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Rising Fundamentalism Presents A Threat To Democracy Everywhere

Fundamentalism is the belief in old and traditional forms of religion or the belief that whatever is written in a holy book is true. It was particularly evident in the 20th century, which seeks to recover and publicly institutionalised aspects of the past that modern life has obscured.

The 21st century has witnessed a phenomenal rise in fundamentalism and fanatism and global terrorism on the rise. The fundamentalists see the secular states as their primary enemy because their goals do not tend to align with each other.

Bangalore Riots
Representative Image. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The socialist society believes in education, democracy, reforms, modernisation, liberalisation and economic reforms. The fundamentalists believe all these goals as hindrances to their objective of preserving the spiritual dimension of life. 

The ideology of fundamentalism has not only gripped the poor and underdeveloped countries but also hijacked the developed, liberal and democratic nations. Many factors such as imperialism, poverty, lack of good governance, corruption, political instability and poor economic conditions have contributed to the rise of fundamentalism.

Lately, the concept of fundamentalism has taken a bad shape with rising militancy, violence and terrorism. The religious consciousness not only among the elderly but also among the youth is increasing in today’s time. This is the by-product of modern life, which has become synonymous with stress, pressures, competitiveness and uncertainty.

This conspicuous religiosity has led to the growth, spread and strengthening of fundamentalism. However, among the most distinguishing features of today’s situation are the leaps that are occurring in globalisation, linked to an accelerating process of capitalist accumulation in a world dominated by the capitalist-imperialist system. This has led to significant and often dramatic changes in the lives of huge numbers of people, often undermining traditional relations and customs.

Throughout the developing countries, the people are being driven away from the farmlands where they have lived and tried to eke out an existence under oppressive conditions but now can no longer do even that. They are being thrown away into the urban areas that surround the core of the cities.

Almost half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, including the massive and ever-growing shanty towns. Being uprooted from their traditional conditions and the traditional forms in which they have been exploited and oppressed, they are being hurled into a very insecure and unstable existence, unable to be integrated in any kind of ‘articulated way’, into the economic and social fabric and functioning of society. 

In many of the countries, a majority of the people in the urban areas work in the informal economy. To a significant degree, because of this, many people are turning to religious fundamentalism to try to give them an anchor in the midst of all this dislocation and upheaval.

In developing countries, these massive changes and dislocations are occurring in the context of domination and exploitation by foreign imperialists, which is associated with local ruling classes. These classes are economically and politically dependent on and subordinate to imperialism and are viewed as the corrupt agents of an alien power, who also promote the decadent culture of the West.

Bangladesh protest
Representative Image. (by Abdul goni from Pixabay)

This, in the short run, can strengthen the hands of fundamentalists religious forces and leaders who frame opposition to the corruption and Western decadence of the local ruling classes and the imperialists to which they are beholden, in terms of returning to and enforcing with vengeance, traditional relations, customs, ideas, and values which themselves are rooted in the past embody extreme forms of exploitation and oppression. 

Many fundamentalist organisations have been established, and it should be clearly noted, they are restricted to Islamic fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism is viral across many religions, including some liberal religions. Fundamentalism in the U.S.A. has roots in Niagara Bible Conference related to Christian fundamentalism. Jewish fundamentalism has been used to characterise militant religious Zionism. Similarly, Hindu fundamentalism is discernible in Hindutva, Ayodhya verdict, Gujrat riots etc.

The origin of Islamic fundamentalism can be traced to the 7th century. The Shia and Sunni religious conflict also created a wedge and aggravated Islamic fundamentalism. Al-Shabaab’s Boko Haram, Ansar-al-Sharia, ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc., are Islamic fundamentalist organisations endangering peace and harmony, giving rise to terrorist activities. 

The rising fundamentalism not only leads to the loss of lives and property but also the displacement of millions of people from the homeland. The rising terror attacks and migration crisis in Europe are caused due to increasing fundamentalism in Middle and West Asia. The peace, harmony and prosperity have been overpowered by fear, apprehension and hatred. 

A democratic government that has the greater participation of people needs to form the backbone of good governance. People need to be educated so that their employability is enhanced. This leads to an improved standard of living. The people need to be provided more religious freedom.

There is a need for greater international cooperation and collaboration in order to check the rising fundamentalism. The United Nations has an important role in improving the deteriorating global environment.

Featured Image via pxfuel
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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.

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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.”

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, 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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