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

My Journey With Music, Self-Love And Inspiring Teenagers In Love

“I can do it
For the record
I can go out where I want
I can do it
Feel no pressure
Baby, I don’t need no mask
Libre, Libre, Finally free
Libre, Libre, I can be me.”

As a singer-songwriter, I’ve come to realise that working on your original music and having something you have written and composed recognised is just liberating. Finally Free (Libre, Libre) has been one of the most fun songs to record as well as shoot. The word ‘libre’ means free in Spanish and French, and the reason why I chose to use this word was because I love using different languages when it comes to my music (I also sing in five languages), but mainly because it sounded so full and happy.

I still remember talking to my parents, wondering where we should shoot such a video. I wanted the video to look empowering and happy, and give the feeling of being free. and I wanted the video to compliment the vibe of the song. We eventually shot the video in NYC.

“Even if you’re going through a not-so-great time, things will change for the better, and loving yourself is the most important thing in the long run,” says Mallika. Image courtesy of the author.

Finally Free gives out such a strong, positive message and I believe that’s the reason why it has received so much love. To be able to be free and enough is a very empowering feeling, be it in any situation. Most of us feel and believe we aren’t free, we can’t do what we want, can’t say what we want to, and I feel this song negates that myth. It tells us that you are enough and don’t need anyone else, it boosts self-esteem and self-respect. We all need to be set free and not bound by others opinions, what they think of you, or what they think you need to be.

I personally believe that freedom, or the feeling of being free, is so important not only in general but also for one’s mental health. It’s often mistaken to be something that needs to be given to us by someone else, but honestly speaking, what I’ve come to realise is that it’s all in our own control. The moment you decide to set yourself free from a situation, you will be free. And that feeling alone makes you feel complete and happy, and liberates you.

Finally Free is a song I wrote because that’s how I felt when I was writing it. I felt free, enough, happy and I wanted to put it out there. The basic storyline behind the song is about being free from a relationship/long standing love, but the song means so much more than just that. Back then, Finally Free was to be released as a single and not as part of an EP. I shot the video the morning of the day I was to begin my songwriting course at NYU, and I was so excited about these two things aligning. I had some of my friends from my course hear the song and they all said how relatable they all thought it was, in so many other ways beyond my imagination.

Taking you back a little, I wrote and released my first single War Solo in 2016. The song talks about one-sided love and having to fight the war, solo. The year after, I wrote and released Flame Is Gone, which is about exactly what the title says — the flame is gone and all the feelings are on their way out. Flame Is Gone was reviewed by music critic Alex Faulkner, who compared it to Adele’s Someone Like You. That was an unreal feeling and I feel humbled to be titled Adele of Mumbai by a leading international media platform.

These songs were released, but unofficially at the time. When I heard Finally Free again after I received the final master, I saw the connection. When I linked together the songs, they felt interconnected and gave the feel of Chapter 1,2,3. They connected to formulate a story, a story of a girl in love, one-sided love, which eventually led to her emerging victorious and loving herself. That’s when I knew these songs had to be part of an EP and the name Evolve felt right and real, but still incomplete. Evolve is a story, a story of a girl in love, at first with someone else, and eventually with herself, and that’s how I came up with the tagline ‘The Story of Her’.

I love marketing, I have studied marketing management at the Harvard Summer School, and I really wanted to market and promote the EP in a different way; I wanted it to tell a story.

The most powerful line according to me would be “Libre, Libre, I can be me”. The line connects with so many people. It portrays self-love, which, in my opinion, is so important. Self-love is the answer to so many questions and saves many from depression and self-doubt. Everyone needs to be able to love themselves selflessly, to be able to get through every single day.

In times like this, when 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities including cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking or disordered eating, self-love is imperative.

Every girl goes through phases in love, I’m sure boys do too. One thing I hope is for teenagers to maybe hear my EP in the order it is in. Even though I can’t change the way they’d feel or fall in love, what would be important is for them to know that even if they’re going through a not-so-great time, things will change for the better, and how loving yourself is the most important thing in the long run. But this isn’t only a message for young girls, it’s for every single soul. For those trying to figure out who they are, what they want, and for those who feel lost, Finally Free should make them feel complete and happy and enough, and that is the end goal.

Listen to Mallika Mehta’s single on Spotify here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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