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India And The United Nations At 75: The Road Ahead

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On October 24, 1945, while the world was healing from the pains of the second world war, 51 countries came together to form an organization that would, in future, ensure that humanity was saved from the upheavals of war. With a resolution in mind and hearts, to maintain peace throughout the world, develop friendly relations among nations, help nations work together to improve the lives of the poor, conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations– UN and India, as one of its founding members, have come a long way.

As we celebrate 75 years of the United Nations, we also celebrate 75 years of India at the United Nations. In his addressing speech, made by Honorable Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, we can absolutely not overlook the fact that India’s role in preaching and practising the objectives, resolutions and promises of the UN have been par excellence.

India, as a nation has proved time and again that it will always cherish the objectives of the UN, one of the most important one being the resolution to maintain peace and harmony between nations. PM Modi, very appropriately mentioned at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, “When India strengthens its development partnership with a country it was not with any malafide intent of making the partner country dependent or hapless.”

Thus, reinstating the fact that if one country applauds another country or tries to achieve a strategic membership or signs any memorandum of understanding with another country, it, in no way means that the intent is to bring down a third country.

This is certainly very important to understand and reflect upon, considering that in today’s time the world order is subjected to changes at a pace which is far beyond in speed than it was, say, a decade or two before. If one country tops the export market, the other takes its precedence in the space achievements, while one country manages to become a hub of tourism, the other outperforms in the industrial sector and so on and so forth.

And for India, specifically, to make this statement at the moment particularly emphasizes the fact that we were, and we are a peace-loving nation, a nation that believes in friendship and dialogue to solve the most complex problems.

India’s election to the non-permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council with an overwhelming majority of 184 votes out of total 192 UN members, throws light on the goodwill and trust that India has garnered from the other developed, developing and under-developed nations. Achieving this feat for India has not been a day’s work, it has been a long journey of perseverance and judicious efforts in the right directions with the right decisions made at the right time.

Below are listed some of the major achievements and accolades that India could realize for itself, branding it as one of the most powerful democracies of the world:

  • India was elected as the first chair of the Decolonization Committee where it made relentless efforts to put an end to colonialism, after all, no country, but India knew the taste of independence.
  • India has contributed the greatest number of personnel for the UN’s peacekeeping missions, also becoming the first country to deploy an all-women contingent for Formed Police Unit to the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia.
  • India has always strongly advocated the process of reform and restructuring of the UN to include more nations in the decision-making process like the countries from Latin America, Asia and Africa to achieve inclusion and diversity, thereby strengthening the overall world economy and leadership.
  • The international effort against terrorism has always been a priority for India in the UN. Many counter-terrorism efforts and discussions have been led by India along with other nations to combat the menace of terrorism as well as other illicit activities that are a major threat to humanity at large. Along with being a party to the 13 sectoral conventions on terrorism adopted by the UN, India also became a member of the Financial Action Task Force in 2010, which is an intergovernmental organization launched by G7, to combat terrorism and terror financing (money laundering).
  • To foster the principles of human rights to achieve overall development of society, India has taken massive steps in this direction. Being a significant contributor to the core resources of the UN Development Programme – the UN Population Fund (UNFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme, India, along with over 60 countries, co-sponsored the resolution on Covid19 pandemic as well.
  • Last but significantly not the least, one of the most talked about and discussed agendas in the world today– sustainability.
    • United Nations adopted the sustainable development goals for the overall development of the society, thus interlinking 17 goals which would ensure a better future for all. India not only signed the Agenda but in September 2016, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation developed a National Indicator Framework (NIF) which was a consolidated list of possible national indicators consisting of 306 statistical indicators to serve as a backbone for monitoring of SDGs. And fast forward to 2018, NITI Aayog in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Global Green Growth Institute and United Nations launched the first of its kind- ‘SDG India Index’. This index classifies where a State and a union territory currently stands on each of the listed indicators thus presenting an incremental change in subsequent versions.
    • 2 subsequent reports have been launched till now!

India is a rising nation, practising soft power, which has worked well for India up till now. United Nations on the other hand is an organization which ensures the goodwill of all its member as well as non-member states.

In such light of events, it becomes increasingly important for United Nations to ensure greater participation and run a couple of amends in its structure to include more and exclude less and to check the structure as per the changing world order today, considering that we are far ahead from where we were at the time of the World War 2.

As for India, it is deemed necessary to devise better ways to approach engagement in its policy matters to ensure its overall development so that it emerges as a powerful nation, thereby adding credibility to its commitment towards multilateralism.

Featured image credit: UN
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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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