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India And The Neighbourhood

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With the Modi-Morrison pact, Australia adds to India’s list of co-operations and International Relations. As the current Indian government moves on, signing numerous regional co-operations and intra-country deals, it becomes very important to evaluate if these relations would help our country in addressing important policy implications. Many might question that with the internal conflicts and disturbances having their way and an upper hand to address, do institutionalizing these external security deals play as an important add-on?

Yes. For example, The recent Modi-Morrison pact had an agreement with respect to defense where deals with terrorism, illegal poaching of animals, smuggling of Drugs and Arms, etc. This could act as a positive factor in the Indian economy by protecting the ways that pass through the commonly shared ocean between Australia and India.

Mankind’s progress began when man started to trust and co-operate with his fellow men. And since the dawn of civilization, the need for co-operation has only grown stronger, be it cooperation among regions within a state, states, and nations. Cooperation results in the diversion of resources from conflict and unhealthy competition that is detrimental and harmful to productive and developmental uses, which helps in the mutual progress of the members.

 

 

International relations, more so with neighboring countries of the same region are an important area of focus in the public policy for any nation. For any cooperation to sustain and strengthen, the members of the cooperation should have integrity and trust in each other. The members should realize the mutual benefits that arise out of the cooperation, be it benefits of equal economic, geographic, or political nature or benefits that appeal to the moral and humane conscience.

Member nations of the same region more or less largely have the same interests, goals, and objectives and hence it is easier for cooperation. Regional cooperation requires due diligence and has many aspects to it, be it political, geographical, economic and cultural, which if not addressed with care can result in unwanted and unfavorable situations. The biggest advantage of regional cooperation is international recognition, which empowers the individual nations that have relatively lesser international leverage with higher bargaining power.

 India And The Neighbourhood

India is the 7th largest country by size and the second-largest country in population count has an important role to play in the world as well as the regional arena. Geographically, India is well-positioned with a vast coastline that gives it access to the sea routes for maritime trade. Apart from these nations, India is a part of many regional cooperative bodies such as SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation),  apart from others. India’s immediate neighbors consist of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Among these neighboring nations, India has a troubled history and strained relations with Pakistan and China. While India and China battle for power, political and economic leverage over the other Asian nations, India and Pakistan have a sustained enmity and hatred for each other owing to the scars of partition at the time of independence, and the harm that Pakistan tries to inflict upon India through the acts of terrorism.

While China uses its vast military and economic power to gain leverage over other nations, India tries to achieve the same through cordial and less dominant relations. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the take-over of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Sea Port, the dominance of China in African nations all pose a threat to the relatively weaker India’s quest to be a major player in the world and Asian arena. Improving relations with China, gives India access to knowledge on population management, manufacturing technical know-how and skills, research and development, etc. apart from preventing dumping of Chinese goods into India, military stand-offs, and free movement of trade.

While Pakistan doesn’t have the economic or military power of China, Pakistan inflicts a lot of damage with its support to the acts of terrorism. Improving relations with Pakistan helps India gain a good trading partner, access to the landlocked Afghanistan via Pakistan, apart from the adherence to the cease-fire agreements at the borders that have many times been violated.

Afghanistan is an important ally of India and it shares the same views as India on terrorism and Pakistan. Maintaining relations with Afghanistan giving India a good trading partner also gives India additional leverage on Pakistan and empowers Afghanistan. India is one of the important contributors to the development of Afghanistan by providing the required capital through grants, investments, and knowledge.  So, is the case with Bangladesh which shares the same feelings as India with respect to Pakistan and China. Relations with Sri Lanka might have begun to go sour after Sri Lanka chose to favor China over India.

Apart from these nations, India also maintains strategic and important relations with Russia, America, Iran, Maldives, Japan and other nations. While economic and military relations with America and Russia help to counter China, relations with Iran apart from providing a favorable oil trading partner, help India gain access to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.

The main pitfall with cooperation comes via lack of trust, a mutual dislike which acts as a major hindrance. India’s relations with Pakistan and China will continue to be strained given the mutual dislike, and the color of anti-patriotism that these relations take. While the mutual dislike for China may reduce with time and some common ground can be achieved, the same cannot be said about India-Pakistan, which has a long way to go.

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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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