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Right Road, Wrong Direction!

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Mireille Rodrigues:

Ever wondered if something is amiss when under the impression that you are doing good? You seem certain that the end result, whatever it is, is for the better. But then, if you approach the problem in the wrong way, something else crops up, something totally unexpected and unaccounted for, something that teaches the importance of the means as well as the importance of the goal.

With the current fad that has hit the fashion world, most girls are under the impression that they are too fat, and hence, have attempted to diet. But, how far is a person willing to go to get very thin, very fast? With the current rates of obesity, many people are right to think about losing weight. But, whatever the motive, is the manner they choose of attaining weight loss the best health wise? Crash diets were once in vogue. Crash dieting involves consuming the most limited quantity of food in order to lose weight quickly. And, sooner or later, consuming too little food to cater to a body’s needs puts the body into trouble. Those that don’t have fainting fits sometime during the ordeal, generally tend to put the lost weight back on after the diet is over. Besides, all the other health risks that such drastic starving induces are not publicized as much. Over 5 percent of the female population is affected by an eating disorder. Anorexia affects 1 percent of young women. Anorexia is an eating disorder that is driven by an irrational desire to be thinner than normal. With celebrities and magazines endorsing a size zero, it’s no wonder that the projected image of beauty creates a feeling of inadequacy among the youth. However, the method of losing weight involves the combo of watching and controlling food intake as well regularly exercising.

If weight loss is probably a girl’s fad, then muscle building is in with the guys. But, rather than pumping it out in the gym, many take D bal steroids to build up that extra muscle, extra fast. Steroids are generally used to treat asthma or allergies and other medical conditions. However, many sporting personalities, particularly weightlifters and athletes, use them to enhance their performance. And, now up to 5 percent of teenage boys use them as well because of pressure from their peers or coach or simply a desire to excel in sports. The concerned steroids here are hormones that help to build muscle. While this may seem tempting initially, the ill effects of using them are apparent only after several years of use. Consuming steroids without a prescription is against the law. Rather than resorting to such drastic measures, one should indulge in the true spirit of sportsmanship.

Moving in a completely different direction, let’s look at the outcomes of measures to control agricultural pests. The cane fields of Queensland, Australia once suffered because of its gray backed beetle. People thought that the remedy to this problem was to introduce a species of poisonous toad into the environment and create a predator-victim relationship between the toads and beetles. The skin of this toad is toxic and therefore, kills anything that tries to eat it. Although its roots were from the West, this scheme was practiced in the Pacific region. Cane toads were released in fields to destroy the rodent population. Although this was a success only in Puerto Rico, it did not discourage hopes in other places. Around 1935, the toad was introduced to Australia in the hopes of controlling the beetle problem. However, these cane fields were not the ideal environments for the predator-victim relationship to take place. Far from controlling the beetle population, the multiplication of the toads have had an adverse effect on the rest of the Australian fauna killing certain species of lizards and snakes and increasing the population of certain other reptiles. These toads are now a menace in their own right and the Australian Government has since spent over 20 million dollars on toad control and research. The actual repercussions of the practice should have been weighed before it actually took place, else this simply wouldn’t have happened.

In another case related to the environment, consider the treatment of an industrial oil spill at sea. These oil spills spread over a large area. They create oiled shorelines and kill much of the local wildlife through ingesting, suffocating, or oiling of their skin. Untreated oil even smothers coral. To treat this, measures are taken to contain an oil slick or lessen its severity. One chemical measure is based on the fact that oil mixes in water when soap is added, so a detergent is used to dissolve the oil in water. This detergent breaks up the oil into small molecules that mobilize the oil, preventing it from aggregating at one position. These smaller oil droplets should cause less harm and negate all the smothering effects. However, they spread even further because of their convenient size and take much longer to decompose than untreated oil. These oil droplets are toxic to coral. The cleaning up of an oil spill is often more dangerous than the oil spill itself. One could prevent this by using mechanical methods or less invasive chemical ones or by simply preventing the oil slick outright.

Often, it is necessary to change something we are not comfortable with or something that is not good for us. But, as one observes from the above examples, the most convenient or seemingly practical solution is no guarantee of success. What one should try is to think through all possible consequences for ones actions as thoroughly as possible before actually carrying them out.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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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, 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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