Journalist, Celeb And Shiv Sena Leader Discuss Politics And Media At Recent Event

My Experience At ‘The Democracy Wall Organized By The Print

On 27th September 2019, The Print, which is a well-known media house, organised an event which is popularly known as “The Democracy Wall” at Amity University, Mumbai. Imminent personalities such as Shekhar Gupta, a well-known journalist as well editor-in-chief of The Print, Priyanka Chaturvedi, a former Congress national spokesperson and currently a deputy leader of Shiv-Sena, and known Bollywood actress, Tisca Chopra attended this event. This event was organised not in a seminar format, but a conversation between the speaker and the audience.

The program started with Yatin Shah, the executive of IIFL wealth and asset management. He started the program by sharing his academic and professional experiences in the financial corporate world, his technique of surviving the 2008 financial crisis and his technique of investing in the stock market, which many students found beneficial, especially those who were pursuing a business degree.

It then progressed to the performance of a stand-up comedian, Srijan Kaushik, who entertained the audience with his acts. After the brilliant performance, Shekhar Gupta took charge of the event and stated that he will be directly taking questions from the audience instead. The floor was opened for the audience to ask questions. I took this opportunity to ask Shekhar Gupta how the media channels can protect their freedom to practice their profession. He replied, that it is better not to confuse media channels with journalism; media channels are there to do business. He also used a specific term “Raavan channels” for the media and, also acknowledged the fact that the media is going through a crisis because nowadays, people watch news channels for entertainment and not to gather information. He further stated how there are still some media channels that are committed to honest journalism and bringing the true picture in front of people.

Some Mass Communication students asked questions regarding a recent case in Uttar Pradesh, where a journalist was jailed for exposing irregularities. Shekhar Gupta replied saying, “It is true that the government at present is autocratic, but the journalists are skilled enough to not succumb to the pressure from government”. On being asked whether India is still democratic, he said that “although the democracy has not been perfect, and there are many challenges, but the corrective measures will come from within the democracy”. He also stated that “the fact that we are able to talk about these things here indicates that everything is still not over.”

The Print editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta during his session.

Following the session with Shekhar Gupta, the program continued with Priyanka Chaturvedi taking the stage. In her opening remarks, she stated that it is very important to have a strong opposition and, unfortunately, Congress has surrendered. When the floor was open for questions, I again took the opportunity to raise a question regarding the reasons for the Congress rout during the 2014 National elections, followed by the 2015 Delhi elections (where Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party came in power). I also asked, after seeing the performance of a third party like AAP, is it possible that the people might want to see a non-BJP, non-Congress led Government at the centre? To this, she replied, “The main reasons for the Congress rout was the communication process, where Congress could not connect with the voters, as opposed to candidates from BJP and even AAP”. To my second question, she said that “It is quite a possibility that a non-Congress or non-BJP led government may come at the centre, but, in the current horizon, I do not see that happening”.

Shiv sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi during her session.

Following this, an interesting question was raised, where one of the students asked whether the government should interfere in religion. Priyanka remarked that “politics is also a religion in India, so it would be immature to say that the two fronts cannot be reconciled”. On being asked about her views on the recent situation in Kashmir, she stated that she stands in solidarity with the people of Kashmir and it would be resolved in a peaceful manner.

Well known Bollywood personality Tisca Chopra highlighted the Metoo movement in the film industry.

The program also consisted of a session with the well known Bollywood personality Tisca Chopra, where she discussed her experiences in the film industry and topics of present relevance. She also discussed her recent projects and was also being praised by the students for her role in the web series Hostage. A topic of relevance that was also discussed was the MeToo movement that brought a lot of Bollywood in the spotlight. One student said that although we can criticise scenes where the male character slaps the female character, (referring to a scene in Kabir Singh), it can also be said that the filmmaker intended to show the reality persisting in our society, because we cannot deny the fact that such people are present in our civil society. To this, Tisca Chopra replied that “if we want to see the reality on screen, then it is better to know that the reality is way harsher, darker as well as terrible”.

Following these sessions, the program was concluded by a brilliant performance by the rapper Slowcheeta.

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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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