This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pravin Targaryen. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

This Independence Day, Brace Yourselves For India’s Next-gen Youth Movement!

Youth is often one of the most gifted periods of one’s lifetime, given that everybody on the planet longs for it to last long. And what better time than to be one in 2020 (despite the COVID-19 pandemic) in India, which tops the world’s largest youth population of around 670 million. Literally, India is the only country on the planet to house such a massive number of young people below the age of 25.

When it comes to politics, there is a general opinion that there are not many youths interested in entering the political arena, or is it that India’s electoral system is making them rethink. The answer is both yes and no. We have seen many young people agreeing or disagreeing on individual political decisions on social media either through their what’s app status or Twitter or memes or YouTube channels.

But what about converting those concerns into real actions. The answer is getting young people to gain political representation. As plain as it appears to be, the youth of today’s India are global citizens who are never alien to global youth movements like Fridays for Future, Global Model United Nations, and the recent #BlackLivesMatter protests. Ironically, When it comes to useful information or clear cut know-how of making it to the candidates’ list of the Electoral Voting Machine, googling alone is not enough. However, a new youth-led organisation called Young India Foundation (YIF in short) has risen to the cause.

Young India Foundation

Young India Foundation is a political organization founded in 2017 by an international youth rights activist. Sudhanshu Kaushik is doing what it takes to make India’s youth participate in electoral democracy right from panchayat to parliament as their website claims.

Sudhanshu Kaushik

For the record, YIF is making Independent young candidates contest elections by helping them right from nomination paperwork, campaign design, trend analysis, and importantly election manifesto. All this without getting a penny from the candidate, and these efforts are not without results. In 2018, Sneha, a sarpanch from Sonipat in Haryana and Jagbir, a panch from Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh, managed to become one, thanks to the presence and efforts of YIF. They have a story to tell about the struggles endured in each phase of making a young candidate to contest.

YIF is currently focusing on grassroots political participation like panchayat and local body elections but plans to expand its service for assembly and parliamentary elections in the future. YIF has it’s own think tank team, and the website also hosts its election calendar based on months of the upcoming elections in every state of India.

YIF has regularly conducted boot camps for breaking the ceiling about contesting each year since it’s inception, and last year, it was conducted in Delhi. The latest session conducted virtually(happening as I write) during the pandemic had sessions ranging from registering as a candidate, election campaign laws, politics and advocacy, campaign finance, local political participation, and designing a winning campaign.

The notable speakers of the latest edition were Sudipto Sircar, an advocate of the Supreme court of India, Tara Krishnaswamy advocate, and co-founder of Shakti, a women’s representation organisation and Shivam Vij, a political journalist at The Print and the Huffington Post.

YIF Candidate Bootcamp

Candidate Bootcamp[/caption]

Local Representative Program

Recently, YIF launched its flagship “Local Representative program” across the nation in a bid to get young people across the nation to play an active role in their locality. The program is about developing leaders at the local level by making the youth to serve as a liaison between the youth, the community, and YIF.

The program brochure also briefs about being front-facing role with emphasis on disseminating information and organising events pertaining to youth-led political issues. The program also discusses YIF local Reps in touch with local bureaucrats and politicians. This looks a first of its kind program in India by actively involving young people to speak about and take issues at their wards or localities or even districts.

YIF Local Representative Program

The Tactic followed here is interesting since the program encourages leadership capabilities and out of the box thinking in young people going forward from 2020, where new-age skills are required for new age leaders. This also eliminates the popular perception that new candidates will somehow emerge during the elections and bring a change. Instead, it cultivates in youth more responsible confidence evoking skills, which will help them face people and address issues. Also, if they become elected representatives, the changeover will be much simpler since they started right at the local level.​

Overall, regardless of the outcomes of this initiative, this will encourage more young people to change their perceptions about politics and pave the way for active political participation, not just contesting but also active citizenship roles. Just like young people around the world are the leading changemakers, India will have its share of young leaders entering the political landscape in the coming days and years as the new age dawns post COVID-19 and in need of their skills and wisdom.

Sudhanshu Kaushik with Shah Rukh Khan

Last year Sudhanshu Kaushik was featured in Ted Nayi Soch hosted by Shah Rukh Khan where he discussed the political future of Indian Youth.

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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, 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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