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“Dear Millennials, Let’s Prevent This Country From Becoming Ugly Before It’s Too Late”

Dear Millennials and Generation X,

I’ve been thinking about how to write on something that resonates with most people who can read English, and cater to the age group of 40 years and below. In today’s world, it is becoming more and more difficult to communicate with those who belong to a different ideological group. Most people have labelled themselves into strongly-defined categories. These labels have, in some way, decreased the credibility of what is being said.

If somebody considers me a supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party, I’ll be labelled a Hindu nationalist and everything that I say will thereon become a moot point. Since I am a Hindu nationalist, a bigot, a fascist enabler, I cannot make sense, and thus, must not be heard.

In the same manner, if I belong to the other group, the ones who call themselves left-libertarians, nationalists, and citizens of the country, then I am labelled a communist, a JNUite, a Maoist, an Urban Naxal, or worse, a Muslim.

Before it is too late, those in our 20s and 30s have to prevent this country from becoming unquestionably ugly.

I hope you can believe me when I say that it does not matter which of the above groups I belong to; what matters is that I am in my 20s, just graduated, and have my whole life ahead of me. To those whom this letter is addressed to, must be in a similar spot. Some of you lucky ones might have a well-paying job, a love and a dream vacation.

I write because I want to bring to your attention the fact that the country where we have to spend most of our lives, might not be in the best of the situations. Now, you don’t have to agree with me, most of you might not. But hear me out.

Do you remember when you were in school, there was that kid who was confident enough to ask the teacher questions that could get them into trouble? Sometimes, this kid would stand up for a fellow classmate whom the Hindi teacher was needlessly hitting. Sometimes, this kid would, in the hope of providing a true account of an incident, speak for a child who was too scared to utter a word in their own support.

Most of the time, this kid would be reprimanded for questioning the teacher, the authority in the classroom. It would be unfair, some of the students in the class would know, but they would keep quiet in fear that they might get reprimanded too.

Do you remember when we knew a man was looking at us in an inappropriate way? But there was nothing we could do about it? We felt scared that we didn’t have enough evidence to prove his wrong intent, or feared that we would lose an important opportunity because of which we had to expose ourselves to a man? Sometimes, it would take another girl, who’d gather the courage to complain about that man for us to feel that we had got our justice.

These are only a few incidents when something was not okay and a person gathered the courage to speak the truth to power. Sometimes, teachers would order us to not ask questions, and then, the kid who, in all their honesty and good faith, would question the teacher, would be given a punishment so severe as to never do that again?

If I say, the girl who called out her sexual offender at work was told that no man could commit a crime like that, instead of being blamed for asking for his attention. This would then be put in bold letters, stamped on her call letter, leaving no chance for a woman to even consider sexual offence as an offence; like it isn’t, after her marriage.

What if, I say, those who are in power today are not willing to let those who question them be? I’m not going into the detail of whether the point of contention is itself wrong, I am only asking. If I question the government and they put me into prison for doing so, does that not hint that we are moving towards a very rigid space? Is that the India we want? An India that reminds us of George Orwell’s 1984? An India where, if one doesn’t toe the line, one gets jailed?

The Government could be right. Maybe those who are questioning have misunderstood its intention. There is a space for dialogue. Why are young men and women, not looking for jobs but asking questions instead? Is this their favourite pastime? Maybe there is something that they are pointing the rest of us towards.

Do you know when your lover is unfaithful, there is nothing that they can do that doesn’t remind you of their unfaithfulness? Your friends keep telling you that you might be overthinking, but your hurt ego has made an opinion so strong, that even though your heart wants to understand it, you cannot.

I beg you to listen, to not throw caution to the winds! Before it is too late, those in our 20s and 30s have to prevent this country from becoming unquestionably ugly.

Yours truly,

Your friend

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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.

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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.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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.

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