Just as every destination in the world cannot be reached by the same means of transport, every issue you come across or experience cannot be resolved by the same person. Think about the doubts you’ve had in school – you wouldn’t approach a Math teacher to resolve a question you have on your Biology lesson, would you? The same principle applies when you want to get an issue resolved – be it in your school, in your organisation or in your community.
An issue can most effectively and speedily resolved by the person responsible for it. Approaching the wrong decision maker would just delay the process, leaving you frustrated and without solutions. So, how do you target the right decision maker to resolve your issue?
To correctly identify and target the right decision maker, it is essential to understand the system which you’re trying to penetrate.
For example, if we speak about India’s governance structure, there are three layers of decision makers: union or national, state and local governance. Under the national level of governance, you have the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers, under the state level it’s the Chief Minister and heads of state departments and at the local level, there’s the municipality and Panchayat.
Now, if a National Highway had potholes in it, which level of governance would you file a complaint with? The answer is the Union government, specifically the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. However, if there was a pothole you wanted mended on your street in the interiors of a residential area, you would file a complaint with the local municipal leader.
On a similar vein, let’s think back to the school classroom. In case you have an issue with the cleanliness of the washrooms near your school canteen, wouldn’t you approach the head of administration with your complaint, rather than say, the supervisor of the canteen? What is it that drives you towards the administrative department, rather than the canteen supervisor?
Luckily, there are some simple questions to ask that would ensure you target the right person for your cause:
With respect of menstrual hygiene management in your community in India, there are a number of ministries that work with the issue. This website has a complete list of programmes and ministries operating on the subject, at school, district, state and national levels.
Aside from these programmes, there are also various MPs and MLAs and local leaders engaged in working with menstrual hygiene management. From MP Sushmita Dev, who led the campaign to remove the tax on sanitary pads in 2014 to MP Ninong Ering who drafted a Private Members’ Bill to guarantee women paid menstrual leave; the Indian political landscape is dotted with leaders who have taken up the cause to better menstrual hygiene across the country. Targeting such decision makers would have higher chances of yielding action, as compared to others.
When reaching out, it’s critical to remember that different ministries cater to different issues that have intersections with menstrual hygiene. For instance, if your ask is to improve infrastructure in schools, the right ministry to target would be the Ministry of Human Resource Development. However, if it is an ask about improving sanitation or access to water in your community, the ministry to target is the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. The issue might be gender and MHM specific, but the decision maker might not.
Once you’ve identified the decision maker you want to speak to, it’s important to present your issue and demand to them in the right way. Every decision maker has several such issues to deal with every day, so it’s important to figure what would grab their attention with respect to your issue.
To do this, it’s important to understand their motivation to provide solutions and meet your asks is. For instance, if it is a political leader you’re reaching out to, perhaps their motivation is to get more votes in the next election. Or if it’s your school principal, the motivation could be increasing the school’s average performance by ensuring the safety, security and comfort of menstruating students.
It’s critical to have one clear ask, keeping your letter simple and direct. Flowery language and excesses might not fly very well, due to time constraints. Ideally, keep the flow simple: address the decision maker, tell them what their issue is and why they should care (this is the bit where your understanding of their motivations is important) and state your solution or demand before your signature. Keep the tone simple and polite.
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