This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Basanta Nirola. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

#WhyIWrite: Because It Makes Me Want To Keep Myself Happy

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Editor's note: Youth Ki Awaaz has turned 12, and this post is a part of #WhyIWrite, a campaign to celebrate Youth Ki Awaaz users who have spoken up about issues that matter to them. If you'd like to share what motivates you to write, publish your story here!

Heartiest congratulations to Youth Ki Awaaz for its glorious 12 years. YKA is known as one of the biggest platforms for citizen journalism and inspires young fellows to write. Having been a YKA user since September 2017, I got featured as a ‘Top Writer’ of the platform in February 2018. As an underprivileged fellow who hails from Assam and just wishes to share my thoughts in my writing, I have written over 60 articles covering issues related to contemporary social affairs, gender issues, current political affairs, international relations and more on this platform so far.

I can firmly say that YKA gives a platform to its users, where they can express themselves openly without the fear of being judged. YKA accepts me just the way I am. It reads my articles patiently and inspires me to keep writing more. This is the best platform to express yourself through your writing and explore your thoughts and views. Most importantly, YKA helps us to develop our skill of writing, understanding and helps us improve ourselves.

Why Do I Write?

I write because writing gives me pleasure. It gives me the space to share my thoughts, connect with people, and most importantly, it evokes in me the spirit to make myself a happy person. It is a form of expression to narrate issues, concerns and trends that need to be catered to. It also helps me find relief by expressing oneself. Gradually, I have come to realise the power of writing, and it gives me peace!

If you ask me who inspires or motivates me to write, I would say, you! The valued readers who always inspire me to write more and more. Also, I had the privilege to learn and seek inspiration from my family. I belong to a family of writers and poets who are splendid in their respective fields. My roof shares the likes of a poet, a columnist and authors of several books in the Assamese, Nepali and English language.

To be honest, through my purest heart, I never considered myself to be a writer; but I love to write and soon enough it became my passion. During my school days, I wrote small pieces in Assamese just because I wanted to create something as a hobby or for fun. Then one fine day, my uncle came to know about my writings. He further inspired and encouraged me to write.

During the late ’90s or early 2000s, he wrote letters to me and sent them via Indian Post. I cherished his words of inspiration, lessons for life, guidance, but most importantly, his love. He urged me to reply and I tried too, via postcards. I conversed in Assamese, which was also the medium of my schooling.

Later, in 2003, when a landline telephone was set up in our home, he used to call me frequently to ask what new stories I’ve written, besides enquiring about my studies. He always gives me valued lessons, most importantly on life. While writing this piece, I remembered my beloved Thulobuba (uncle), Late Phani Sarmah, who left us a few years ago.

My beloved aunty (Sanima), Late Geeta Devi, who passed away recently, used to say: “To do something in life, first, we need to believe in ourselves. For a dreamer to chase the stars.” She always stood besides me as a guide, inspiration and kind supporter. She often pushed words of inspiration and instilled faith in me that led me to move on. This article is also a tribute to these two great souls.

It is known to be true that every citizen’s voice matters in a democratic nation. But, unfortunately, most of those voices remain suppressed. I believe writing is a way of expressing one’s thoughts and ideas. We are living in that era where media is often criticised for its bias and lack of ethics. As the fourth pillar of democracy, media surely is being criticised for its lack of credible reporting. Therefore, I think our voices matter a lot while the media faces problems in its own roots.

In April 2018, I had also written a post titled Our Words Can Start a Silent Revolution’ under the same segment of YKA’s #WhyIWrite and cherished the glorious 10 years of its journey, where I discussed why everyone should speak up about the issues and concerns that are related to the nation-building process. As citizens, our voices matter and help in moving the country forward. I write to express myself freely and for this purpose, YKA is the best platform!

I also extend my gratitude to The News Mill in Guwahati, an Assam-based digital media on which I wrote my first ever article for a digital platform and got my inspiration to write further. It is from them that I started my journey in content writing for digital platforms.

I shall always be thankful to YKA’s Founder and Editor-In-Chief Anshul Tewari sir and the entire team of YKA for giving me the opportunity to write. It has been a great experience with YKA so far. Congratulations once again for a glorious 12 years of your journey. Cheers!

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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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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