preacher, lawyer, and a freedom fighter who waged a long war to end colonialism, and sought to end the longstanding Hindu- Muslim divide and caste-based discrimination in the country. But, when it came to who Gandhi was in actuality – his real persona, faith, morality – many questions come to the forefront.

The book “Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World” goes beyond the archetypal figure of him as the ‘wise old man’ and delves deeper into the building blocks of his life – that caused a domino effect leading towards Independence.

1. The magnitude of Gandhi’s public role in social and political reform was such that, his ideas and movements were discussed in American and European newspapers, magazines, books, and radio. His work was keenly followed by top politicians and statesmen across the globe.

2. Gandhi was one of the pioneers of environmental sustainability. The quintessential Gandhian question- “How much should a person consume?” still rings true today. His model of sustainability continues to hold relevance in our burgeoning and populous nation. Gandhi was the driving force behind what would later become a vigorous environmental movement, by campaigning against the excesses of industrial development and consequently, promoting renewable energy and small-scale irrigation systems.

3. The philosophy of non-violence or Ahimsa has become synonymous with Gandhi. His practice of Ahimsa was an extension of respect for other religions and a sense of fraternity. Gandhi vehemently opposed injustice and authoritarian rule, but sans any arms or violent actions. His peaceful and verbal yet non-violent opposition to the arbitrary use of state power is the primary manifestation of the Gandhian legacy today.

4. Casting aside the constant furore between secularists and monotheists, Gandhi believed that no religion had a monopoly on the truth. He reasoned against religious conversion, saying that ‘one should accept the faith into which one was born, but seek always to interpret it in the most broad-minded and nonviolent way.’ Along with the secular ideal, he actively encouraged friendships and mingling across religions.

5. Gandhi’s method of Satyagraha has been successfully applied in countless ways to achieve a resolute end to subordination. Be it, the Chipko Movement in the  1970s for bringing an end to deforestation, to Tribal Movement in the 1980s Central India against a massive dam construction, to the more recent 2011 anti-corruption campaign which spread nationwide in a praiseworthy attempt to counter the political class.

6. Gandhi has played an instrumental role in the upliftment of women across the country. The most notable one is SEWA, the Self Employed Women’s Association in Ahmedabad which is responsible for organising a million plus women in producer cooperatives, providing them with child and maternal healthcare and a cooperative bank to encourage economic self-reliance.

7. Through dialogue and compromise, Gandhi sought to bring a mini-India together by strengthening the foundation of Indian National Congress – which under his foresightful direction, transformed from an elitist body of professionals into a mass political organisation with a wide outreach in all states and districts.

8. Unlike the plight of numerous ex-colonies; despite being a victim of crony capitalism, India has stridden far ahead in terms of political parity. The Constitution of India clearly lays down the democratic principles that have to be abided by all; from free and fair elections, linguistic diversity, separation of state and religion to a more inclusive step- affirmative action for underprivileged classes of society. A lot of these achievements owe credit to Gandhi’s visionary approach while framing the Constitution.

9. In order to emancipate Dalits and uplift the so-called untouchables’ condition, Gandhi set up the All India Anti-Untouchability League and later renamed it Harijan Sevak Sangh. He coined the term Harijan; which translates to “children of God” – a term far above the derogatory and derisive words used for identifying them. A breakthrough moment happened when untouchability was finally abolished by law.

10. Through his leadership in the Civil Disobedience Movement, Gandhi played a crucial role in the unification of the country, awakening of the masses, and bringing politics within reach of the common man.

Through “Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World”, Ramachandra Guha keenly explores the unseen face of Gandhi beyond his minutely dissected public image. What makes this an interesting read – is his heightened self-awareness and openness to self-criticism, his singularity of thoughts, belief, and morals. There is more to Mahatma than the carefully coiffured leader of the nationalist movement – his defects, setbacks, passions, superstitions, selflessness and more importantly an unapologetic self.

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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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