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“Gandhi Would Be Proud Of India’s Youth Today, For It Has Rejected Religious Divisions”

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The massive outpouring of popular support against the bigoted combination of CAA and NRC, on the streets of various cities and towns across India, has again inspired a hope that people of this country will stand against the majoritarian onslaught by the powers that destroy the idea of India and its pluralistic culture.

These unprecedented protests have taken everyone aback, coming at a time, when the Modi government has just returned to power with a stunning majority and the opposition which is still brooding over its rout has looked completely incapable of mobilising the masses behind it to protest against this brazen attempt by the government to reopen the wounds of partition through the CAA and NRC.

However, the most baffling aspect of this has been the fact that, the country’s youngest population was the first who took to streets and inspired other people who were fearful of the government to exercise their constitutional right to protest and are now spearheading the popular resistance against the CAA and NRC. These are the same millennials who were considered to be PM Modi’s biggest support group and had showered their love for him just a few months ago in the 2019 general elections.

The last time we saw such a large scale protest in the country was during the Anna Hazare Movement when a large number of people marched behind him against a corrupt UPA government. At that time they were disillusioned by the status quo, wanted a change and were looking for hope. That hope came in the form of hope, Narendra Modi who rode to power on the back of promises such as “Achche Din” (better days) and “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” (progress, in unity). They saw Modi as a strong leader and an agent of change who will change the business of the country and believed in him to take India on a path of development and progress.

A student protest against the CAA, in Bengaluru.

Yet, to their utter dejection, the promise of “Achche Din” has proven to be a big jumla (literally translates to ‘a sentence’, recently used to indicate rial politician’s/party’s promises) with the economy sailing on choppy waters, unemployment reaching a 45-year-high and on top of it all, the government also making attempts to undermine the autonomy of their educational institutions.

The disaffection in them over the non-performance of the government was building up for quite some time and the bloodied visuals from Jamia Millia Islamia where students were brutally beaten up inside the campus for protesting against the NRC and CAA seems to have acted as a trigger that has now unleashed their pent up rage.

Today’s youth is very different from their predecessors of the pre-liberalisation era and is much more aspirational, aware, crave for real development and has shown that it wouldn’t get swayed by the divisive rhetoric of the BJP. This youth can read between the lines of government’s propaganda and has recognised that CAA and NRC is nothing but a diversionary tactic used by those in power to polarise the voters and deflect their attention from the real bread and butter issues on which they have failed to deliver.

The protests have been largely peaceful and the manner in which these young students have creatively employed the Gandhian method of resistance against a sinister agenda to pit one Indian against another on the basis of religion would have made Gandhi’s chest swell with pride. The country couldn’t have paid a better tribute to the Mahatma on his 150th birth anniversary other than standing up for the very secular ideals for which he sacrificed his life.

But despite the peaceful nature of protest the manner in which the government has responded to the protests highlights the insecurity and fear that lies at the very core of this establishment. As a large number of Muslims and people from other religions walk shoulder to shoulder singing patriotic hymns and holding the tricolour high, it is not that easy for the ruling party to tag them all as ‘anti-national’ or ‘urban Naxals.’ This is why you see the government scampering to put up an effective response and is even using violent means and assembly restrictions to crush the spirits of the protesters.

We the youth of this country are putting up a very valiant fight to save the country that we have grown up in and it’s time for everyone in this country to come ahead and join the movement.

Featured image source: APPSC IIT Bombay/Facebook.
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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.

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.

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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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