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Namma Chennai!

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Sameera Ahmed:

Think Chennai and aromatic filter coffees, Kancheepuram-sari clad aunties, idly-dosas and ‘enna da raaskala’ dialogues come to mind; yes, thanks to Chetan Bhagat for the former and Shah Rukh Khan for the side-splitting latter. Some twenty years back, Chennai was like that- the epitome of conservativeness and traditional thinking.

Roll over to today, and that Chennai has undergone a full-blown transformation. The right mix of urban-culture and tradition is stamped on the city. Crime statistics are much lower as compared to its other metro counterparts and the people welcome you with open hearts. Out-of-towners are never left to feel like they aren’t part of the Tamil family.

Anyone visiting South-India has to make Chennai a destination on their itinerary to experience the Tamil culture. A list of some of the must-see places this city has to offer:

Marina Beach

One of the longest beaches in the world, the marina beach extends for nearly two miles. It is primarily sandy and a vital must-see for those who don’t live on the coastline. Along with a lighthouse, statues of historic Indian leaders and fine-looking springs, this figures ‘numero uno’ on the list

Vandalur Zoo

If you are an animal lover, then head to this destination. Housing more than 170 species of mammals, aviaries and reptiles, the Vandalur zoo extends to around 1300 acres. Exotic species of animals from across the country are kept on display here. Guindy National Park and the Crocodile Farm are other animal sanctuaries that one can visit while in Chennai.

Elliots Beach

Another one of Chennai’s famous beaches, the Elliots beach, otherwise called ‘Bessie beach’ is the student hang-out zone in the city. Find the entire college crowd lazing around here, trying out the innumerable eateries that have sprung up right opposite the coast making it even more enjoyable than the Marina. Fish lovers will find the locality irresistible.

Mahabalipuram

At least 60 kms away from the city is located the ancient town of Mahabalipuram. It was a 7thcentury port in the Pallava dynasty. Rathas, shrines and pagodas make the architectural experience worthwhile. The city was built on the concept of rock-cut architecture and complete temples have been carved out of a single stone. It figures on the UNESCO world heritage list.

Valluvar Kottam

A monument dedicated to Chennai’s most famous poet, Thiruvalluvar who wrote the Thirukural, Valluvar Kottam is in the heart of the city. All 1330 verses of this ancient book have been inscribed within the monument.

Fort St George

This structure was the first ever British fortress to be constructed in the country in the year 1639. It houses a church and a museum containing British artifacts. The Fort St. George today is used as the administrative capital of the entire city.

Santhome Church

The remains of St Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ is said to be buried here. A beautiful basilica, the Sunday sermons conducted here are a pleasure to witness.

Temples

There is a surplus of beautiful temples in the city. The Kapaleeswarar temple is one such place of worship. Visit to witness and understand the Tamil heritage better. Sri Parthasarathy Temple is another such temple which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Shopper’s Stop

Spencer’s, Citicentre and Ampa Skywalk serve the mall experience. But the ultimate shopper’s destination is T Nagar. Items are available at unbelievable prices but bargaining is the key.

Tourists MUST visit the ‘Ranganathan Street in T Nagar- but at their own risk. It’s forever full of people and try standing on the road for two minutes and you‘ll reach the other end in no time because of the massive crowd that walks in there.

Still have time on your hands?

Then visit the St Thomas Mount, Kapaleshwar Temple, Rajiv Gandhi Memorial, the Government Museum, Kamaraj and MGR Samadhis, the Thousand Lights Mosque or the world famous Theosophical Society.

Of all the things I like about this city, the people here are engaging. Everyone’s friendly and you couldn’t ever visit a person’s house without getting your tummy loaded with delicacies.

Diwali and Pongal are the best times to visit the city because the whole city is in high spirits, out on the streets, celebrating the occasion.

The writer is a Chennai based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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     Aren’t these the Usual Suspects… Can you let us know of places which are swell but still are little known to the public?

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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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