This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Alisha Asif. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“I Carry Within Me The Spirit Of Hindustan”

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“एक हमारी और एक उनकी

मुल्क में हैं आवाजें दो
अब तुम पर है कौन सी तुम
आवाज सुनों तुम क्या मानो
हम कहते हैं जात धर्म से
इन्सा की पहचान गलत
वो कहते है सारे इंसा
एक है यह एलान गलत
हम कहते है नफरत का
जो हुक्म दे वो फरमान गलत
वो कहते है ये मानो तो
सारा हिन्दुस्तान गलत.”
कविः जावेद अख़्तर
(Two voices echo in the country
One ours and the other theirs,
It is now up to you, which you choose
To listen to and accept.
We say caste and religion are
not markers of identity;
They say all of us are exactly like each other
but this is wrong.
We refuse the nationwide command
to hate
They say that refusal must mean
the entire country is mistaken)
Poet: Javed Akhtar
It’s unfortunate. Unfortunate, how I wrote for YKA last fortnight, telling all of you to go out and protest and I had this ‘junoon‘, this ‘courage’, this angst within me while saying that. It’s unfortunate, how days have passed and I’m going to tell you to do just that, go protest, again. But not as freely, and not as courageously.

I was out protesting on the 19th of December representing my city, Lucknow, as one of the strong voices of dissent, amidst whatever is happening. But not for too long. I was laathi-charged. I was detained. I was kept away from the protest point for quite some time. I got back to the main area, after a few hours though, and managed to sit through for a few minutes, but then, to my utter shock, the protest that was non-violent, had by now, become a ruckus. Dear God, was it scary!

Anti-CAA protests rocked the nation in December 2019. Representational image.

There was this moment during the protest, where I zoned out for a bit, looking at two sides of a coin, right in front of my eyes. To my right was a group of students and their families and friends sitting with posters, singing, almost humming in unison ‘Nafas Nafas‘, while to my left was another bunch of people, who looked rather rowdy, who kept shouting ‘zindaabaad, murdaabaad‘.

A few of them had sticks, our Indian flag and saffron clothes around their necks, and the police almost ignored them and went straight to the ones sitting on the right, laathi charged them and stuffed them into buses.

Haters will think I’m exaggerating. “Unka yaqeen, unka zehen unhe mubaarak” (“I congratulate you on your belief and your brain/psyche”). I know what I saw.

The rest is all over the news. My own people, friends, many citizens of the city, of a particular community, were picked up from the protest point, from their own houses, and arrested, brutally beaten up, almost kidnapped. Since they weren’t allowed to make calls, their families didn’t know of their whereabouts for 2-3 days. A few of them were released only yesterday and there are still ones who have some social capital. Think about the ones who come from simple families and backgrounds?

No matter how wrong this is, they managed to shun us, scare us, shut us up for a while. Because everyone, and hell yes, I count myself in, was/has been scared to raise voices freely, ever since then. Mental health matters right? “Kitni ladaaiyaan kar lenge aap jab sab kuch unke qabze mein hai? Chindi-chindi bik gaya humaara kaanoon!” (How long will you fight when everything is under their control? Our laws have been sold at an atrociously cheap rate!) 

For days and days, and I didn’t step out of my house, except for going to work. Of course, our families were worried. I don’t blame them one bit. I know how anxious it all made me.

Finding other ways to protest, we did storytelling sessions with children around our places, to get them to question what’s happening and why; and to understand the power of compassion.

My insides were just starting to heal and BAM! JNU was attacked! And the news has it all. ALL OF IT!

I want to choose this platform of YKA, to speak to my fellow people, who still are complicit with what’s happening. Yes, you know who you are.

“Kab tak chuppi saadhe baithe rahenge, janaab? Kab tak ghalat-salat logon ke haathon mein desh thamaate rahenge? Aankhein moond ke baithne ka ya chehra pher lene ka waqt gaya..” (How long will you stay quiet, sir? How many more times will you serve the country on a platter, to those most undeserving to run it? It is too late to not see what is in front of you, or just turn away conveniently…)

It isn’t really only about CAA-NRC anymore. Even criminals have human rights and a voice, and here in our country, at the moment, students and normal citizens are being robbed off so much, for merely protesting peacefully, against national decisions or a decision that concerns their university fee, their family, their history, their future! Be it in Kashmir, or at Jamia, 

Remember. It’s not only about what the government is doing, but very much about what the government is allowing!

I’d like to believe I’m badass, but here I am, scared, sad, angry.. all at the same time. I’m scared because I’m still under scrutiny, I’m scared how nothing I say or do is bigger than my surname. Is that not wrong? Does that not bother you?

Their violence is alarming and your silence is deafening. And you still choose to stay unaffected, quiet, calm.

“Haath-paer bohot hadh tak bandhe hue hain phir bhi farz samajhti hoon apna apni baat aage rakhna, aapko samajh paana, aapko kuch samjha paana” (My hands and feet are tied tightly, still I feel it is my duty to put forward my point of view, to understand yours and to make you understand mine.)

Open your eyes to both sides of the picture, please.

All that you’ve given time to, taken lightly has built up to this.


*Feature image is representational.

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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, 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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