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Kadam Badhate Chalo: Inspiring Youth to Bring Social Change

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Kadam Badhate Chalo (KBC) is a youth-led program initiated by the Martha Farrell Foundation to end violence against women and girls (VAWG). The program calls young boys and girls to identify issues of VAWG in their communities and collectively work with stakeholders to bring change in the attitude of people.


In doing so, these young boys and girls gain the confidence of taking up leadership roles and influence their homes, communities and other youths to join them. The program has been implemented in 30 locations in 14 states over the last three years, engaging more than 30,000 youth, and reaching out to close to three million people in the process.

Upadrasta Neeharika, an 18-year old college student from Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, is a prime example of a youth taking the initiative in their own community. Born in Kurnool, Neeharika has grown up in Hyderabad and is now studying at the AV College of Arts, Science and Commerce.

Upadrasta Neeharika, an 18-year old college student from Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, is a prime example of a youth taking the initiative in their own community.

Neeharika has always had a curious side to her, and her need to explore led to her joining the women’s empowerment cell at her college. This proved to be a turning point in her development. “Joining the women’s empowerment cell opened up a lot of interesting opportunities for me. Through them, I have managed to learn a lot of new skills, meet different people and explore,” she said.

Rubaroo, a local implementation partner for the KBC program in Hyderabad, were the ones who introduced Neeharika to the project when they’d visited her college. Rubaroo is a youth development organisation based in Hyderabad that works with adolescents and youth on issues of gender, interfaith, and youth development. Rubaroo encourages young people to not only straighten their understanding of social issues, but also to take up action to bring change in the world.

R. Srilatha, a professor at the college, and mentor for the women’s empowerment cell, too believes that she has seen a lot of change in Neeharika once she joined the cell. “She was just like any other college student before, but since enrolling in the women’s empowerment cell, Neeharika has given her best at every session and her commitment, especially towards social projects like KBC, has been tremendous. She is regularly seen motivating her own peer group around college,” she said.

The KBC Program engages boys and girls, and helps them break gender norms and identify the various stereotypes and issues relating to gender around them.


“KBC changed my behavior and the way I think in terms of my ideology. Earlier, I was extremely judgmental. I had a very stereotypical personality and I used to judge others based on age-old gender norms. However, once I completed my KBC sessions with Rubaroo, I started seeing the world differently,” said Neeharika, when discussing the change that she has seen in herself since she joined KBC. She continued, “I stopped following certain gender norms and also explained the same to my family and friends. Moreover, the KBC program has helped me develop a lot of life skills. It has helped me get rid of my stage fright and improve my communication skills.”

“Youth leaders are capacitated to conduct PSAs of their communities, schools, colleges and public spaces to analyse how safe they are for women and girls.”

Participating in the KBC program, along with her involvement in her college’s women’s empowerment cell, has helped Neeharika to not just identify issues relating to VAWG around her, but also take the lead to go one step further and influence change.

One of the key aspects of the KBC training is learning how to use the Participatory Safety Assessment tool (PSAs). Here, youth leaders are capacitated to conduct PSAs of their communities, schools, colleges and public spaces to analyse how safe they are for women and girls. With this in mind, Neeharika and other participants decided to conduct a PSA at her college. She felt that it was the best place for her to start to identify problems and find solutions.

The PSA led to a number of findings, some of which included the fact that there were no menstrual pads available at the college, and that only men cleaned the ladies washroom. Additionally, it identified a number of unsafe and unsanitary areas around campus. The PSA also highlighted the fact that the college had no internal complaints or sexual harassment committees.

These issues represent a number of problems for students at the college, women in particular. The PSA has brought about a remarkable change at the college, with lecturers helping students conduct the audit, and the management, who has promised to provide and implement solutions for all the identified problems.


Hema Khatri, co-founder, and director of Rubaroo, has hailed Neeharika’s development, initiative and passion for social justice,

“Neeharika joined Rubaroo’s community through KBC one year ago. Since joining the KBC program, Neeharika’s understanding and perspective on Gender and Inclusion has grown tremendously. She had not only successfully implemented her social action projects and PSA but has also become very passionate to work towards Gender issues. She is now successfully leading and implementing a 6-month long Gender Campaign Initiative in two schools in Hyderabad. Her inquisitiveness, leadership and keenness to learn have been her biggest strengths and we hope that she continues to work towards a gender-equal society through her commitment and work.”

Neeharika herself is extremely proud of the PSA conducted at her college and is confident that she can continue to make a difference at the campus and beyond. “I felt very happy to have been recognized for my efforts and it has inspired me to work harder!”

All images have been provided by the author. 

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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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