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Five Tips To Write A Strong Open Letter To Your Decision Maker

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From sparking movements, to creating awareness, to bringing critical issues to the attention of decision makers, the open letter is no doubt an effective tool to bring attention to something you believe in. An open letter ideally meets two objectives: one, to grab the attention of the addressee from whom you want action or a reaction and two, to mobilise an existing audience across platforms to take up your cause.

A well written open letter has enormous power and influence. It’s a form of writing that can get you traction from quarters that you wouldn’t be able to reach in different circumstances. Combined with the power mass reach on the internet, its potential to influence is unquestionable. And to wield that influence, it needs to be engaging and powerful.

So, how do you go about writing an effective open letter? Here are some tips:

Follow YKA’s Recommended Format To Write Your Letter

To begin writing an open letter on Youth Ki Awaaz, you need to log in to the platform by clicking the ‘Start Writing’ button on the top right corner on this page. Find out more about how to publish in detail here. Once you’ve logged in, you would be able to publish your story with the letter. A good open letter would follow the following format:

Keep It Short And Issue Focussed

Be it your addressee or the good people in the online space, people are generally tuned to skimming through a piece, rather than going word for word. The shorter, simpler and more direct your letter, the better chances of it standing out and creating an impact. Focus on the issue, two or three compelling arguments you make for or against it, and your clear ask. The longer the letter, the higher the chances that it won’t be read word-to-word.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg at a rally in Edmonton, on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

For instance, check out this open letter by student climate strikers to sound a clarion call to governments to take action on climate change. The letter served as a precursor to a movement that has drawn eyeballs across the world, with teen activist Greta Thunberg even placing these demands in the UN earlier this year.

Target The Right Decision Maker

Targeting the right decision maker is a critical part of ensuring your letter translates to some kind of action. The right decision maker is someone who first, has the power to take the action you want to see and second, is or has directly engaged with the issue before. A Sports Minister, for instance, wouldn’t be the right decision maker for an issue around quality of roads, just as workers in charge of cleaning your school premises wouldn’t be the right people to approach to get a broken washroom fixed. The decision maker should then be targeted keeping in mind whether they care about the issue or not, and/or have the power to influence the action you wish to see.

Make It Relevant

Sometimes, the issue that you want to write about might not have the same relevance for your audience as it does for you. A little research beforehand to understand your audience and figure out which aspects of the issue are most relevant to them and word it accordingly.

Nikita Azad, whose open letter on Youth Ki Awaaz sparked a nationwide movement to smash the taboos around menstruation.

For instance, this open letter by Nikita Azad on Youth Ki Awaaz sparked a nationwide movement around busting the myths and taboos around menstruation. While it was addressed to the Sabarimala Temple chief, it also incorporated elements from everyday lives of the people who ended up lending massive support to Nikita’s campaign #HappyToBleed, to counter stigma against menstruation.

Make Sure It’s Solution-Oriented

Focusing on the issue at hand is only one aspect of a good open letter. As much as possible it’s a good idea to incorporate solutions within the written piece, with a call to action for the change you want to see. It would give both the addressee and your audience an idea as to which direction you want them to take on the issue.

Even if the solution isn’t clear or concrete to you, the change you wish to see should be clearly expressed. For instance, this open letter on body positivity by Sonam Kapoor didn’t particularly target a decision maker, but it had a clear call for change and a message of hope, making sure it was widely read.

Now that you’re here… We’ve got an exciting writing contest opportunity for you, where you can write an open letter and win up to ₹30,000! Check out the rules and procedure and click here to participate!

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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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