This Youth Initiative For Village Development Is Truly Inspiring!

After a long ride, just as we were beginning to see some village houses, beyond an undulating landscape, Anil moved his bike in front of our jeep, signalling us to stop.

Pointing at the barren land around, with a sweep of his hand, he started telling us, that once, these hills were green, and villagers used to graze cattle here. The pits on the barren hills that we were seeing, were due to the soil being excavated by tractors, that was taken to Rajpur almost every day. He has vivid memories of playing in this green bushy area while grazing cattle with his friends in his childhood.

Anil and Golu convinced some of their friends about the need to conserve this land and stop the soil excavations; they sent a letter to the Tehsildar, requesting him to stop the illegal activity. When no action was taken, Anil and his friends talked to the labourers of their village, who were working with tractor-wallahs and convinced them to take up some other work, as this was destroying the village. Interestingly, Anil seemed to be particularly worried about not getting wood to burn the dead.

Finally, he led some youngsters to the site and stopped the tractor drivers and contractors. The soil excavation stopped. This small victory boosted the group’s confidence and set them thinking about reforesting the area by planting trees. But due to some reasons, they could not do it. Next year, they plan to do this for sure.

After ‘buying’ this great inspirational story we followed him to the village – Damdami in Badwani district of Madhya Pradesh, with a great positive feeling. Parking the jeep at his house, we walked towards the village school, happily soaking in the fresh air and the unmistakable odours of fermented Mahua and the not-so-holy lazing buffaloes and their dung. A band of children who had better things to do than going to school soon started following us. Chatting with the kids, we reached the village school, where Anil and his lieutenant – Golu, had organised a meeting.

The venue was set with chairs and ‘tatpattis’ but only 5-6 people were present. It seemed we had come at one of the busiest of times. Almost everybody was on the farm, busy planting the politically volatile and media-savvy, onions! Anyway, Anil explained the idea of conserving the hills and Jayashree talked to them about using the MNREGA scheme for water conservation works in the village, if they were interested. There was a discussion about the problems and advantages of doing the conservation work collectively, rather than individually.

Anil’s family’s main source of income is through the 3-4 acre farm and labour work. Onions are one of the main cash crops. It was very educative to see the production end of the onion story and we were filled with guilt, knowing the amount of labour involved, and the risks farmers take to grow onions. The difference between the wholesale rates at which they sell them, and the rates at which we buy in metros, is appalling. (Onion story later).

Getting back to our story, after these insights, we headed to Anil’s house where we were made to sit in an ‘air-conditioned’ room with reed mat walls, which brought in cool air and an ominously low small ceiling fan. As we entered his hut, crouching down, our eyes adjusting to the low light, he told us apologetically that he intends to make a new house next year. They are four brothers.

“Each year all the earnings go into getting a ‘laadi’ for one brother. Now the youngest is left.” This guy, in spite of his polio leg, was leaning on a bike with a great attitude and on hearing his name, waved his hand at us with a peace sign.

“So next year we will put our earnings into the house.”

After a basic, delicious lunch, we left with a lot of good feelings, inspired, educated and with equally amazing enthusiasm. The world had not come to an end. There is hope. There are many youngsters like Anil and Golu. Going about their daily lives, inconspicuous in a crowd but with a fire and a will to do something for the larger good

About a fortnight ago, he sent some photographs of people working on the barren land where he had stopped the tractors doing soil excavation.

He got his hamlet of people together and took them to the Gram Sabha held on the 15th of August 2019. There, they gave their demand for work through MNREGA to the panchayat secretary and Sarpanch. Due to his efforts, 33 people have got work and a small pond is being constructed to conserve water. They also told the people that if they don’t work for 100 days, they will lose their job cards and eventually the BPL ration cards may also be taken away!

Aaj ke zamaane mein log seedhe, seedhe nahin samajhte. Kuchh to ghuma kar bataana padta hai. Kyon didi ?” (In today’s times’ people don’t listen if we tell them straight. We need to weave a tale and tell them some scary or rosy dialogues. Isn’t it Didi?) And Didi didn’t have any option except to nod her head in approval.

Seeing the fruits of their labour, people are happy.


The workers have received a message saying that the wages have been deposited in their bank accounts. Through the panchayat secretary, they called the engineer to the village and asked him to explain the whole project. The people need to take ownership of the work and not just act as labourers. They also expressed their doubts about payments being made according to work done rather than the minimum wage. After the meeting he says, he has a feeling that there are going to be some hassles and he has to be prepared.

Since his school days, Anil has been active in various student organisations in his area, but he had to leave college after one year, due to his weak economic situation at home. He was always restless as he wanted to do something to improve the situation of his village. He got a lot of energy and direction after joining the ‘Yuva Chetana Shivir’ , where he met many youngsters from his District and there was a lot of discussion about ways to stop the rampant migration due to environmental degradation and lack of work in villages.

The Yuva Chetana Shivir is a perspective building course run by Jayashree and Amit on behalf of SRUTI, where youngsters try to understand the prevalent inequalities and injustices in society and are motivated to think about small positive actions that they can initiate, at personal levels, for their community. He got especially enthused after his exposure visit to Alirajpur, where he saw how villagers had got work through panchayats, after organising themselves under the dynamic leadership of Magan Kanesh and Shankar Tadavla of  Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath.

Simple people, simple thoughts leading to small actions in faraway places. Far more effective than the grand plans of grandiose commissions. Do we really need these big shit leaders or ‘well educated’ officers to tell us what to do to improve our lives? Actually, we just need them to stay out of our way and help us in when we ask them to.

Best wishes to them and thanks for filling us with positivity.

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below