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Can The New Generation Of Leaders In Bihar Turn The Political Scene Around?

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Bihar is going through a major event for its social settlement to sustain the atrocities of the changing atmosphere of global development expected in the twentieth century. No wonder, this world is fighting the never-seeming-to-end battle against a global pandemic, but at the same time, the world is progressing. We all now think more globally than ever before, we all are more connected than ever before, and the intellectual and technological standards of the world have risen.

But there are nations or states around the world still reeling the fate of inefficient social structure and racial or caste-based discrimination. There are regions around the world where antisocial elements are breeding over the bureaucratic negligence fuelled by incendiary demagogues. These states are not changing with time, but the pattern of already omnipresent issues is just getting more and more complex.

The question is can a generational change bring a dynamic change in Bihar’s political environment?

One such state is Bihar. Bihar, since decades, grew with abject poverty and caste-based discrimination. This fuelled issues like political intolerance among communities and caste-based upheavals.

People’s emotions, their beliefs and their lifestyle got so entrenched into the prevalent climate of mediocracy that anything like a flood-affected area, rape in the nearby neighbourhood and exam cheating in the universities became next to normal.

Bihar for some may seem to be a totally different planet, but for Biharis, it’s their way of life.

For 15 years, we have Nitish Kumar as CM of Bihar who is no way different from his predecessors in ruling Bihar. But the people of Bihar never had options, or what can be said is that “they never got new options”. This election, however, is different in a way that we can observe a generational shift in Bihar politics and some young and new faces are coming up.

Chirag Paswan, Tejaswi Yadav and a totally new party launched by a somewhat unknown female figure in Bihar politics, Pushpam Priya Chaudhari. It can however evidently said that issues remain the same: poverty, unemployment, quality education, quality health infrastructure.

Can this new generation, or we should say the next generation of elitist political figures, change the political scenes of Bihar? Or will we witness a cloning of decades of caste wise voting patterns and development being the least important concern?

Pushpam Priya holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from the London School of Economics and Political science. While Tejashwi Yadav dropped out of school to pursue his passion for cricket. A true sportsman, isn’t he? And we have Chirag Paswan who apart from being a politician is also an actor.

We have our political players taking the stage from diverse backgrounds but not in terms of caste and class but rather in terms of passion and talent. These new young individuals can be a hope for a hopeful Bihar youth. For young Bihar to progress, we need strong social development policies which would bring in investment and that will, in turn, develop the economy. There is a need for a decrease in corruption and an increase in the participation of civil society in decision-making.

However, it has been observed that every third candidate in the first phase of the pole is a crorepati. This proves that Bihar’s politics is still confined to exclusivity and is yet to turn to the egalitarian phase. Many of these millionaires still believe that last 15 years were extremely progressive for Bihar, and many believe that the 15 years before these 15 years was the actual progressive Bihar model.

While the unemployment rate in Bihar is higher than the national average and an already dwindling health infrastructure which has further crumbled in the COVID-19 times is not a representative of dynamic and visionary leadership.

The question is can a generational change bring a dynamic change in Bihar’s political environment?

Can we see more youths, who come in for voting, actually vote on development? Can we someday actually believe in the leaders we have at the top of the legislative circus? The answer lies in the collective action and reaction of a young and dynamic Bihar. It’s up to the youth, the changed face of Bihar that they want to stay clean of the dirt of hatred, political demagoguery and communal violence or they too believe in the footsteps of their predecessor.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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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