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Agnivesh: An avid politician

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Swami Agnivesh, a prominent social worker who was always  sympathetically co-operated with Dlait and poor people and provided guidance for social work, will remain a symbol in the spiritual and political spheres of India. His long life and work style will always be a beacon for those working in the public sector.

Swamiji, who won the Alternative Nobel Prize (The Right Livelihood Award), in 2004, was a whirlwind in real life. He was a law and management professor in Calcutta and quit his job and become as a social worker. Born into a high caste Brahmin family in South India, he abandoned his name, caste, religion, family and possessions to lead a monastic life. The Crusades for Social Welfare began. Swami believed that the word compassion was being misused and that it was actually being misunderstood. Like Christian monks or Buddhist monks, he became a man who renounced all personal and social relationships in order to serve the mind and pursue spiritual truth.

Eighty-year-old Swami Agnivesh is considered to be one of the most prominent figures in the Aryan community. Swamy, who was the voice of the workers and the homeless, became the head of the UN Trust Fund. This made him more popular among workers around the world. Swami Agnivesh was the founding chairperson of the Bond Labor Liberation Front. In 2004, he was elected President of the International Aryan House of Representatives. Mahatma Gandhi, Dayanand and Ambedkar all worked for the good of the society and the people in different situations through their own ideas.  They were all self-designed in a special way. Swami Agnivesh also had their own styles but had clear vision and commitment. He always wore saffron from top to bottom on his forehead. He considered saffron to be his uniform for social and spiritual activities.

Swami Agnivesh, in the guise of Kakshya, saw the sign and call of struggle for the oppressed. Saffron is the color of sacrifice, restraint and holiness. He believed that this would affect his love, truth, compassion and sense of justice. He made this clear many times and made it very realistic and practical. I do not care if my clothes come off this way or not. It does not matter if you call me Swami Agnivesh or Agnivesh. The fire within me and the divine presence in my inner temple are important and must continue to burn until the end.

Swami Agnivesh was a man. He preached a lot. But he preached only about what could be brought to a practical level. Swami’s words were on fire in the heat of his intervention, which was overshadowed by the intensity of sympathy. This was proof that he was a great leader. He continues to inspire many young minds to strive to make this world a better place. He believed that his political career was dedicated to the social justice of the oppressed.

Entered the Haryana Assembly in 1977. We may be amazed at his activism, form, and wisdom. He urged them to work hard for social progress while at the same time gaining love and respect among the people. He was always like a poor man, but spoke like a politician. Most importantly – it raised the voice for the rights of millions of Indians. Swami Agnivesh, who was quite different from the politicians who read religion among the communal forces, participated in politics as an activity of his spiritual life. He sought to connect contemporary politics and religion with the boards of social justice.

For more than five decades, Swami Agnivesh has been campaigning for the rights and dignity of slaves and child labor for generations, and sought to restore their freedom through new legislation. Swami was one of the few who took the responsibility of fighting for the poor in present day India very seriously. He was constantly fighting to achieve the goal with this goal. Sami Agnivesh’ struggles and campaigns included alcoholism, female feticide, slavery, forced labor, injustice to tribal and aborigines, an uncompromising approach to women’s emancipation, and atrocities against animals. He fought against consumer culture and Western development models in India and opposed Western cultural imperialism. He continued his struggle against casteism, social ambiguity and racism till the end of his life.

He founded the Bond Mukti Morcha Movement for labor freedom. He took up the most controversial issues and constantly advocated for women’s rights. Swami constantly addressed the plight of child widows, the shameful manner of sati, the burning of widows at her husband’s funeral home, dowry deaths, and greedy parents killing their young brides for money. He actively fought against female feticide. As an environmental activist, he advocated simplicity and sustainability for economic rights. Swamiji’s Gandhian Wisdom was careful to explain the economics of greed along with globalization.

Although Swami Agnivesh’s main focus was on social justice and rights, he also succeeded in seeking peace in the struggle against violence. He led several initiatives to restore peace, mutual trust and unity in Kashmir during the worst period of violence. He took part in the 2012 peace march to Palestine. He was concerned about the ongoing Maoist insurgency in central India in recent times. In 2010, Swami Agnivesh was appointed as a mediator to foster dialogue between the government and the Maoist leadership. He was concerned about the plight of backward Indians who have been branded by society as adivasis who have been affected by this conflict for millennia. Swami was actively involved in advocating for their protection and rights.

Swami Agnivesh formed and led a movement for mutual trust between religions nationally and globally. It has led to sincere and responsible interventions to eradicate many of the social exploitations that religions deliberately support, knowingly or unknowingly. The Sarva Dharma Sansad or All Faiths Parliament, which he founded in 2010, was India’s first interface that gave equal importance to women as men. Its purpose was to overcome the seven major problems that existed in Indian society. Caste system and discrimination, injustice and violence against women, extremism, stubbornness and racism, drugs and alcohol – it can lead to violence and exploitation of women and children, poverty and exploitation, and corruption. Swami Agnivesh also had a weekly televised debate on Parliament TV called Vichar Manthan or Though Forum. Experts on social and political issues were addressed to a live audience, including young people from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds.

Swami Agnivesh clarified his belief in spirituality as follows: Spirituality should be social spirituality. In other words, it should not be an escape from an individual or a diversity. He understood the need to keep the interests of different people in society above personal interests without harming them. His education in the Arya Samaj led Swami to believe that it was inextricably linked with the spiritual life of an individual. An individual’s spiritual quest and one’s social life complement each other like two sides of the same coin. So, religion should never be reduced to an exercise in escape.

He was very careful in criticizing the bankruptcy of India’s political leadership. Many of the issues taken up during the freedom struggle and the pledges to curb the spread of alcohol were quickly forgotten. Instead, it seeks deep roots in vague racism and religious fundamentalism. For Swami Agnivesh, he believed that if spirituality was to be socially transformed and one was seriously committed, the religion that exploited the obscure, ritualistic and superstitious should be abolished immediately.

According to Swamy, the real problems of the people are poverty and stark socio-economic inequalities. He believed that these were the biggest problems and challenges facing the people. That is true to some extent. He pointed out that the values ​​common to all religions were neglected here and that the vacuum created by them filled the communal politics. In terms of faith, Swami Agnivesh could not divide faith and action. He often spoke openly about the contradictions of religions. India has the largest number of temples and shrines in the world, the Goddess of Wealth (Lakshmi Devi) is in India and yet our country is in extreme poverty. Though Saraswati, the Goddess of Education, is worshiped in India, most of the people in our country remain illiterate.

Swami had his own views on a wide range of issues, from the destructive debts of Third World countries to cultural imperialism. Appropriate development policy, the excessive interference and consumption of the rich, and the need to make religions more popular and friendly were constantly worked on. There is no doubt that the demise of Swami Agnivesh, who created a vacuum in Indian politics and spirituality at the age of eighty, will forever remind our society of many things. Swami Agnivesh was an extraordinary genius who possessed absolutely determined words and practical wisdom to achieve his goals.

Sunilji

Communication Associate

Institute for Sustainable Development and Governance

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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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