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

“Will You Write Pro-BJP If We Ask You To?” 

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I came face to face with this question a few days back. I have many reasons to not like the BJP,  reasons which are big enough for me to hate it with every ounce of blood that I have. 

But what I did not realise was how it had started affecting our daily lives and routines. How our daily routines had helped this group of thugs torture us for so long. 

Was it really our fault? How it started affecting the way we live. Are we somehow responsible for making this possible? I intended to find out. 

I’m at home during this Covid-19 lockdown and had nothing to do. So, I decided to apply for internships. 

A senior of mine guided me and told me to apply for internships at the famous internship portal, Internshala. 

Not having enough confidence in myself, but just to tell her that I did search, I scrolled on the site. A majority of the internships required me to write on lifestyle, cars, relationships, etc., nothing that made my heart beat faster. 

I always wanted to write on things that brought a revolution, be the voice for the oppressed, but nothing of that sort was there. 

Still I went on and at the end of the page I found one organisation that claimed to be an organisation that holds the government accountable for health, education, poverty, etc. 

It further stated that “it asked questions to the government and became the public voice in elections”. 

Finally, I took a sigh of relief as I applied. A few hours later I got a reply. And after a few days of writing samples for them, I was selected for the interview. 

I was happy. I always wanted to do something that helped the oppressed in any way, even if that was by telling the world their story. 

But here I was, asking questions to the people who were actually responsible for it. The interview started and I came to know that they campaigned in elections for political parties. My heart took a slight drop. 

bjp rally
I wouldn’t want others to vote for the BJP when I am not voting for it, for the basic reason that it is not right.  Representational image.

The next question crushed my heart to dust. The question which I knew would affect all my future endeavours, “Will you write pro-BJP if we ask you to?” 

The offer was lucrative, enough pay for doing nothing. 

This was something that my heart wanted. But I didn’t need the time to think. I couldn’t think as I let my voice say a firm, “No.” 

I was probably the best candidate that applied and the person tried to make me understand that how he voted for the AAP but campaigned for the BJP, it was his work. He kept his personal and professional life separate. 

When I stood firm and told him “no”, he was disheartened and before ending the call he told me to keep my political opinions and my work separate from each other.

My father returned home in the evening, all tired from the house search. He sat as I gave him a glass of water. After drinking he told my mom that the house was nice, but he didn’t want us to live alone in a Hindu populated area. 

I wanted to correct him, tell him no, it’s not about Hindu or Muslim, but then my mother agreed. 

Irritated, I told my father what I thought. He held my hand as he told me that things weren’t the same anymore. 

He told me about the old lady who was burned by her neighbours, the same neighbours who used to greet her every day, in the Delhi pogrom

He told me that riots could happen anytime. I couldn’t have agreed more.

Let’s get to the question now. What he was saying might be right to you. But to me, it wasn’t. To me, when any of my actions have larger consequences, that affect not only the present, it ceases to be just one thing. 

And here it ceased to be just a political opinion. I knew that if I wrote one pro-BJP article, and even if one person voted for that group of thugs because of the article, then it would be on me. 

It’s on me, the cries, the riots, the hunger, the death, it’s all on me and that was something I refused to take. 

I wouldn’t want others to do something which I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t want others to vote for the BJP when I am not voting for it, for the basic reason that it is not right. 

That’s more dangerous because I know they’re wrong. But I am sending hundreds of people to vote for them just because it’s my work? 

I am pushing people to do something which I know is wrong and will affect my country?

When I explained my views to him he said that he campaigned for people that could win. 

Now, ideally, the company should be campaigning for the person who is right. That’s where their responsibilities lie. 

When any of our actions have larger consequences and that too, consequences which are serious, we shouldn’t give in to the offer. It shouldn’t matter how lucrative it sounds. We should never cross the boundary of our values. 

Doing anything through which the BJP wins, supporting it is not just a political opinion for me. 

If you’re doing any of this you have blood on your hands for every murder that the BJP enabled. That every morsel you take is a burden on you because of every stomach that sleeps hungry, and every laugh that you have is a curse on you for every cry of a girl who was raped by the people you support.  

It is “not” just a political opinion. You’re supporting rape, murder, riots, illiteracy and everything bad happening in this country. You’re supporting a group of thugs.

That is my opinion. 

The BJP has won, countless people have died, people are in jail, Kashmir is a prison, crimes against women have risen and everything bad that is happening in India is because we have separated our work and political opinions. 

Our political opinions need to shape our work. We shouldn’t do anything that is against our belief, morals and ethics. We shouldn’t ask others to do something that we wouldn’t do.

It shouldn’t matter to us how high the pay is, be firm and stand by your values. You can have your own answer to this, you might agree with him, you might not. But find your answer. 

It’s not like by refusing the offer I changed society. It’s not that my heart doesn’t race when I see an orange-clad party worker with a large tika giving a hate speech. But what I do know is that I’m one of those who are trying to stop it, standing up to hate and not the one who enabled this. 

Which side are you on?

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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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