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Assembly Elections 2019: A Crack Too Small To Shake The Behemoth

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The revival of Congress in Maharashtra amidst the loud bickering was largely overshadowed by the re-affirmation of Marathas in Sharad Pawar. But overall, while the Maharashtra assembly election had something to cheer for the opposition parties, Haryana’s results are a pure delight for Congress. The old patriarchs, Pawar and Hooda, proved once again that old tigers are still roaring loud and are capable of not only protecting their bastion but also doing some serious damage whenever under-estimated.

In Haryana, Hooda and the other young Chautala, hailed as the scion of Jat’s politics seem to have broken the invincible demeanour of the BJP for now and have definitely unsettled the Ahem and Veham (ignorance and arrogance) of the BJP’s local leadership. In Maharastra, the octogenarian Sharad Pawar not only proved that he is still very jawan (young) but he also re-established that he is young enough to decimate any challenger in his home turf. It still doesn’t take away the strong possibility that not only in Maharashtra, where BJP-Shiv Sena combine has a comfortable majority but also in Haryana, the BJP will form a government, given its deft hand in claiming the center-stage. These encouraging results for the non-BJP fronts might not be able to affect a change of hands at the helm, yet.

A simplistic analysis will reveal that this election reaffirmed the assumptions that national issues do not influence local assembly, much to the disappointment of BJP, which included a high decibel campaign to milk successful removal of Article 370 in both state election rallies. But such an analysis has to include the fact that such an effect is palpable only in region/states where there does not exist a strong anti (or non)- BJP leadership.

BJP’s success owes much to its deftness in playing with the fault lines exceptionally well—as it does with Modi-fying the BJP.

Wherever the local leadership is stronger, BJP pushing the debates on a nationalistic plank will suffer. Such has been felt, post the arrival of Modi-led BJP in South Indian states, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, Delhi, and even in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in early 2019. Although, the last three had been a lost opportunity to the anti-BJP conglomeration in the light of Lok Sabha results in 2019, where people again voted for Modi-led BJP.

Regional Kshatraps of the Congress lost their footholds due to their long association with power, and hence igniting strong anti-Kshtrap (and hence anti-Congress) sentiment in their constituencies. Hence, the real loss of Congress leadership had been in not being able to inspire and establish new leadership in their regional units. Only recently INC orchestrated a hypocritical-process of re-electing the mother over the son of Nehru family. The inability to look beyond the family, while it continues to look for a sabbatical (if not total abstinence) from active politics, reflects that there still, is no light at the end of the tunnel.

There is little doubt that only Congress-led front has the footprint to put any serious challenge to BJP’s rhetoric at the national level, but the grand old party is still stuck in a paradox. While its young scion has long desired to re-connect with the masses, it’s old guards, and the ablest lieutenants want less of him in their Kshatraps. The paradox is that re-imagining Congress can lead to the sublimation of Congress. The other strong regional leaders have their history soiled for being too parochial in their vision beyond their region.

Pawar and Hooda represent the same kind of old guards. BJP’s success owes much to its deftness in playing with these fault lines exceptionally well—as it does with Modi-fying the BJP. The results howsoever encouraging for the opposition parties, still fell short of putting any brave fight at the national level. With the re-emergence of a nationalistic fervor across the country, having a weak opposition without an acceptable counter-vision is fatal. The Congress and other national parties had long ignored the appeal due to their politics of convenience. Now facing the behemoth, they can continue to do at their own peril, but they need to understand the ground beneath is caving very fast.

The above article was first published here.

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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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