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From Happiness Curriculum To Mohalla Clinics: AAP’s Unprecedented Governance Model

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Two incidents of utmost importance have happened in the political discourse of the country in the past couple of weeks. First, social media was abuzz with the news of the CM of Haryana frantically  reaching out to officials to clean government schools and make them look presentable. Why? Because the CM of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal was visiting some of the schools. Second, elections for the state assembly of Madhya Pradesh is just a fortnight away and the Congress party leaders are squabbling loudly to decide on their candidates when the incumbent BJP government seems to be ripe pickings at this time.

So why fear Kejriwal? Because he has been pioneering an unprecedented revival of education in Delhi through the complete revamping of government schools, right from making school facilities world class to even sending teachers to hone their skills from prestigious universities like Cambridge. To understand where this fear is coming from, we need to tap at the roots of recent Indian history.

India’s freedom struggle was not really an organised movement. The only reason that brought people together was to end the British colonial rule. None of the leaders had a vision about the direction to take after Independence. Most of them sacrificed their lives not by logical thinking but by mere adrenaline induced rush of blood to their heads. Unlike the Mughals, the British did not conquer India by wars but by opportunism and deceit.

India’s erstwhile princely states were at war with one another, and the British started taking sides by helping one state to defeat the other. This is how they grew their influence on the land and eventually took control of it. So, the danger of India lapsing back into the scattered princely states scenario after the British left was looming which was why the Constitution was created to unite all princely states under a federal structure. But there was something that was fundamentally missed. A governance model.

Even after the leadership of the country changed hands, two aspects of colonial rule still live on. Subjugation and eventual enslavement of people is possible only when they cannot to ask questions. To ask questions, people need to have the ability to think critically – which is a skill we develop as we acquire knowledge. Our primary source of knowledge is education. India’s massive rural heartland hardly had schools till Independence. Subsequent Indian leadership and political parties have sought to maintain the status quo, to deprive rural people of education. More importantly, the prevailing caste system at that time which has fragmented the society to its extremities was incorporated into the Constitution thereby helping in the creation of vote banks for political parties.

Though the initial years after independence were chaotic, Jawaharlal Nehru had a long enough stint at the helm of affairs to realise that to fulfil the basic need of food, shelter and clothing and to have a decent enough life, what people needed to have was education and health. This should have had been the foundation of governance. Indira Gandhi also had enough time to realise this but even she didn’t.

When Kejriwal started questioning the foundations of India’s political system including its nexus with the corporate and people started deriding him, he realised that people did not know the one word that is the pivot of democracy – accountability. This is why he has grown quieter with time. After sorting out the burning issues of electricity and water in Delhi, he has put his entire energy and wherewithal into improving education and healthcare of Delhi, thereby laying the groundwork for a new model of governance. A strong body and mind of people are fundamental to the growth and evolution of the society and the country.

It takes mere logic to understand that people cannot be taught accountability. This is why he has set up the Mohalla Sabha system. People and AAP leaders have both been made equally accountable and culpable. Simply voting and keeping quiet is not enough. If people’s representatives are not working for them they are being made to call it out. This is why he is collecting money from people themselves to fight elections and by doing so he is putting the ball of accountability firmly in the people’s court. He is also trying to end the system of elected representatives becoming rulers of people in this way.

But what he is doing has far greater implications. Unlike other political parties and politicians who are trying to hold on to their power bases and maintain the existing political system, he is preparing the country for the future. It doesn’t make any sense for Indian society and political system to continue to exist in this rut after 50 or 100 years. India and her society will live past the times of Arvind Kejriwal, Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Someone has to initiate a change sometime. He has seized the opportunity while on the other hand we are seeing power tussles within and between other parties.

The lust for power among the political class will exist as long as people vote for political leaders and make them their elected representatives. Unlike the persona of Narendra Modi which was bloated to the level of Messiah in 2014 and became bigger than the BJP itself, or the Gandhi family which still dominates the Congress party despite having the party’s image considerably eroded in people’s perception. The way Kejriwal has delegated responsibilities to AAP leaders has turned the spotlight onto them and away from him.

The worldwide recognition that the Happiness Curriculum and the Mohalla Clinics have received has clearly turned the country’s focus onto AAP’s governance model. Other state governments are now looking to adopt the Mohalla clinics system. Private schools in Delhi are eager to adopt the Happiness Curriculum. With every passing day, the stark difference between his governance model and that of established political parties in other states is resoundingly getting bigger. Though he did make mistakes at the beginning of his political career, he has always maintained that AAP has come into existence to change the model of governance in the country. He has brilliantly stuck to this agenda. Most importantly, the governance model he has created has no dependency on him. He has made sure it will survive and grow even after his time.

The success of his governance model can be measured with the tweets below:

The sole fear of the political class are the intellectuals and educated people, the ones who can think critically and question them. For so long, they have mostly stayed away from the murky world of politics. AAP, with it’s leadership crowded with well educated people has given them the perfect platform to speak boldly about the decay in the system. When people of the caliber of Kishore Mandhya become emboldened enough to take the plunge into politics through AAP, it is a huge red light alarm for all other political parties.

When the country is endlessly debating and spewing venom on Ayodhya, Sabarimala, beef ban, etc, Delhites have started speaking the language of governance.

While Modiji has to wear suits worth millions, globe trot and hug foreign heads of states to stay in the limelight, Kejriwal has stayed grounded, worked diligently and attracted the attention of the entire world towards the results of his work. When people start pledging their votes based on good governance and the work of the elected representatives, that’s when the country begins its journey towards true democracy and greatness.

The latest news is that Haryana’s CM is going to visit Delhi’s government schools and Mohalla Clinics, and Kejriwal is reciprocating by visiting government hospitals in Haryana. Looks like there is going to be wrestling and wrangling over better governance for the first time in independent India’s history, which was at its finest when there used to be ‘tark’ or debates among the learned and the most important people in the society on all subjects relevant to the society. Well, who are the ones rambling about bringing ‘Shining India’ back and who is really doing it?

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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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