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Is The Fourth Pillar Of Democracy Betraying Our Democratic Rights?

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Democracy gives us the right to speak and ask questions because it is a fundamental and human right. In a participatory democracy, people should not only participate in political system through their voting rights, but also participate in social movements. Therefore, awareness plays a pivotal role in shaping a democratic society, country and the whole world. People have to open their eyes and ears to watch and listen the voice of the world. No doubt, through media we are connected to the world. As we know, the media is the fourth pillar of democracy and plays a bigger role in the system.

The media not only focuses on issues, but it also creates awareness. It affects our socio-political nexus and even the everyday life of people. For over a month now, if we are trying to understand, the media has not been working as the fourth pillar of our democracy. It is only centred on a few issues and is highlighting them badly. Getting the highest TRP, and not focusing on actual issues, has become more important to them, and this will prove to be harmful for our society. The media can create a democratic space for people where they have access to their rights, but at present, the media is only focusing on Rhea Chakraborty (for the case of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death), and people are listening to the news day and night.

The judiciary system will be doing its work, but this culture of the media is not good for our democracy. Our Constitution doesn’t approve media trials the way our media is currently going about it. There are a number of issues in India and all over the world that need to be talked about, but our media is not focusing on any of those actual issues. The decline in our GDP (-23.9%) is not focused on by the media as the Rhea-Sushant issue is. What the reasons behind the decline in GDP rate are and what the next step will be, what governments should do, and how the youth can contribute to a better growth rate of our economy — we have a number of questions, but the Indian media is silent on these issues.

rhea chakraborty being harassed by media journalists
The media can create a democratic space for people where they have access to their rights, but at present, the media is only focusing on Rhea Chakraborty (for the case of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death).

Presently, protests against the government for more job opportunities (through beating thalis and plates at BHU, Prayagraj and so on) is also a matter that should be of concern to the media. The youth of India is protesting for more jobs, but the media prefers talking about Rhea. If we look at any international index, India’s ranking has declined. The media should highlight these issues, create awareness about them and try to debate for the welfare of society, and not for their TRP. The discussion and debating part of media shows is also a part of the TRP game for TV channels.

If we try to understand, power and authority are two sides of the same coin. Power and authority need legitimacy, and authority is itself a legitimate form of power. However, legitimate power finds stability and after that, the power of authority gets the acceptance of people. According to Josef D. Mastrey, “A belief in the rules or theory of the Authority is a single trustable medium to secure the system.” In Gramsian view, the concept of hegemony describes how an authority tries to maintain faith or rules within its people or citizens through ideologies.

Family, school, university, media, civil society and so on are important factors within this concept of hegemony. If I try to remember the great political thinker of the seventeenth century John Locke, who advocated ‘seemit aur samvaidhanik shashan (limited and constitutional governance)’ and also talked about ‘freedom’ and ‘revolution’. If the system looks in authoritarian, people have the right to revolution. The silent revolution of England in 1666 was mostly affected by ideaa of Locke.

If we look at a few health report of India, the number of TB cases in India increased by 14% as compared to that of 2018. Sri Lanka and Maldives have eliminated Khasara and Rubela, but in India, 47,000 cases of Khasara and 1,200 cases of Rubela have come to front. India ranks second all over the world for its increasing number of cases of Khasara. In the Global Energy Transition Index 2020, India doesn’t get any rank within the top 115 countries. Freedom of Press is an important part of democracy, but in the World Press Freedom Index 2020, India’s rank declined to 142 from 140 in 2019 and 138 in 2018. Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka have ranked better in this index than India.

Representational image.

An American agency published a report titled Freedom in the World 2020, which is based on political and social freedom and had 195 participant countries. The theme of the report is ‘A Leadership struggle for Democracy’, and showed India’s rank decline since 2019. In a democratic country, these are concerning issues. In the World Happiness Index 2020 that had 153 participant countries, all of India’s neighbouring countries ranked better than India. India’s rank declined to 144 from 140 in 2019. The Indian media is silent about creating awareness for the betterment of society and is only focusing on trivial issues.

In the Sustainable Development Report of 2020, India ranked 117, but in 2019, its rank was 115, and in 2018, it ranked 112. Among the BRICS and neighbouring countries, only India’s rank declined in the report. In the Henley Passport Index 2020, India’s rank is 84. Even in this index, India did not rank well as compared to other BRICS countries. India has been growing day by day, but the role of media is also declined day by day.

India’s rank in all indices, be it education, health, freedom or happiness, has declined, and media plays a big role in this. The greed for a higher TRP, instead of focusing on relevant/actual news, is also one of the reasons responsible for this. The invisible hand of power and authority in media only becomes more powerful when media focuses only on its own maintenance. The media should remember that democracy gives everybody their rights and the media, being its fourth pillar, has a big responsibility.

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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.

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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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