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How Journalists Embarrass Sportspersons For TRP By Asking These Questions

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Neeraj Chopra created history by winning India’s first gold in athletics at Tokyo Olympics 2020.

In all, India has only 10 gold medals at the Olympics out of which eight have been won by the men’s hockey team. After Abhinav Bindra’s gold in men’s 10m air rifle shooting at Beijing 2008, Neeraj Chopra is the second individual to win gold.

This is our first-ever gold in track and field events since 1896 (the first held Olympics). His gold has taken India’s medal count to seven medals.

As per news reports, Chopra has been hospitalised due to high fever. He has been attending felicitation events, meeting politicians and giving interviews since he returned. He has been going from one event to another, posing for endless photographs every day without catching rest, all this while facing the most embarrassing questions in interviews.

Neeraj Chopra

A recent interview by Red FM hosted by RJ Malishka with Chopra has gone viral on social media and sparked a controversy. She posted a video on Twitter where she and her team can be seen dancing in front of the Olympic gold medalist over a Zoom call. The clip has been shared extensively receiving widespread criticism.

In an exclusive interview, the radio jockey and her team were dancing to the tunes of ‘ Ude jab jab zulfein teri’ while Neeraj Chopra looked visibly embarrassed.

If that was not enough, when the RJ returned to her seat, she exclaimed, “Haii, Kitna mazaa aaya! Sorry, hum ne zyada toh nahin cheda aapko (So much fun! Sorry, I hope we didn’t tease you a lot)?”

She continued and asked him for a hug (jadu ki jhappi) while hugging the screen. One could see how uncomfortable he was as he folded his hands and replied, “Namaste! Aise hi durr se.”

Neeraj Chopra has achieved something that very few athletes have till now. He is a world-class athlete, an army officer and a world champion. He needs to be treated with respect. We all know it takes years of hard work, sacrifices and training to make a name for yourself in sports. You have to fight the system, struggle for years, be resilient, and build character.

What happened during the interview was utterly embarrassing and uncalled for. Imagine if this was not a Zoom call. What would have happened? In all likelihood, the RJ would have hugged Chopra to congratulate him on the win. Can it be considered correct?

What if the genders were reversed; wouldn’t it be an insult and embarrassment? What if the same thing had happened to a woman, where a bunch of men would be dancing in front of her, asking her for a hug? How would she and the rest of us have reacted?

When it is not okay to hug or dance in front of a woman; it is definitely not okay to do the same with men!

Is this the way we show our admiration and respect for an Olympic winner? We need to maintain dignity and have basic etiquettes in place while interviewing our winners and treating them with respect. We are a country with a population of 136.64crores (2109) and we have had only 10 gold medals since the Olympics started. Is this how we treat our champions?

A question we need to ask ourselves is whether this would have been done in front of any other athlete. Would it be considered okay to dance in front of Kapil Dev or Viswanathan Anand? Does the thought of it make you uncomfortable? I really hope it does.

Chopra at the Tokyo Olympics

I have seen interviews where older male athletes, and even some younger cricketers, are addressed as ‘Sir’ during interviews. So, why is Neeraj Chopra being treated so casually? Is it because of his looks? Because it definitely feels like that.

In another interview by Navika Kumar, he was asked irrelevant questions like, “You are the most eligible bachelor of the country. How do you feel? You are better looking than a superstar and currently, you have a greater following than any film actor.”

He replied that he would like to focus on sports currently as that is more important. The following day the headlines read, “Exclusive big revelation by Neeraj Kumar: Good news for girls! No, I don’t have a girlfriend. My only focus now is sports.”

Dear news channels and journalists, I would like to speak on behalf of all the girls in this country: we don’t really care if Neeraj Chopra has a girlfriend. We don’t want to know about his love life or his plans of getting married. But what we do want to know is the struggles he faced to get where he is now. We want to know how he is training for the upcoming championships and what we as a country can do for him.

I don’t think we need to stoop so low for viewership. Whatever happened to good journalism? Is it so difficult to ask the right and relevant questions? Times have changed and people look out for good journalism, let us not take the power of the pen and media for granted.

We need more articles and interviews that inspire the younger generation to take up sports. We need to do more for our athletes and invest in them. The need of the hour is to have better sports facilities, better training and more opportunities. Many of our medallists are from remote villages who have struggled to make a name for themselves.

A few years ago, Sania Mirza was asked by an eminent journalist about her plans of ‘settling down’ and motherhood, to which she gave a befitting reply,

“You sound disappointed that I’m not choosing motherhood over being number one in the world at this point of time. But I’ll answer your question anyway. That’s a question I face all the time as a woman, that all women have to face — the first is marriage and then it’s motherhood. Unfortunately, that’s when we’re settled, and no matter how many Wimbledons we win or number one in the world we become, we don’t become settled. But eventually, it will happen, not right now. And when it does happen I’ll be the first one to tell everybody when I plan to do that.”

This immediately elicited an apology from the journalist, but the question created a huge hue and cry on social media platforms.

Sania Mirza

PV Sindhu won a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics but what was Googled the most about her was her caste. When will we change and rise above these mundane things?

Where are we heading? This kind of journalism is shameful and embarrassing. We need to do much better than this. Our athletes deserve the respect that has been long denied to them —both male and female.

Neeraj Chopra’s gold is just the beginning and has given inspiration to so many Indian athletes. Let us encourage and uplift them. Don’t we all like the sound of our national anthem playing when we win? I know for a fact it is the best sound in the world and every Indian’s heart beats for it while their eyes fill with tears and their chest swells with pride. And the people who allow us to feel this honour should be treated with dignity and civility.

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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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