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Happy 73rd ‘Dependence Day’, India

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There is a lot of difference between “leaving people freely” and “freeing the people”. Majorly, the government is making the system more dependable. The truest meaning of independence is ‘freedom from intervention’ and ‘liberty from coercion’. The system has become so dependable…that it has become quite difficult to imagine a life and a lifestyle without the existence of statism.

Upon achieving freedom in the year 1947, the system thereon practised a license-raj system. The factors of production were largely on the desk of nationalisation until 1991. These years India experienced Hindu rate of growth (stagnant development). Post-1991, India continues to experience statism in a much euphemistic way. Post-2014, the system has revisited license-raj system in the form of permission-raj system (Modinomics) and inspection-raj system (if you happen to question Modinomics).

Sadly, the nation ‘does not’ want to know how free India is?

If you dissent, you’re anti-national. It has just become next-to-impossible to question the government. The death knell of a sedition case simply waits, the moment one attempts to question or criticize the current government. From 9 [sedition] cases in 2013 to 58 cases in 2014, India witnessed a considerable jump in misusing of the draconian colonial law.

In fact, quite quicker than apocryphal GDP rate of Indian economy. In a span of 2 years (2014-2016), 112 sedition cases were registered. 165 arrested so far. Convicting 2 criminals till date. It is a new norm to misuse the law of sedition without understanding the meaning and application of sedition. The colonial masters [Britishers] introduced the law to grill ‘free speech’ of the then freedom fighters and journalists, but sadly it continues to intimidate and harasses the dissent voices.

If you happen to be female, while dissenting on social media, you receive a ‘rape threat’. This is somewhat the latest method to shun the voices that endeavour to speak for themselves, resulting into deflation of India’s rank on ‘freedom of speech’ index from 134th in 2014 to 140th in 2019.

Truly speaking, it is wrong to be right when the government is wrong.

The government has done a commendable job on ‘ease of doing business’ index. In 2014, out of 189 nations, India ranked 142nd. In 2018, she stands at 77th. But, on the ground, discourse on job creation does not find its adequate slot and attention. 350,000 individuals were offered pink slip in the automobiles sector in the last 8 months.

Unemployment is at 6.1% (2019), then it was at 4.1% in 2013. That demonetization proved to be a disaster, on the economy, has played a reactive role in the massive demolition of employment. The current government, in 2013-14, chanted a Reaganomical slogan “minimum government, maximum governance” to win the sentiments of capitalists and entrepreneurs, without having a sound policy approach in overtaking the contemporary predicament of tax terrorism and declining capital formation.

In fact, it impudently launched Project Insight to harass businessmen and taxpayers at the discretion of unaccountable ‘ineptocrats’ (bureaucrats). Such a consciously irresponsible step has further deteriorated the quality of ‘economic liberty’ (129/190 nations) and ‘enforcement of contract’ (163/190 nations), thus making the international players more sceptic of the functional side of Indian economy.

It is not an act of ‘urban Naxalism’ to prelude the government on the podium of responsibility and accountability. On the ‘social progress’ front, India ranks 100 out of 133 nations. On the ‘gender gap’ index, 142 out of 149 nations. On the ‘human development index’, 130 out of 190 nations.

This ratiocinates that the government has become quite anti-national against its own citizens; compelling people to often prove nationalism, sloganeering ‘Jai Shri Ram’, saffronising the social attitude, revising caste-based violence, and ultimately facilitating people to believe in the philosophy “If not Modi, then who?” Leaving no ‘freedom of choice’ on topics like Aadhar Card, self-determination rights (refer the case of article 370 abrogation), beef ban, and nevertheless the inflationary “internet shutdown”.

There is a dire need to measure the standard of Independence Day celebrations. To celebrate for the sake of it or to just feel a jingoistic orgasm on 15th of every August, intellectual honesty becomes suicidal. When the role of the government has expanded beyond its defined functions, it becomes a moral duty to undo the power of devolution.  This 73rd Independence Day, the celebration is filled with the iota of pseudo-consciousness. We are today, in this epoch, more dependent than independent.

The beauty of India is in its plurality and fraternity, without which our nation would become a hell place of interdependence.

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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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