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Minds Caged, Voices Choked: How Can Kashmir Prosper?

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We are living in the 21st century—the age of scientific and technological revolution. Every day, new scientific concepts and new inventions are revolutionizing our lives, and we are crossing higher levels of development with every passing day. Still, the world is divided into developed and underdeveloped nations.

The cognitive processes among the people in the developed regions of the world have risen from the common level to the higher ranges, and these regions are progressing rapidly for the welfare of their common masses. People in such regions have a very comfortable lifestyle, and their socio-economic conditions are favourable for their better livelihood. On the other side, the socio-economic conditions of people in underdeveloped nations are very unfavourable for their development and these people hardly make their both ends meet.

education of students in kashmir is suffering due to no internet 4g connection
The political turmoil of Kashmir has changed its scenario, and the mental frustration of our children is increasing day by day.

Have we ever noticed what makes a nation progressive over the period of time and how its youths touch the zeniths of success and open up new horizons in different fields of life? After cogitating on this problem, we will find that among many other things, it is the free-thinking ability and freedom of expression of new thoughts and new ideas among the people of a nation, specifically its youth folk, which opens up new doors for its advancement. Unless and until a free-thinking environment is created for the youth to unfold their potential for positive changes, a nation can never advance in different fields of knowledge. In other words, it cannot develop.

A nation is made up of its people and its furtherance depends on its people, so obviously their minds should never be caged, and their voices should never be choked. If such an oceanic blunder is committed, a nation will remain in darkness forever, and ultimately, it will vanish from the corridors of time.

Kashmir is known for its fertile land. From ancient times, it has given birth to innumerous philosophers, scientists, poets, authors and many historic personalities. Kashmir has a rich history, and here, the environment was peaceful and favorable for the development of the potential of the people. People were free to think and express their ideas. This paradise on Earth was famous worldover for its scenic beauty, moderate climate and peaceful environment.

When the people over the world are sharing their thoughts and discussing new ideas on social platforms, we are searching for different VPNs to access social sites.

But the story has changed now, and the paradise is witnessing the world’s worst political turmoil. Normalcy has become a phantasm here. This political unrest has badly hit each and every corner of our lives. It has affected our psychological behavior and our mental abilities. Our youth are in utter frustration and they can’t think rationally. When the world is exploring new arenas of knowledge, the thinking capacity of our youth is restricted by internet blockade and the data speed.

Every now and then we keep discussing whether internet will be blocked tomorrow or not and whether the data speed will be restricted to 2G or 4G. When the people over the world are sharing their thoughts and discussing new ideas on social platforms, we are searching for different VPNs to access social sites. Our minds have been caged, and we can’t think freely beyond this circle. When different kind of policies are framed world over for the welfare of students, our children remain in doubt whether they can attend their schools, or whether it will be a strike call and the schools will remain closed.

Development of our young generation and progress of our nation in such a situation will be a chimera forever.  There should be a stress-free environment to increase the proficiency of our children, but the political turmoil of Kashmir has changed its scenario, and the mental frustration of our children is increasing day by day. The work culture of our valley has got badly affected by the political unrest of valley. It is not astonishing to say that the valley usually remains closed wholly or partly for all type of activities for two or three days in a week due to shutdowns, curfews, encounters, etc.

Added to these miseries, the voices of people are choked, and they can’t express their ideas freely as they are strictly prohibited from sharing their thoughts either through social media or through any other platform. Every new day, we have to face new restrictions which clearl violate our fundamental rights.

On a cursory look at the other parts of the country, we find that no other region is passing through such a political turmoil as Kashmir, and it has become the main reason for Kashmir to lag behind other regions in terms of development. Experts say that it is not only Kashmir itself but the whole Indian subcontinent which is going to be affected by this political turmoil, and it is the main problem in the economic development of the subcontinent.

The need of the hour is to create a peaceful atmosphere in Kashmir, so that its people can freely express their ideas. Let their minds be stress-free to develop and work for the betterment of humanity. Let this land once again become an abode of world-class scholars, scientists, writers and  poets. Let us all pray for peace in Kashmir.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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
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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