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Will Rahul Gandhi’s Resignation Finally Democratise The Congress Party?

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Rahul Gandhi’s resignation that he offered to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) has managed to keep everyone on their toes about the future of the party. Not that the existence of the party is at stake or anything, but this event might result in a turning point for the Congress party. I think it was brave of the CWC to announce that his plea to resign was rejected, however, there seems to be more than meets the eye. Rahul Gandhi on Monday appeared firm on his decision to step down as Congress president. He is said to have told the party he will continue until a suitable successor is found. Some in the party interpreted this as a sign that he may relent. Others said finding a successor is not easy given the sense of deep distrust among senior leaders.

The Need To Reinvent The Congress Party From Within 

The working of the Congress party wasn’t actually perfect and the growing nepotism within the party was more than evident. Indeed, Rahul Gandhi’ resignation is a sign that the party is moving away from its current dependency on the Gandhi family. Voters are persuaded in the name of the Nehru-Gandhi ancestors and they literally run the party. This situation is causing nothing to the party but harm. What might actually help the party is an effort to bring in the talent of young leaders and the experience of the senior leaders at the right place and at the right time.

I believe that Rahul Gandhi presenting his resignation to the CWC and asking the body to look for alternatives outside the Gandhi family speaks volumes. A non-Gandhi leadership looks like an ideal starting point of this endeavour.

A Reflection On What Unites The Congress Party

The “don’t quit” chorus seems to be rising as it gets clearer that there is no looking back for Rahul Gandhi. Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Lalu Prasad termed Rahul Gandhi’s proposal to resign as Congress chief suicidal and said it would amount to “falling into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s trap”. This makes us question if it is actually the party that needs the Gandhi family. Are they the only uniting factor left in the “grand old party”? Powerful leadership is essential for any political party, but, what is also an important prerequisite is a common ideology.  The members need to agree on some common goals and aspirations to make the organisation work. What Congress really needs is a clear vision to be able to look beyond the ossified elites. It is time the Congress party stood for a political idea rather than a family.

For The Cause Of The Congress

Congress is not merely some political organisation, it is the second largest party in the parliament and represents the people who have not voted for them in the government. The party, therefore, must strive to accommodate the diversity and aspirations of the people of India. The internal crises must not deflect the MPs of the party from their duties towards the people. In this case, the post of the party president as well as the leader of the opposition, hold great importance. We can say that it was not very mature of Rahul Gandhi to step down within 48 hours of the election results. He did not propose any alternative plan for the party to pursue and obviously had no time to look into what went wrong. Although, he must be given some credit for attacking nepotism in the party by rebuking senior members like Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath for favouring their sons over the party’s cause.

Rahul Gandhi’s resignation will not solve the Congress’s problems directly but it could be the first step towards democratising the party internally; which is something that the Congress president once promised to. It could start holding elections for the next Congress president, a post that has been held by a Gandhi since 1998, giving party workers at the village and block level a say in choosing who will lead them. What also must be kept in mind is that the onus of failure in the elections must not be solely put on a single individual. His decision to step down must not be seen in the narrow light of Modi’s win but in the context of a broader scheme of things. Therefore, Congress has no reason to sit and wait as the reinventing will not happen in a day. In the words of Shashi Tharoor, “The Congress has no time to sit and lick its wounds as it must immediately pick itself up for the upcoming state elections.”  

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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