Why Does The Youth In India Detest All Things Political?

This essay comes from the entire journey of my life and a pertaining question. A question which failed me as well as the youth of this country and my life landed me here—‘somewhere’ to understand ‘politics’ and its (dis)association with the youth. Whenever I have partially understood one of the oldest professions, I fail to understand why young individuals repel it. This essay is a series of answers with my limited understanding of everything I have mentioned. My fascination with politics has been from thinking of becoming a politician to being ridiculed for being so ‘political’. Let’s attempt to answer the unanswered based on anecdotes from my life without claiming anything.

As I think, during my school days, I have been ridiculed about the idea of getting into politics and becoming a politician. But, is merely becoming a politician the only way to politics? I didn’t find it funny, but the idea couldn’t go any further. But why do we think that politics or even the politicians are so inaccessible? The remainder of the essay will suggest some possible reasons.

Primarily, the issue is in the accessibility of opportunities for entering politics. The issue in itself rings a bell, and our head answers a big and loud, NO. But I take the liberty to state otherwise. It is not. Instead, the problem is the accessibility to the ‘idea’ of politics. Ironically, we live in a country where individuals will not stop praising Anil Kapoor’s Nayak: The Real Hero and Aamir Khan’s Rang De Basanti, but the same individuals would delightfully say, “I am apolitical”. A conversation around politics, something which impacts them directly, bores them., it makes them yawn. But why?

India is a country of people who wait for ‘heroes’ of change.

Firstly, society should take its necessary credit for shaping our understanding of ‘politics’. Society conditions us to think, apparently, negative about this profession. Most of the time, we’re made to think of politicians and politics as corrupt and full of greed. These pessimist and immoral terms are profoundly attached to anyone relatively part of this field. Now, will you blame the individual for not developing an interest in this field?

A counter-argument can suggest that similar can be said about the government jobs as well, that they are corrupt and make you lazy, and yet, numerous people enroll for the same. My counter-reasoning for government-job ambition is simply how society introduces you to the concept. Government jobs are corrupt but stable whereas politics is shady, and remains such regardless. I see politics as social work. This must be hard to digest, but that’s how it is. There is enough power, enough responsibility but minimal accountability, and lack of accountability comes from our lack of understanding of politics and its structure.

Ridiculing the ‘idea’ of politics and finding it shady is the real abstract inaccessibility to the profession.

Secondly, to some extent, even the schools are responsible for creating this point of view towards politics. A school is a place that fits you into a pseudo-democratic system. Try recalling the house system, the elections and the dull campaigns, above that vaguely defined power and responsibilities of the ‘elected representatives’. Yes, that’s not politics at all. No one in the school talks about issues other than the curriculum. That’s the pseudo-democratic system you were asked to study—the system which you inherently disliked because of its fake nature.

In addition to that, the definition in which society weaves of politics makes us ‘not’ like it, instantly. Hence, the system presented to you in school never attracts you. The cherry on the cake is the teachers who are responsible for educating about necessary things, but they never talk about politics. They do talk about the structure, the rules, and regulations but never about the ‘idea’ of politics.

Thirdly, it is us who should be blamed, simply because we succumbed to the pressure of the society. We kept on eating the western dishes of ‘individuality’ and ‘liberty’ mixed with Indian flavor of ‘stability in life’. The ‘Stability in life’ can vary with each culture and background. We, at the end of the day, are Indians, and India is a country of people who wait for ‘heroes’ of change. This fails us as a society. We are a country with such mass potential but fail to generate a locus. Anyway, this is a thought to introspect about and stop waiting; this wait is which really corrupts us, not politics.

To sum up, even if we try hard to ignore and exclude ourselves, as individuals, from politics, it will be a lie. It will be oblivion. We have failed to understand, time and again, that politics impacts us significantly. Even if we disassociate ourselves with politics, politics doesn’t disassociate us from it. These politicians and politics will use the apolitical against all the individuals, lesser in number, to influence the results of the poll. A slogan used during the 1960s second wave of feminism, “The Personal is Political”, quite beautifully summarises the involvement of politics even in an apolitical environment. Hence, ridiculing the ‘idea’ of politics and finding it shady is the real abstract inaccessibility to the profession.

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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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