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The Pandemic Showed Why The World Needs More Women Leaders At The Helm!

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The advent of the novel Coronavirus can be identified as the most lethal and alarming development of this year. As the entire globe continues to battle the pandemic, the number of people getting infected continues to soar, while the death toll has also gone on to rise.

Representational image.

The unprecedented times have definitely exposed us to many unprecedented situations and have also compelled us to perform many unprecedented actions and activities. Governments and political leaders across the world have shown varied responses and attitudes towards the COVID-19 crisis, thereby either efficiently handling or grossly manhandling the same.

According to several reliable reports, published by international organizations like the Center for Economic Policy Research, the World Economic Forum, and Forbes, the countries that have best battled the novel Coronavirus pandemic include New Zealand, Norway, Taiwan, Finland, Germany, Iceland Denmark, Vietnam, Singapore, and Senegal. Eight out of the ten aforementioned nations share one characteristic in common: the presence of agile women leaders.

Basically, what can be understood is that the women leaders across the boundaries went on to keenly demarcate the fault lines of the crisis at the earliest and then went on to address the concerns about the same.

The robust and strategically planned measures adopted by the female leadership have been unlike that of the ‘male’ leadership so far, I feel. Their literal approach could be best summed up through ‘3Cs’, i.e. communication, compassion, and clarity. When a comparative analysis is conducted under these 3 primary Cs, we encounter the fact that whilst extreme right-wing nations led by male leaders were preoccupied with presenting preachy soliloquies and spreading conspicuous misinformation, the female leaders were truly acting in a decisive and foresighted manner.

The female leadership was taking into account the fact that they belonged ‘with’ the common people. Initiatives like the imposition of stricter preemptive lockdowns, stringent travel bans via all means, early testing at a rampant scale, and more helped them act proactively to keep the number of deaths and suffering half as much as compared to those nations led by men.

Further, these troubled times haven’t seemingly damaged the system, but they have only exposed the cracks and crevices of a system filled with immense structural damages in which the whole of humanity has been unknowingly living in. The current world order is undergoing a range of modifications, as there is no presence of a sole hegemonic power (like that of the USA) on the forefront to exercise its will.

There isn’t the bi-factional USA or USSR-like clout either that would hold the issues of world importance at their disposition. Rather, this is an epoch of multiculturalism complimenting inclusive and holistic growth and co-operation that catalyzes meaningful partnerships and promotes the greater good. This era of multiculturalism also can (or say has been since a while) acting as a conducive niche for more women to enter and reclaim the spheres of mainstream politics. The role of women gaining momentum in these testing times has delivered really rewarding results. And hence, I feel that the participation of women in mainstream politics should be encouraged.

India can be said to be the missing piece of the puzzle in the context of female leadership, as the picture of women indulging in politics is not very pleasing. I feel that women leaders are used more for the pursuits of tokenism and symbolism, which ensures both the easy manipulation of decision-making and a secure vote bank for the male leadership. I strongly feel that Indira Gandhi too was brought in as the first woman prime minister because the then-senior Congress leaders had vested interests. But once Indira Gandhi assumed the helm of power she turned the tables on them. However, the concern today is not about favouring any particular side of leadership, because ‘leadership stands beyond the binaries of masculinity and femininity’. It promises a presence of balance between rationality and emotionality.

Quite evidently and undeniably, countries led by women in the time of crisis (such as this) have fared fairly well. But the latent fact is that these countries didn’t fare well just because they had a female leader on the ground, but it was also because an engaging and healthy co-operation was provided by the men, who formed a part of the same leadership forte. So, I feel that the foremost way to ensure empowerment and emancipation of womankind in the field leadership is to make sure a presence of conducive environment layered by trust, co-operation, and equal engagement offered by the menfolk.

Melinda Gates said, “If you want to lift up humanity, empower women. It is the most comprehensive, pervasive, high leverage investment you can make as human beings.” This holds true in both letter and spirit because empowering women equates to empowering humanity. I believe the most effective way to do so is to ensure that women spearhead, visibly and literally, the foregrounds in the forte of leadership.

Some specific ways to improve the status quo of women in leadership include the spheres of education, dismantling structural stereotypes, defying of odds and ordeals, and greater reclamation of public spheres by women. To work towards an empowered and tangible tomorrow, the best way forward is to harbour more and more women in the core and convention of political leadership.

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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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