Opinion: Youth In Politics Will Ensure A Stronger Democracy

“The greatest power is not Money Power, but Political Power” – Walter Annenberg

India is a 70-year-old democracy and one of the most well-performing countries in the world in that. The parliament of India is guarding its democracy. But there is a problem which is not unidentified in the present times: youth is disappearing from national politics. They are not made part of the administration. The country is facing many threats such as destruction of personal freedom, the best example for this is the recent issue of mob-lynching which is happening around India, raising the differences between religions and groups. Politics is completely filled with age-old politicians and their families. However, the presence of youth in politics can reduce this issue to a large extent.

The process of elections was clearly explained in our Constitution. Article 84(b) and Article 173(b) are some such where the age requirements for the MPs, MLAs and MLCs were properly explained. They state that the minimum age required for the MP of Lok Sabha and MLA of state legislature is 25 years whereas the minimum age of MP of Rajya Sabha and MLC of state legislative council is 30 years. A recently conducted survey on MPs age shows that the average age of the Lok Sabha MP is 56 years. The average age of an Indian is 27.9 years in which more than 50% of population is under 25 years and more than 65% of population is under 35.

Indian politicians are not ready to lose their power. Some of them have been in active politics for 70 years. The founding member of CPI(M) in Kerala V.S. Achuthanandan and founder of DMK party Karunanidhi served for 78 years in politics. They both served to a large extent for the development of respective states, but what is the need of electing people of that old? Rather, we can elect a young person who is aware of the problems and have many ideas to change the society. Why can’t political parties support those new leaders.

Some support aged politicians as they believe that ‘in youth you learn, and in age you understand’. This is not correct in the current scenario. Youth are not given proper positions to prove themselves. How can you judge people without even knowing their capabilities? Aged politicians only know how to acquire power and how to save it. If that is the what they want youth to learn, then we don’t need it. Youth should be politically educated; educational institutions should provide a base to increase their knowledge on politics. The student councils in various institutions are useful to solve the problems of students and increase their knowledge on power games. Even this is polluted by many political parties by starting groups in various universities. This should be stopped.

In the year 2006, to provide proper guidelines to student politics and their elections, a committee was appointed by the Supreme Court of India under retired chief election commissioner Mr. Lyngdoh, where he gave a lot of useful information but sadly many of the universities are not following these. The committee rejected the involvement of  political parties in university elections. It also rejected the usage of money and muscular power to influence the elections. Only few institutions like TISS and others are following these regulations, whereas many prestigious institutions like JNU and DU see the involvement of political parties in their elections.

Some of the student groups are Akhil Bhartiya Vidyardhi Parishad (ABVP), which is the student group of the RSS, Students Federation of India (SFI), which belongs leftist parties, and National Student’s Union of India (NSUI), which belongs to the Indian National Congress. Many of these groups are involving in activities which disturb peace in the campuses, like the recent entry of ABVP members to the counting center of student elections and destroying the materials. This is not the voice of youth.

On the other side, many universities are not allowing students to raise their voice. Questioning is the real power of the democracy, suppressing it is not the correct procedure. Many institutions like Young India Foundation are working for the involvement of students in politics. Youth should take it as a responsibility to correct the system which is presently corrupted. The greatest power which our country possesses is youth, and we should use it.

Another important aspect which is spoiling the country is family politics. A true leader is the one who moves people forward by guiding them from the back, but that is not happening in the present day. The present politicians are only encouraging their family members. The people are electing a member who is not native to that region, then how can they solve their problems? Our Prime Minister is from Gujarat and he was elected from Varanasi constituency. The family members of many popular leaders like Mulayam Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Chandrasekhar Rao, Chandrababu Naidu, Dewa Gowda are not only just politicians but also hold key positions in the government in the form of various ministries. Instead, they should take the youth who are well aware of the situations. Family politics is suppressing the entry of fresh leaders to the top. The youth are only limited to lower party workers. Only those with a political background are rising.

This is not what people want. People want freedom. They want equality. They want the basic principles on which the country stands to be preserved. Youth is an important pillar on which we stand today. They need to be protected. Media is for the people, not for profits. The freedom of media should be protected. Government institutions in the country are to be given an autonomous status. Political parties should be banned to enter educational institutions. Present politicians should take a call for a better future. Power should not drive the leaders…the idea of change should flow through the veins of every citizen for a greater tomorrow.

“The Youth of a Nation are the trustees of posterity.”  – Benjamin Disraeli                                                                                          

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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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