This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Basanta Nirola. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Standing Up To Fake News Is The Need Of The Hour

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Fake news is a serious concern and a big challenge for the news industry these days. Ever since the internet revolution started, it has provided a soft ground for spreading fake news and has become the primary cause of misinformation, inaccuracy in news, misleading news stories, half-truths and sometimes highly sensational reporting, done to garner attention, mislead, deceive or defame. It has been observed that fake news spreads faster when it provides misinformation that is aligned with the audience’s point of view because such content is not likely to be questioned or discounted.

Misleading news is becoming dangerous for every establishment. The advancement of internet and easy access to social media is largely promoting fake news. We could say that social media is the hub of news like that and almost all of it is largely spread through socially popular sites like Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp. This has led to severe criticism for these sites too. In recent years, mob attacks, rumours, false allegations, intent to defame, political propaganda etc are rising via Whatsapp and other forms of social media. According to BBC, at least 31 people have been killed and dozens more injured in India between February 2014 and July 2018, as a result of rumours spread.

In my previous article, I had stated that it’s our responsibility to make an effort towards managing the internet, which should be bereft of hatred and all things evil, because the internet is not a place for negativity.

What The Youth Thinks Of Fake News And Its Challenges:

In light of the issues surrounding fake news and its challenges, I received opinions from two students of Darrang College, Tezpur, Assam, Simanta Thapa and Akash Sharma. Simanta asserted that fake news is essentially incorrect and inaccurate information that is being spread both intentionally and unintentionally. Fake news intends to blame others, spreads hatred, seeks attention or political gains. It’s largely spread on social media, but TV and print media are instrumental in the spread too. “To identify fake news we must be sure of the authenticity of the source, and a lot of it could be verified on Google too”, he said.

Akash too had an important perspective, with more clarity. According to him, “We are our own best judges when it comes to assessing misinformation. I would always assume that if a piece does not meet my standard of beliefs in today’s society, that would amount to fake news. However, differing opinions, viewpoints and ways of life are the very heartbeat of a healthy society, so is our ability to set aside those differences and come together in times of crisis and become our better selves. That’s when we really discover that we have more similarities than our differences would suggest. This brings me to another point. Never believe statistics unless you have verified them yourself, because even data points can be manipulated even if they seem accurate. In a world where social media is the go-to thing for many of us, we should be very clear of the fact that fake news needs to be tackled well, and before sharing anything on social media platforms we should cross-examine the news and its validity, at least twice.”

According to Pramod Khanal, an ex-student of Bodoland University, Kokrajhar, Assam, “In current days, most people believe in social media posts and it’s become a serious problem, affecting people’s lives too. Therefore, we should start thinking logically and set a critical mindset for every news that is heard or read & research facts before believing the news”. He also spoke of certain limitations of the media industry, restrictions & boundaries for social media & strict laws to counter fake news by the government.

How Do You Know If The News Is Fake:

  1. You should believe only trustworthy and reliable news sources. Here I prefer India’s leading dailies.
  2. If you have any doubts you can take the help of other news websites or publications. You can search the same news story on various other news portals.
  3. You must be sure about the facts while you are reading or watching the news. You need to be sure of whether the story in question has a basis in truth or not.
  4. You must stay away from sites that you haven’t heard of before or those that have a reputation for carrying misinformation.
  5. If you’re not sure of a news story, search around and see if credible news organizations are reporting the same story.
  6. Don’t simply believe WhatsApp forwards or social media shares without confirming the message. A simple Google search is enough to find out the truth. Make this a habit.
  7. Fake news usually tries to play to your basic emotions, so sometimes if you read a headline and suddenly feel angry, outraged, extremely upset, you need to put your rationality to judge or find out the truth of the news.
  8. For any photograph or video, related to an important event, that you may have received, don’t start forwarding it hastily. Most of the times, these graphics are misleading & manipulated by using technology.

Along with these, there are also some fake news buster news portals or online platforms that are working very hard to counter fake news. You can take the help of Alt News, SM Hoax Slayer, and Boom Fact Checking.

What You Can Do To Stop Fake News:

Fake news can’t be stopped completely, but we can certainly minimize it to a large extent. As individuals, we all have personal biases, likes and interests. Social media is the platform to discover that, for we like the stories and posts that conform to our beliefs. There are several fan pages of politicians, film stars, cricketers and other celebrities. We ‘like’ them out of our own interests & follow their posts. But besides that, it’s also true that Facebook or social media feed is the hub of fake news. We pick up the story or post which may be deeply asserted on our interests or likes, then we share or forward it. We never rationally pick up the story published on social media nor do we research the post that is true or false. We never care to confirm if its just an opinion of an individual, we simply just share it, at the same time, knowingly or unknowingly, promoting & spreading fake news. Therefore, we need to use social media judiciously and must agree that every post on the internet is not true. Remember, a wrong news can take someone’s life! If you are not sure of the facts, please don’t share it on social media. Be the responsible one!

Once I heard someone say fake news is fair enough if the intention is good. Just listening to something like that was horrifying. Fake is fake, it’s no longer associated with ‘good intention’. If we go on like that, then cheating in an exam would also be quite fair, because of the intention to pass the exam.

To conclude, fake news in India right now is a highly infuriating issue. It comes at the cost of our lives and continues to threaten our society’s integrity. Here it is important to mention that media includes TV too, which catalyses the spread and promotion of fake news, just to garner a high TRPs.  In my opinion, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of India should introduce a strong law against fake news and should come up with regulations and guidelines for the media industry, be it social or traditional media, to counter fake news. There should be a separate branch or a different commission in the Ministry to combat fake news. Creating awareness among masses through campaigns, jointly led by the corporate and the government authorities, is also the need of the hour. But most importantly, we as individuals need to take stand against fake news, in whichever way possible.

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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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