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Roti, Kapda aur Makaan… aur?

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Mohit Kumar Jolly:

India has come a long way since 1974, when Manoj Kumar directed the film Roti, Kapda aur Makaan and portrayed how a common man battled for the basic amenities of life- food, clothing and shelter. The country is experiencing a robust economic growth, as signified by the GDP of 6.1% in 2009, (instead of the financial crisis) and the purchasing power of the common man in this country is continuously increasing. Have these changes added something to the list of basic amenities in life- Roti, Kapda, Makaan aur..? Internet? Education? Health? Any more guesses?

Education sector is experiencing the most fruitful and participatory debates these days, with efforts of CBSE, MHRD and Prof. YashPal’s Committee’s report on higher education being brought out in the public domain, but healthcare sector debates, policies and problems yet remain confined to experts of the field. Let me give you another angle- look at the recent social entrepreneurs in the country- what percent of startups/ ventures are in healthcare and/or public health domain? Does that mean Indian healthcare sector has not progressed much or we are not much aware of its progress? I would vouch for the second option. Let’s look into it in detail.

Allow me to ask you some basic questions related to healthcare — What is the life expectancy in India today? Has it increased tremendously from that in 1947? Yes, it has. It’s past 72 now and was 32 then. Do you know the name of UN agency responsible for coordinating international public health? If not, I won’t be surprised. It’s WHO (World Health Organisation), and it was our first Prime Minister Pt. Nehru who gave the idea of starting WHO. Not going too far, please tell who is the current Health and Family Welfare Minister of India? Try to remember when last did you read or heard about any news from this ministry. I believe it is beyond doubt now that increasing health awareness and literacy is one thing that has been regularly neglected by mainstream media and other sources of dissemination of information to the Deewan-e-aam. Health journalism, like science and environment journalism, has not yet ‘graduated’ to the level of political or bolly-wood journalism.

Here is the Devil’s advocate – when we have so many issues to read and debate about, why to discuss about health? There are organizations like NACO (National AIDS Control Organization) and other NGOs to take care of it.

Health journalism is not only about printing precautions for HIV/AIDS, Tuberclosis and other flourishing seasonal diseases. It’s much more than that- informing the public about health concerns and maintaining important health issues on the public agenda. Health journalism and communication drives health literacy, that is defined in Health People 2010 as: “The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions”.

Can you understand instructions on drug bottles and medical education brochures? You may say: “I read and understand English.”, but health literacy is not simply the ability to read, but the ability to apply your reading, listening, analytical, and decision-making skills, to health situations. Can you decide that the emergency services you are being offered to you when your beloved one is in danger, is actually worth what you are being paid for? Low literacy is linked to higher hospitalization rates, as per Literacy and Health Outcomes (January 2004) report.

Let me get down to some real cases — Once a patient in a serious condition was admitted to the hospital and taken to ICU. The patient’s relatives were not allowed to enter the ICU for three days, and were continuously told that some major operation was going on. They were content to see the patient breathing through the glass pane. What was discovered 3 days later when a senior doctor examined the hospital was that the patient had died and it was only through ventilator that the stomach was being pumped in to make people believe that he was alive. Why was it done when normally, no patient is being put on ventilator for more than 48 hours continuously? You know it.

Another case- a child, admitted in high fever, died and the hospital authorities produced a bill of Rs. 16 lakhs. On investigation into the case, it was found that the injections that costed 12 lakhs in the bill are not used for fever. Let me ask you- if someone (say your sister) is bit by a snake, what is the first thing you would do? Start sucking blood as shown in bollywood films? No. never. Go to Wikipedia? Do what?

Do these anecdotes ring a bell? Do you realize the impact health journalism, communication and literacy can have on our daily lives and even saving lives? “The first step towards change is awareness”, as someone has rightly pointed out, and I hope I have created awareness that awareness about healthcare is very much needed in India.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and also a student at IIT- Kanpur.

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  1. Kohinoor

    Times have changed and so have been our needs. Rotis, Kapras and makkaans are not the only neccessities. Especially people who are quite serious about the way they look, but could not do much.

    Here’s good news for them.

    He went from dud to dude in Karthik Calling Karthik and now you too can get the same transformation Farhan Akhtar did and get the girl/guy/promotion or just look great!

    Announcing the Bausch and Lomb KCK contest, where B&L is giving you the chance to get a mini-makeover and still photo shoot by a leading photographer.

    Join the official Bausch and Lomb KCK fan page on Facebook, check out the profile shots of past winners, submit your picture and stand the chance to be our featured ‘Model of the Week’.
    It’s easy. Head over to the Bausch and Lomb KCK Facebook fan page check out pictures of past winners, become a fan of the page and submit your photo for your chance to be featured as the Bausch and Lomb ‘Model of the Week’.
    Winners will be notified by the Bausch & Lomb team and arrangements made for your photo shoot. Your picture will also be profiled Bausch and Lomb page as our model of the week.
    For more info,visit : http://www.facebook.com/bauschandlombindia

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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.

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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 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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