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The 21 Stories By YKA Users Stood Out As The Boldest Voices Of 2021

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2021 doesn’t feel too different from 2021 – the ‘waves’ of pessimism shattering many of us, as we struggled to latch on to whatever strand of hope we could find. For us at Youth Ki Awaaz, one of the things that truly, significantly kept us going was YKA members – their stories and narratives that unabashedly told the truth, shed light on the horror and cruelty that the pandemic silently inflicted on so many of us; their voice of sanity and empathy that wanted to do right by the world and its problems; and, the last for the best, our interactions with them.

Best stories feautured on Youth Ki Awaaz in 2021
Boldest stories featured on Youth Ki Awaaz in 2021.

This article is a short summation of the boldest of these voices and issues, stories that kept us going.

So here’s a roundup of 2021’s 21 most inspiring, distinctive and powerful narratives that defied norms, took charge, made a point and how!

1. Has law ever been a deterrent enough for public behaviour? Nope. Only one of the reasons why raising the marriageable age for women from 18 to 21 years is not a good idea at all.

Prerana in Education
January 7, 2021

 

You can read more from Prerana here.

2. Survival is more important than prevention of disease for so many in India. Not just our politics, our healthcare is exclusionary too.

 

You can read more from Martha Farrell Foundation here.

3. “What is your caste?” A question that haunts you if you are from the SC/ST/OBC communities. Apparently, education and wealth and a stable loving relationship of many years still can’t make you fit enough to ‘pollute’ their bloodline.

Amrita in #JaatiNahiAdhikaar
January 11, 2021

 

You can read more from Amrita here.

4. A tale of too many gurus spoils the broth. Toxic positivity on LinkedIn is a real problem. Our anxiety, frustration and helplessness find a community in Shraddha’s piece.

Shraddha Iyer in Careers
June 22, 2021

 

You can read more from Shraddha here.

5. All that Mamata had to do to ensure her daughters don’t have the same fate as her.

 

You can read more from Haasini here.

6. A powerful story during the COVID second wave that will always be a testimony to the lengths of insensitivity our education system went to.

 

You can read more from Shraddha here.

7. ‘Why does the thought of having a gay man join the oversight institution of the government send tremors to the dominant heteronormative order of our State?’

Vaivab in Governance
April 10, 2021

 

You can read more from Vaivab here.

8. He didn’t get why only brides are given importance while grooms end up wearing a sherwani and no makeup? So, he changed it.

 

You can read more from Patruni here.

9. First there was social inequality. Then capitalism. Then the pandemic came. Read the story of these booksellers whose plight didn’t get a space in mainstream conversations.

Mir Umar in #CoronaWatch
March 17, 2021

 

You can read more from Mir here.

10. Linguistically, Hindi continues to live in the past. Read this compelling story by Chandan that asks a simple question: why is Hindi so exclusionary?

Chandan Kumar in LGBTQ
June 20, 2021

 

You can read more from Chandan here.

11. Do you know 80% of those displaced due to climate change are women? Look at these pathbreaking photos that tell stories of these women and the unimaginable scale of impact climate change has on them.

 

You can read more from Divy here.

12. Hiring people from the LGBTQ+ community is considered ‘progressive’, but is it enough? What’s considered as the final step towards ‘equality’ is only the first step, and this powerful story by Ankita is proof.

Ankita Marwaha in Careers
July 22, 2021

 

You can read more from Ankita here.

13. A narrative, a reality, a story that didn’t get space in the education discourse during the pandemic, but Amya made sure to tell it.

Amya Roy in Campus Watch
September 23, 2021

 

You can read more from Amya here.

14. Education? Space? Relationships? Exposure? Support systems? Stability? I could go on, but the list of what Kashmiri teenagers are deprived of is daunting and long. This narrative by Ali documents how life, and time, work differently in a conflict region.

Ali Qalandar in Kashmir
September 17, 2021

 

You can read more from Ali here.

15. I can love. I can love not. I can love. I can love not. Welcome to 2021 India, where the right to love is a petal-pulling game, where paternalism determines whether your right to love succeeds or not.

 

You can read more from Prithvi here.

16. The hardest question, of what seems like a century, answered.

 

You can read more from Ali here.

17. A film that created quite a stir, for the right reasons, and Sumeet Samos’ brilliant review of the movie – on what heroism, Ambedkarite slogans mean for the larger conversation on structural changes.

 

You can read more from Sumeet here.

18. Stories are one of the most powerful tools to talk to people, and this powerful, and absolutely essential story by Mythili talks about how publishers from the marginalised community are taking control, breaking the Savarna hegemony in literature.

Mythili Kamath in Books
November 18, 2021

 

You can read more from Mythili here.

19. Marriage, not the start, mid, end goal for us women. We want love, not patriarchy, thanks please! A brave piece by Nupur that words the silent realities of so many women.

 

You can read more from Nupur here.

20. When conflict is an omnipresent part of your life, mental healthcare becomes a privilege of a different level. Mental health is political and this piece is proof.

Amar Saeed in Human Rights
October 14, 2021

 

You can read more from Amar here.

21. Netflix’s sex education was a brilliant show, but almost a utopian reality for Indians.

Shirley Khurana in Education
October 21, 2021

 

You can read more from Shirley here.

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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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