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Why Is Young India Questioned For Participating In Protests?

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The responsible youth of a nation is the most significant working professional of today’s era. The ones who are educated and updated about the social issues and others who are not, all work to build the economy and refine the social fabric of the nation. Growth and progress is our compensation. 

The existence of government and governance as per the constitution is our motivation. Our profession is to justify the Right to Vote we used to express our faith and bring a party to power. Our working hours are flexible and the work style is dynamic. 

Our mission is to promote democracy at every level of society with equal participation of all. We admire the beauty of conflicts and appreciate the efforts invested in educating ourselves and others to look for alternatives to resolves those conflicts. 

Is youth participation activism? Or is it their duty? Their right?

We wonder if being a youth, a citizen, becomes a profession one day. Since every professional, from journalists, politicians to teachers, everyone is working for their livelihood, narrowing down the profession’s real objective, how about widening the top of the funnel of activism? Is youth participation activism? Or is it their duty? Their right? 

This generation is witnessing something critical and vital for the nation. We are experiencing the process of nation-building while fighting all odds. We want to participate and decide. We want to engage and direct. We want to access democracy and institutionalise its power for the future and present.

But sadly, we are being asked irrelevant questions. Questions like, what are you here for? Why are you here? Who has funded you? Which college are you from? Right-wing or left-wing? What is your religion? What is your caste? Where are your roots? Do you know the exact issue? Do you know what the government has done? Where is your Aadhaar card? Which council are you from? Why the “bindi”? Why the “turban”? Why the “burqa”? What is in your bag? Why is your phone out? What are you recording?

Same questions, each time, every day, whenever a youth makes an effort to witness, join, support or participate in any protest. Be it any protest, from CAA-NRC, Shaheen Bagh, Hathras or the Farmers Bills. Is there an eligibility criterion to participate in a protest? Is it an exam that I need to have my enrollment card, my social background papers in hand? Should I come prepared with a full syllabus learned by heart?

I wonder if similar questions were asked from Gandhi Ji while he started a movement. If similar questions were asked of Dr B R Ambedkar while working on the constitution, active citizenship would be a profession. I wish it would have had been announced; it would have been easier for us today. 

I also want to ask how many times have these people asked questions to understand a party’s manifesto when they ask for votes? How many of them stand outside the election booth, who stand today outside the protest sites, and check if we can read and write? Then why such checks and questions during protests? How do you rationalise this vigilance?

With all the possible logic and answers in mind, I know I am the youth of the nation. I am an adult, voter, student, working professional, taxpayer and a consumer. I am here for many reasons. I am here to learn the meaning of democracy. I do not have a vested political interest, but I do have high stakes in nation-building. 

I am here to learn about the pillars of democracy and its current state of functioning. I want to learn about their scorecard. I am here to build my trust in governance. I am here to validate my decision of voting for a party. I am here to learn and see in practice the theoretical knowledge from academic degrees. 

I am here to see how the values of our freedom fighters, spiritual leaders, religion and our own values and spirits can be directed to access and achieve justice and equality while diluting the power dynamics. It is about learning how to stand and demand dignity from the ones who promised to safeguard and deliver.

I am the future of this nation. I have a significant role to play. I shall start deciding from today what direction needs to be given. I will have to decide how to preserve the living constitution. I choose to learn beyond books. I choose to be on the ground to unlearn and rebuild a productive self. 

The presence of youth at protest sites with or without knowledge of the protestors’ agenda doesn’t make them ineligible. They are there for their purpose, to play their role of being adults and to practice active citizenship. Being a responsible youth is my first profession and responsibility. We shall choose our learning style. We might learn by being on the ground, similar to engineers who learn through industrial visits. 

It’s time for us to ask hard questions. Questions with the courage to hold others in power accountable for their actions. There is an increased interest from institutions to hold the youth back from opinionating and develop an independent approach to raise questions. 

Is the government, people in authority scared of making people learn to use the common man’s power? Are they scared of making the youth recall the power of being organised? Are they scared of making the youth learn how to strategise for equality and justice? 

I believe the youth have to learn to fight for themselves, fight to hold and safeguard their position and power in the nation. The struggle is becoming difficult and might sound illogical and unreasonable to others, but the ones determined to hold on to the gift of democracy shall fight and survive. 

They shall shut all intellectuals, asking: What’s at stake for the youth? Glad shall they answer, “The Nation”.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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