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Independence Day: Remembering My Grandfather, A Freedom Fighter

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Mahatma Gandhi at Boulogne station with Sarojini Naidu
Mahatma Gandhi at Boulogne station with Sarojini Naidu, on the way to England, to attend the Round Table Conference as the representative of the Indian nationals in 1931. Source: Pinterest.

I remember having heard of my maternal grandfather who fought for the freedom of the country. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of everyone. His village had no electricity, water was scarce, and a train which passed by the village once a day was the only connection to the rest of the world.

My late grandfather, Dukkipati Nageswara Rao, involved himself in the Indian freedom movement to end the British rule in India. He was a man who was determined to win freedom with a great vision, and a freedom fighter who rejected violence. He is one of the many who contributed their time and efforts for Indian independence. And so, the more you can give of yourself, the more you can give of what you believe, the more you can discipline, say and do the things you actually believe, strange things start to happen.

Isn’t there something for all of us to learn from great leaders about power, when it feels like the right thing to do from deep inside — dreaming and relentlessly pursuing the impossible!

He belonged to that select breed of freedom fighters that walked the Gandhian path and contributed his time and efforts to making the freedom movement truly a mass movement in the country. He was barely twenty when he heeded Gandhi’s call for non-cooperation against the British and took it to villages. He met Mahatma Gandhi in his home town near Gudivada during the Independence movement. It was a life-changing moment for him and he became fascinated with Gandhian philosophy after it.

Chosen as a delegate to a meeting of the Indian National Congress, which the British declared illegal, he was arrested and sent to jail for two months. My grandfather’s stint in jail exposed him to even more active politics and nationalism. Along with his congress membership, he was determined to be very active in the State.

In 1932, Gandhi called for a major nationwide Satyagraha against foreign goods. There were cries of “Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai.” As they began to move around picketing shops selling foreign goods, they were arrested, taken to prison and charged with 4-and-a-half months of rigorous imprisonment. He set a personal example for his people in the years he spent in prison. He was never arrogant.

In November 1927, the British government appointed the Simon Commission to report on India’s constitutional progress for introducing constitutional reforms, as promised. The Commission was strongly opposed by many Indians.

He worked to mend the tears in Indian society and with his character managed to prevent outbursts of racial hatred. The great freedom fighter, late N.G.Ranga was his mentor and his political guru. He participated in all the Gandhian non-violent mass struggles in the three decades before Independence and spent a good part of his life in various jails. He was a very active political worker and also a very skilful organizer.

All said and done, the family refused voluntarily a few acres of land along with a Tamra Patra given by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. They said that this is not what we stood for. This actually means a whole lot of Gandhi’s ideas, influences, words, and actions mean to people around the world and how they used them for guidance and gaining independence.

Nageswara Rao’s passion for freedom inspired many people and he was renowned for the activism against the British authorities. Everyone fought for freedom with great enthusiasm. Today, whatever development we see is the result of that very struggle.
There are so many unknown and unsung heroes who died for our motherland and the least we can do is not let their contributions and their sacrifices go in vain.

The numerous Freedom Fighters, with their courage and the true spirit, had faced much torture, hardships, and exploitation to get freedom. The Independence movement of India was the ultimate objective and dream of every Indian who lived under British rule.

Every individual during the British rule fought in some way, having a common aim of abolishing the British and various other colonial authorities ruling over different parts of India. The Indian Independence struggle saw millions of people with very important roles who participated in various movements. Some of them include the Revolt of 1857, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Non-cooperation Movement, Salt Satyagraha, and Quit India Movement.


The Salt Satyagraha. Mahatma Gandhi organized a movement against an unjust salt tax in 1929.

India faced innumerable hardships as it went through a long journey that had numerous national and regional percussions and the two main weapons used were truth and non-violence.

As the Tricolour flutters in the sky, let each citizen promise to work hard to bring glory, honour, and power to the country and reach the ultimate goal of making India a great nation that stands for human values and traditions.

I leave you with my favourite quote, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi.

I salute all the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives. Remembering them, especially on Independence day.

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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.

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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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