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Why Your Vote Matters

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I am writing on a digital platform after a long time after bidding adieu to Facebook, and at this point in time, I only write case briefs on Twitter due to word constraints. Being a student of the prestigious Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU), Raipur, where student-body elections for the formation of Student Bar Association were held on February 7, this article has been written to tell my inner conscience (not for any other person) what I should do in these elections, the first of a kind for me, wherein I can vote as well as contest. There was 24 hours of high fever, but one needs to understand and listen to all but do what your conscience tells you.

I shall start with a very famous quote by Plato. “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” I have heard a lot of my friends and seniors saying that a lot of students do not go to vote because either they prefer sleeping, or go to their home town, or are not interested in politics, or just want to portray their neutral face by voting for none to maintain a healthy friendship with everyone.

They have clearly forgotten the fact that someone in the past must have struggled to give them this voting right and some other people in colleges are struggling hard to get these voting rights. And, just because you are not interested in politics, doesn’t mean that politics will not take interest in you. It might also be possible that by voting none, all the candidates might end up losing interest in you, and you end up ruining your friendship with all, contrary to what you had expected.

The next question is who to vote for. When it comes to the national politics, we start blaming politicians for encouraging dynasty politics. We blame them for encouraging voters to vote on the basis of religion, caste, region, sex, family and a lot of other things. We sometimes ask for their poll promises to be made legally binding. We ask for a better election manifesto and agenda. Should we really not see such measurement criteria in our elections?

Students of HNLU.

The least we could do is to ask candidates, why should they be voted, and not anyone else? The foremost reason to vote for someone is the level of friendship shared one, as compared to other candidates. Is it not the same as nepotism and dynasty politics, for which we leave no stone unturned to criticise? Please practice what you preach, no?

Again, the recent developments in Rajasthan had caused a debate on whether educational qualification should be a criterion to fight elections or not. What should we do in our case? Should we really vote for the most educated or the most qualified person? Absolutely not! Instead, we need to vote for someone who has the vision to do something in the future. We need to vote for someone who plans to make the system better. A person who has never played a single game can be a good coach of that game. So, the leadership requirement is definitely not the best player of the game. Sachin Tendulkar is considered the God of cricket, but on an equal pedestal, his captainship quality is not equally appreciated.

One more question that must be asked to candidates is – “What motivated them to contest elections?” One of the main reason could be to flourish one’s leadership qualities, that could be helpful in the future. That is a great reason. But, one of the main reasons as to why these elections are being conducted at this point of time is, perhaps because of the forwarded applications to the vice-chancellor, that blamed the irreparable charges of nepotism and corruption on the present students’ association.

After spending whatever time I did at HNLU, I am very positive about the present SBA. I am a huge fan of everyone  I have met till now. Of course, there is a possibility that I may not know the other side of the story. The onus is on the candidates fighting this election, to prove how they are planning to keep the next student body bereft of nepotism and corruption.

After all, it’s all about favouritism and polarisation, rather than any other parameter in national politics, which play the role of influencers. Yesterday, I was having a conversation with one of my senior and he explained me as to how there was a huge scope for corruption and autocracy by the SBA body. Then, in another conversation with one of my friends, he pointed out that all the students here belong to a well-to-do family and they will not be corrupt. I could not stop myself from recalling a famous line from the movie named BUDDHA IN A TRAFFIC JAM that “the only persons who have not been involved in corruption activities are the poor people because they have not got the opportunity to be corrupt.”

When I recall some of the names involved in 2G scam, CWG scam, COAL scam, etc., I hardly get any poor person’s name dragged in such scams. And, one of the most important quotes we hear in legal circuit is that “JUSTICE SHOULD NOT ONLY BE DONE BUT ALSO SEEM TO BE DONE.” This was the time we could have ensured that necessary steps are taken to keep the system transparent and strict but alas, we are in the habit of blaming and complaining which we will do in the future because POWER CORRUPTS and this quote is for all.

One of the main reasons I feel that someone wants to win this election is that they want to add something to their CV. And, that is absolutely fine according to me but when it comes to voters, they need to think that they should give votes for the benefit of the common masses rather than the benefit of candidates. A person very proudly states in his CV and on his collar that he is the convener/ vice-convener/ class representative of such and such body hiding the gross failure of the responsibilities and hopes put on his shoulder by so many young minds.

One more question that comes to my mind is that what happens if the present SBA that has been accused of some charges that might be false get replaced by another set of people in SBA? And, this question can only be answered by asking another set of question that WHAT CHANGED FOR THE BETTER IN HNLU AFTER VC’S DEPARTURE?

Keeping my article short because the university is grappling with a lot of issues including the mess food at one of the topmost priority and no one caring about it and a lot of other problems that are self-evident and the priorities perhaps changed for the elected body, I urge my inner conscience to go and vote for the person who can bring a change in the existing system for the better, who can come with some of the promises to be kept and who can be relied upon. I am not fighting this election but the least I could benefit is to improve my writing skills at least to have some commentaries on it for a further improvement. Your criticisms on this article are most welcome. Thanks.

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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.

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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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