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“No Change In The World Has Been Possible Without The Voice Of Youth”, Kailash Satyarthi

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The father of the Global Child Rights Movement, Kailash Satyarthi, is an internationally acclaimed child rights activist. His endeavours have been effortless since the past four decades, restoring the rights of the marginalised, giving a voice to the voiceless, and protecting the exploited from over 140 countries.

He has been instrumental in bringing hushed incidents to the global limelight; from upholding the rights of children to protecting their identity, his sacrifices were applauded. In 2014, Satyarthi had Indians boasting with pride, for going down in history, as the first Indian to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kailash Satyarthi speaks at YKA Summit, 20th December 2019.

On day one of the YKA Summit 2019, Satyarthi was welcomed with echoing applause! He left the audience speechless, as his thoughts evoked the senses of every single member in the auditorium. As he braced the stage with his presence, he narrated, “Every single minute matters, every single child matters, every single childhood matters.

Satyarthi Believes What Matters Is The Voice Of The Truth

Reinstating the country’s belief in the youth of the nation, he said, “I always believed that Youth Ki Awaaz is the voice of change, the voice of the youth is the voice of struggle and construction.” Disregarding whether the youth is in consensus or not, he believes, what matters is the voice of the truth, which can never be suppressed.

No change in the world has been possible without the voice of the youth”. He takes pride while saying that the sole foundation of change is the youth. “The radiance of the youth makes me believe that India is in safe hands.”

Satyarthi’s fight since the past 40 years has been in association with a number of youth associations, as he goes ahead mocking Trump’s fetish for building walls, he reiterates, “the youth believes not in building walls but in breaking these walls – the walls of regression, the walls of injustice, of hatred, of abuse and violence; breaking these walls is the duty of the youth.”

Enlisting a number of youth revolutions, from Greta Thunberg’s ‘Fridays for Future’, to Hong Kong’s fight for democracy, from Africa’s effort in stating slavery as unacceptable, to Chile’s revolution led by young leaders, Satyarthi said, “the youth today challenges the leaders and says enough is enough!”

He praised the youth for standing up and questioning the present-day society, politics and economy, which is driven by economic indifferences, violence and inequalities. “The politics of hate, of division, of xenophobia, Islamophobia, individualism, majoritarianism, is being challenged by the youth thoroughly all over the globe!”

The implementation of ‘Naya Bharat’ is not just the government’s duty but the collaborative effort of the citizens of India! Narrating an old experience, dating back 50 years, he recounts his efforts in breaking down the very regressive and problematic system of ‘jati pratha’.

He talked about an incident when some influential politicians claimed to walk down the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi, yet denied a feast cooked by the hands of what they called, “untouchable” women; Kailash Satyarthi was met with immense flak from his own people for going against this practice.

Labelled by his own people as “paapi” for touching the very “impurity” of the lower caste. “Gandagi karne vale shudh hai, ya gandagi saaf karne wale? (The people who create the mess are pure or the people who clean the mess?) Following this incident, he was socially boycotted, “Social boycott is a bigger punishment than any punishment given by the judiciary”.

As anger erupted in every part of his body, he rebelled. “Anger is an energy that never vanishes; if you keep on suppressing your anger, then it would be diverted to violence, hatred, revenge; keep this anger within yourself and divert it towards constructive work.”

He Abandoned Jati And Dropped His Brahman Surname

Kailash Satyarthi abandoned the Jati structure by abandoning the surname, which asserted that he was a ‘Brahman’; he gave a new name to himself – Satyarthi – the ‘speaker of the truth’.

Talking about his work in the field of child rights, he reminds the audience, that every one hour, eight children are sold as child slaves, and become child prostitutes; they fall victim to the vicious cycle of illegal organ trafficking.

Every one hour, four children fall victim to child sexual abuse, heinous rapes and gang-rapes. Satyarthi reminds the audience of the intensity of the heinous crimes, as in most cases, the rapist is a family member or someone known to the survivor.

The country of Ram, the country of Krishna, the country of Mahavir and Guru Nanak, the country of Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, of Ram Prasad Bismil and Asfargullah Khan, the country of Buddha and Gandhi, is a blot on the name of Goddesses and women! Such hypocrisy!”

He urges the audience to think of the last person of society, who stands the most vulnerable. The politics of today’s day propagates more and more uncertainty, more fear and insecurity in our day-to-day life. As the audience echoed their claps time and again in the auditorium, Satyarthi left every person spell-bound! He asked us to aim for a ‘Bhayamukt Bharat’ (an India without fear).

Talking about democracy, he says, “only through dialogue and debate can truth be attained. If dissent and disagreement are scrapped off, if diversity is not acknowledged, it would hurt the very soul of India and weaken our democracy!”

He encourages the youth to be the ears of society, the ears of the government and the ears of the entire universe, only then can ‘Aazadi’ (freedom) be reverberated in reality.

Concluding his powerful statement, he made the audience recall the power of a single drop of water, the power of a small beak of water and the power of one. “I am doing my bit” can change the world. “All hatred, all injustices and abuse can be curbed only if the youth raises their voices.” As the audience erupted in cheer and praise, Satyarthi referred to the current times and quoted, “let us march together, no one should be left behind!”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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, 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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