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What Young India Wants To Change About Indian Society

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India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters

I love my country, and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage

I shall always strive to be worthy of it

I shall give respect to my parents, teachers, and all the elders, and treat everyone with courtesy

To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion

In their well-being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness

I had to write this before writing down my concerns so that people waiting to send me to another country can understand that I am as Indian as them. I am as Indian as India itself. But that doesn’t mean that I will let my country continue to suffer from the problems which are in our purview to solve. There are certain issues that I know all Indians would love to talk about. They are something very basic, and more need-of-the-hour than the economic crisis, communal issues, media crisis or the sanity crisis which we are currently going through. We would like to change the condition of women, the condition of education in the country and the caste system prevalent in our society.

The Situation Of Today’s Indian Woman

The condition of women is really bad in a large part of the country. It is said that now is a good time for women and feminism is on the rise but we are still stuck in a situation where women aren’t treated with basic courtesy, leave alone being treated equally.It seems that no women is safe at present, neither outside nor inside their four walls. Because even those walls are ready to crush her existence. During these difficult days, more and more complaints of domestic violence are made. Rape, molestation and harassment is also rampant. Everyone is suffering due to coronavirus but the ‘weaker sex’, as women are referred to are being tortured quite incessantly, enough to raise their voice against it.

What I mean here is that domestic violence complaints which are being made are not made after just one such incident. Women have a tendency to forgive, forget, and give innumerable chances to their male counterparts. Some of these women opt for death than taking any action against these men.

 

 

The same thing happens with regard to rape cases too. Even though nowadays rapes are reported but still some are hidden to cover the shame. And this is what makes the offenders so powerful. Powerful enough to ruin someone’s life. Even though this thought process itself is demeaning that due to rape, a women’s life is ruined, but unfortunately this is the truth that prevails in our society. The victim has to go through painful ordeals that make her feel ashamed to even file a complaint. So, shouldn’t we make these women feel comfortable enough to talk about their problems without judging them or making them feel guilty? Shouldn’t those predators instead be made to feel ashamed and guilty about their actions?

The Prevalence Of The Caste System In India

The caste system is another issue that is causing destruction in our country. Yes, we divide you by gender, then religions, followed by regions and further, also on the basis of your ancestor’s birth into a certain caste which was decided by the ancestor’s profession. It’s something which is known to all but still, people don’t talk about it and hence nothing much can be done about it. It is a problem that is continuing for ages and is deeply rooted and really needs to be eradicated.

The caste system is the most ‘untouchable’ concept in our Indian mindset. This caste system was made according to the professional backgrounds of people in Ancient India. And Modern India which has gone through so many changes couldn’t really change this. People take pride in talking about their education and their modern nature, but when you raise an issue about the caste barrier they would frown and turn away their heads. No one wants to talk about it. Because it is innate in everyone’s mind here. So much so that when hearing your name, they first clarify whether you belong to a certain caste or not. And all these caste differences even give people the liberty to commit violence under the guise of punishments, approved so-called upholders of law, such as the Khap Panchayats.

The stories which we hear about the sufferings caused by this caste system are nerve wracking and disgusting. A human being is convicted for a small mistake and then is subjected to unspeakable cruelties. Just because someone is born to a certain caste doesn’t make or break that person. The individualness and humanity of that person should be given precedence instead. But unfortunately, people don’t want to look beyond this created barrier.

The Way Forward

And to do the needful in the above-mentioned cases, it is necessary to first improve the condition of education. Because only an educated mind can understand the above-mentioned problems, otherwise nothing can be achieved. The various problems which we are at present facing can very well give us an idea about what a lack of education does. A country as big as ours is sadly filled with uneducated fascists and that is the major cause of the upheaval we are suffering from currently. And only education can bring about change that brightens up our now gloomy and backward society.

For this to happen, the education system needs to be updated in a way that our students can stand on par with their international counterparts. The rat race in the name of education which has been etched out into our country’s psyche should really be reconsidered and made easygoing and relevant. Until and unless education is made available to all, the change we hope to see will never be achieved. Awareness should be created to understand the importance of education and the power of an educated person. We should make people understand that education is not just for being financially independent, instead, it is for giving us freedom from the malpractices and negativity of society. The only means to make Indians understand the essence of the national pledge is through education itself.

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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 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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