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Young India Is Hungry To Bring A Change In 2021

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The “Youth Bulge” And New India

Ideally, it should be a moment of pride for a 24-year-old, like me, to be a citizen of  India, which is presently experiencing the “Youth Bulge”. I am a citizen of the nation where more than 50% of the population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. By 2030, it shall be the nation of youth, with a dependency ratio of just over 0.4.

Unfortunately, unlike many, these facts have not allowed my chest to swell up with pride and expand itself as large as possible to the most trending size of “56 Inches”. Primarily because today, as part of that youth bulge, I am feeling odd sensations. Yes, these are sensations of the rumblings of change, an unwanted, impossible to accept change. The land is shaking and it can be felt underfoot by all of us spread across the nation.

Representational Image

India is witnessing a spurt of growth of young population and will soon be the youngest country in the world.

As per the data, the much-awaited bulge will lead to many positive changes in the demography and economic environment of India. These demographic changes will promote the development of the world’s youngest nation. But, trusting the present, there is no wrong in assuming, that right now the changes brought in will lead us to the road that will completely deflect us from our vision of India. The present road might promise growth, but Young India, demands growth with and for a vision equal for all.

We are being made to avoid the question confronting all of us today “What kind of nation do we want to live in? What nation will our next generations take birth in?”

This generation of young and old is witnessing something critical and vital for the nation. We are experiencing the process of nation-building while fighting against all odds. A process of struggles, where the youth has been forced by the elders and experienced to make “choices”. The youth have been put to labor with the belief of choosing between doing good or doing well in life, between economic growth, or social growth.

We, the youth are forced to believe that we are inexperienced, and not better positioned to come out with innovative alternatives and approaches to drive the delivery of tangible outcomes. But now, we have had enough of being disillusioned and demotivated by the disquiet, uncertainty, and constant violence within and outside our lives making us and our will, frozen enough to take no actions.

And therefore, I want to communicate it loud and clear, We, the Young Citizens of India, are capable of bringing in the storm of change as I write, and you read. Every answer to your question on our identity, when we support movements demanding justice, is capable of changing the approaches and strategies of the so-called envisioned, unconstitutional growth of the nation.

I want to request our elders, leaders of the institutions and government, to not identify us as the problem that needs to be solved, but as the solution to the system, they have fractured.

What Is Our Role As The Youth

We are not only mere voters, we are thinkers and doers. We think and envision a nation, with shrinking inequality, regenerating natural resources, opportunities enough at disposal for everyone to unlock their full potential, and benefit from shared prosperity. We want to live in a world where peace and harmony are promoted, love becomes the religion, and the focus is on improving lives by minimizing the harm of all possible forms.

For us, there are only three watchwords for this era: Reform, Resolve, and then Revolt, to bring in the former, as and when required. Presently, we might not have the best approach for all the problems, but we have the courage and consideration required to take the risk and do all the possible permutations and combinations for trial and error.

Understanding that our role is not only limited to help India reach its dependency ratio of 0.4 by 2030, we have to be working every day. And therefore we will be while being the largest participants in the workforce, shall also be participating in the gatherings that are required for fixing systems lacking democratic leaderships and de-accelerating the required growth.

We will balance professionalism and active citizenship. We will work towards our responsibility for the nation, taking it as our second job, if possibly not the first, due to many factors. This will be a job, a duty, where growth and progress of the economy will be our compensation. The establishment of constitution abiding governing structures and systems will be our motivational force.

It is vital to mention, many young citizens have started this journey of taking responsibility by being on the roads while building their patience and perseverance, required to embrace conflicts of interests and looking for alternatives through dialogue and equal participation of all stakeholders to help resolve it.

india youth protest
Representational image.

The youth is out on the roads demanding justice, but they will face challenges from those in power

The Struggles Of The Youth Out In The Streets

We cannot deny that today, the youth is out on roads, because they feel the need to be there and their need has turned fairly into a personal want and nation’s call as well. They want and will be found outside every possible booth camp where they voted. They want to be there even after elections, to demand justice for their vote.

Essential to highlight, this journey is full of challenges and struggles. We are and will be questioned now and then for our individuality and identity whenever found supporting anything against the objectives of people in power at present. These questions will be a direct, de-motivating, and often open threat to one’s safety.

These questions can be as upsetting as: “ 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 from? Do you know the exact issue? Do you know what the government has done? Where is your Aadhar Card? Are you funded? Which council are you from? Why this bindi? Why Turban? Why burqa? What’s in your bag? Why is your phone out? What are you recording?” And we might fail to answer them all bravely and boldly. But every time, we fail to answer, we need to remind ourselves, the nation and its resources belong to all and can be used within the law and order for the benefit of all.

We need not hesitate to speak that each advocating for justice, could be less educated of the political interests and objectives but they are fully eligible to hold the people in power accountable for everything that is done, Right and Wrong. We might not have a vested political interest, but we do have high interests in nation-building.

We are united, to stand and demand dignity from the ones, who promised to safeguard and deliver. It is time to create a win-win deal. It is the time to stand with courage and consideration. Being one of the largest populated nations in the world, it is bound to have a large number of challenges.

With the ever-changing model of growth as per the influential factors of the external environment, we understand that the scale of problems within the system has increased, and, today we propose the need to change our response to it for a better future for all. Therefore, now more than ever it is possible, and it is required to not only merely inhabit this fragile democratic nation but make ourselves protectors first and then promoters of it as well.

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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.

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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.

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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