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For A Succesful Mass Movement, The Leaders Must Build And Maintain Their Credibility

“To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful!”- Edward R Murrow

Strong and robust leadership is a critical factor for transforming an idea into a mass movement. Leadership requires many attributes, credibility being one of the most important ones—masses repose faith in leaders with proven credibility. Mahatma Gandhi promoted the idea of Satyagrah, and it transformed into a formidable mass movement. It is possible that just because the people of India trusted Mahatma Gandhi, he enjoyed unprecedented credibility.

Similarly, Martin Luthar King Jr transformed the idea of equality into a mass movement. A few years ago, Anna Hazare led a mass movement based on the idea of ‘anti-corruption’. However, the premature death of the anti-corruption movement can be attributed to the loss of credibility of Anna Hazare and his team. These examples substantiate the importance of credibility in the sustainability of any mass movement.

Recently, a few activist organizations and Bollywood celebrities tried to create a mass movement against the alleged destruction of Aarey Forest for the construction of the Mumbai Metro. Though the issue was relevant, fueled by the recent speech by Greta Thunberg at UN and a knee-jerk type climate strike, it failed to take off and the Government, with a nod from the judiciary, succeeded in defying protests and cleared the requisite number of trees. This article is not interested in the discussion of the merits and demerits of the ‘Aarey Movement’, but how the lack of credible leadership can destroy even the nicest of ideas!

The ‘Aarey Movement’ was led by Bollywood celebrities, who themselves have a huge carbon footprint. They live in plush bungalows, drive fuel-guzzling SUVs, frequently fly to aspirational tourist destinations, etc. Furthermore, the film-city is located in the vicinity of Aarey Forest and is itself under the scanner for encroachment on forest land. These facts made the appeal and advocacy by Bollywood sound paradoxical and created dissonance in the minds of people. Thus, the Aarey Movement failed to attract the attention of the common man, thus emboldening the government to have its way.

In addition to the lack of credibility of Bollywood celebrities, the credibility of the government played a vital role in convincing people of its intentions to protect the environment along with building infrastructure. As soon as the Aarey Movement flared-up, government machinery flooded the mainstream and social media with its efforts towards planting trees and conserving the ecosystem. Also, the way a robust public transport infrastructure could aid in conserving the environment in addition to easing the lives of daily commuters was conveyed rationally to people. Such rational persuasions and transparent communications boosted the credibility of the government. It provided them with much-needed support, given that the Maharashtra Assembly elections were around the corner.

The concept of credibility has a crucial role in the socio-political arena. Based on the credibility of PM Modi, the Indian government has successfully executed radical decisions such as demonetization, GST, and the revocation of Article 370. Apart from politics, the concept of credibility can be leveraged in the business world. It has significant implications for marketers. The businesses need to be honest and truthful in their communications to establish credibility among consumers. Moreover, attacking the credibility of competitors can be a useful strategy.

Patanjali employed this strategy very effectively. Also, during a period of crisis, credibility can be an effective rescuer. In the case of Maggi, it was the credibility of the brand that helped it regain the market after the controversy over MSG content. Thus, all individuals, public personalities, organizations, and governments must build credibility to have sustained success. Credibility can be built by being truthful in one’s day-to-day conduct and transparency in communication. Loss of credibility may impact the individual, business, institution, or government in the worst possible manner!

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  1. Udit Garg

    I completely agree with you on this! It is of utmost importance that in any mass movement or organization in general, a credible leadership is of importance because how do you expect a Dentist to perform a cardiac surgery! But even if the idea is coming from a non-credible person, and given it is a good idea, isn’t it possible that credible people join the non-credible person and help the cause? Is it an issue of ego at play?

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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.

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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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