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Marginalized Voices Must Be At The Forefront Of The Fight Against Injustice

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How about if I write today as any other woman who is busy with her household chores, caretaking job, and accounting the budget of the week to avoid violence at her place? How about if I write today like any other woman who married last year and is now expecting a child but is extremely scared of the thought of giving birth to a girl child?

How about if today I write like a girl who has fallen in love with a boy from the upper caste? How about if I write like a girl belonging to a scheduled caste who is waiting for her schools to reopen, to cycle within the fields, and share her books with friends across castes? How about if I write today as a domestic helper or daily wage worker who is working in the informal sector?

How about if I write today as a single mother managing 3–4 jobs a day to earn my living and maintain the economy of my house? How about if I write today as a girl child of the village where there is no police station? How about if I write today as a mother from the village which has no police station? How about if I write today as the mother who leaves her young ones home to earn a living?

How about if I write today as a girl from the village with no school, and hence no scope of information, awareness, and sensitization against violence and patriarchy? How about if I write today as the woman of the village with no electricity, no mobile phones, and the internet? How about if I fail to understand everything but the fact that rape is a crime, the very act, the very word itself a threat to my life with dignity?

How about if I am not intelligent, smart, and bold enough to build my political agendas from this? Does this make my voice less valuable? Lesser enough to be excluded? Why these protestors, media personnel, political leaders are shouting in our name without reaching out to us?

How about if I tell you that today, I am more than your vote bank and social media handle follower? Is my identity as a human demanding justice not enough for you to enable me to be heard?

How about if I demand justice for many who came on the streets in 2012? What went wrong with the movement for Nirbhaya? What went wrong with the movement like #MeToo? Why are they successful but not successful in obtaining me justice? What went wrong that despite so much outcry and fury, the system still bleeds? Did your movement miss to reach out to the voices that were victimized every single second? Why are the ‘marginalized’ marginalized every time in the protests?

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

To become a part of your protests for justice, do I need to write as a woman who has been at the advantage of #MeToo and Nirbahya, even if it was little? Do I need to be a woman of knowledge? How about if I do not write as a woman who has access to all news channels, political agendas, and manifestos?

Today, I want to question why only a handful are participating in the protest? Why are the marginalized voices—for whom we are raising our voices—ignored? What is the role of media and activists? Is it just limited to becoming our voices? Or is it enabling us to speak up for our rights ourselves? I am failing to understand the objective everyone is fulfilling with their self-fulfilling agendas. The human-centric approach in designing protests and campaigns cannot miss the most affected humans. It cannot be designed to bring more power to the voices of few; rather it should bring more voices in power and with power.

Today, I want to write as a Human first and Citizen of India later. I ask again, do I hold any value? Does the nation care about those whose voices are unheard of? Am I, the one who never writes, account their troubles and struggles, any less powerful? If I am the woman of that unheard community, am I any less eligible to be called an activist or practice my activism? Why am I not there in your protests? Why am I then missing from your crowd? I am still left to suffer and manage the leakages of this system. I am still left to adapt to more fear. I repeat, “I am marginalized, I am the one most affected. Organize, many like me, and enable us”.

I can build us stronger. Include me.
Image provided by the author

Long ago, the educational institution used to identify “Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary” as the pillars of democracy. High school introduced media and citizens as the other two significant pillars of democracy to us. And I want to tell you, I, the citizen of India, even if the marginalized one, I am that fifth pillar of this democratic nation. The nation needs a majority of its citizens, to uphold democracy. A handful will not be enough this time because sadly, India is currently operating in an unequal five-legged system. Unequal to the extent that it might fall or have already fallen.

We need to organize every single citizen to demand justice to build opposition, and for that, we need the support of media personnel and leaders. We were hoping you could help us build an opposition. Do you not limit your role as-media channels, the activists, the political leaders with the highest amount of information and knowledge, only to run a display of your knowledge?

If you are failing to enable us, to reach out to us, what is the benefit of the access of your networks to the most secretive information? If you have failed to analyze the power of collective voices of the marginalized, the real survivors and victims, I am sorry there is no point displaying how you can better implement research skills, analyze, reflect, and project?

We allowed you to speak on our behalf to build a channel through which the voice of every single woman and girl who has reversed her dreams and desire to live and die with dignity, safety, and security can reach the ones in power. Every single protestor has failed to build an opposition by leaving the ones who are in real despair; the ones who have not named anyone in their family Nirbhaya and Damini after 2012, out of fear.

How can we fail every time to build strong opposition by focusing only on those who can speak loudest with facts. Do we need to relearn history, unlearn the present to demand justice? The ones who are affected did not study history even once. They were barely given the opportunity to study. The ones who have studied have been struggling with an acceptance of the power in the system, to just survive. Their energy is invested to earn their survival.

And what if there was no history like this? Will the demand for justice be less valued? We do not have time to justify our demand for the Right to Justice and Dignity through facts and figures. It is the fundamental right of every Indian Citizen. It is time to build ourselves against these atrocities for our Fundamental Rights. We, the Indian Citizens, are no longer voters with power.

We are just 18-year-olds who can vote. We should not be ashamed to accept that we have failed to build a good government; we have failed to build a strong opposition required to operate, control, and direct the power dynamics. The political party in opposition is necessarily not the only opposition a nation can have. The opposition is the voice with the power to question the government of the day and check the excesses of the ruling.

Today, I want to write like a human whose fundamental need and not demand alone is the “Right to Dignity”. Today, I want to write on behalf of a human who prays to die in peace no matter wherever born. Today, I want to write like a human of India who feels powerful to have the Right To Vote and waits to turn 18 to enjoy the same. Today, I want to write like a citizen whose votes are being bought against the dreams of safety and security.

I certainly feel we have been undervaluing the importance of building a collective voice; a big collective. Collective enough to gain power equal to the ones we are standing against. We need to learn the importance of opposition; the power an opposition holds and can hold. Today, we have failed to make the government perceive us as powerful enough to build opposition against their injustices. And if we have failed, every leader protesting needs to reflect that they certainly have not achieved the power equal to change or challenge the system.

We, as protestors at the front, have certainly missed on building alliances with the marginalized voices to become big enough to create an impact. The government doubts our potential. They trust the fragile nature of our spirit to advocate.

Today, we need to do more than shout and talk to organize every human who has not been heard or identified with their spirit to demand and advocate for justice. Every single citizen of India who demands justice is an activist. We need to organize them.

Let our energy synergize and bring those on the front who will be voting in Bihar elections, but have very little information and bandwidth to process the politics. Let our energy bring in the woman who can vote to bring power to themselves. Let our energy bring in humans who are scared but do not know what to do. Let our energy organize and build opposition to OPPOSE violence.

We need to remind ourselves that every campaign that Gandhi Ji led was simple enough to allow everyone to participate, organize, and build against injustice. We need to follow the same. It’s time to voice in full power by giving power of activism to the ones who are least powerful. They need justice more than us.

Let us organize, voice, and oppose!

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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
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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