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How To Target The Right Decision Maker To Demand Action On An Issue

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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?

Understanding The Decision Making System

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.

Key Things To Keep In Mind While Targeting Your Decision Maker

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:

  1. Does the person care about the issue? If the issue doesn’t relate to the decision maker you’re considering, chances are they’re not going to act on it.
  2. Does the person have the influence and authority to take the action you want them to? Your parliamentary representative (MP/MLA) won’t have the authority to rewrite policy on a given issue, but they do have the power to bring the issue to the attention of the Parliament.
  3. Is the issue within the person’s jurisdiction? Your colleague at work may not be able to give you an appraisal at work, but speaking to your boss would ideally be the right way to go.

Targeting Leaders For An Issue With Menstrual Hygiene Management

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.

How To Make A Convincing Pitch To Your Decision Maker

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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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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