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Go Cycle! And Do Your Bit…

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Soumya Venugopal:

It all began with the creation of wheel and when man invented bicycle he achieved the zenith of his attainments. Here was the machine of impeccable precision and balance for the convenience of man unlike the further inventions which were made for man’s convenience. The more he used it, the fitter his body became. For once here was the product of man’s intelligence that was entirely beneficial to those who used it and at the same time of no harm or irritation to others. A bicycle was indeed a curious vehicle which had its passenger as its engine. Most of us would unanimously agree that had there been no bicycle the progress would have come to a standstill. It was this humble bicycle which gave rise to the fancy Yamahas, the Pulsars and the Hayabusas.

Times have changed and so have we. We slowly made our transition from “ O zaraa ruk jaa” (old hindi song from the 1950’s on a bicycle) to “Zindagi ek safar hai suhaana” (the evergreen Rajesh Khanna song) to the very famous “Dhoom Dhoom” (no explanation required here I guess..). Life today is so fast paced that as W.H.Davies puts it “There is no time to stand and stare”. We pompously display our Fords, our Accents and our Innovas to the world and at the same time in the midst of an intellectual discussion on global warming come up with something like “ The air-pollution is slowly killing us”. What an irony!!! Things have become very funny these days. One can witness people going to the gyms in their four wheeler babies and sweat it out on the treadmills and the gymming cycles! Surely makes sense for people who do it, but I am sorry I fail to get the whole idea. Most people in India have come to regard car as the basic necessity. Families without car today are considered to be “poor”. Its hard to understand this love-affair with the car given the stress, the pollution, the accidents and the congestion it causes. Yes, it is often convenient in case of inclement weather but do the advantages of car travel outweigh the disadvantages which include the initial purchase and the running costs? Has the car now become an extension of the home rather than just a means of getting around? For a very small number of people car may be legitimately regarded as a necessity. However the purpose of the article is to urge the youth to rethink their attitude towards the transport and consider the role cycling has in reducing pollution, global warming and improving health. For safer streets, less congestion and reduced air pollution, the bicycle is poised to become an integral part of the urban transportation system. Putting bicycles to work could produce enormous savings like reduction in the noise and air pollution, better land use and lower health risks. Indians drive cars and taxis more than 2.5 trillion kilometers and even if 5 percent of those kilometers is shifted to bicycles then it can make a huge difference! Much of the urban travel is bike-size and if we could replace the bike for the short trips by the good old cycle it could definitely eliminate the short, air-polluting trips.

Cycling is good for your health and your pocket and the greater the number of people who decide to give up their four wheelers or not to own one in the first place, the safer will be the roads for the people using the bicycle. About 16 bicycles can be parked in the space required by one car and they occupy less space on roads, there by increasing the road efficiency and also reducing the wear and tear of the road. It’s quite surprising to note that the person sitting in the car is bound to inhale more exhaust pollutants than the person who is cycling in the same situation.

I am sure this is not the first time we are reading about cycling to reduce the pollution levels, but seldom things like this are taken seriously. I mean we can always get away with “Who has time???”. Its time we spare a thought about the environment around us. We all are experiencing a severe summer this year and going by the statistics there is a whopping 5 degree increase in the temperature as compared to the last year. With such an increase one could just imagine what would be the condition in coming five years. It’s high time we start caring about the environment seriously. Here are few things that can be done to ensure that more and more people get into cycling

1. Allowing the cyclists to use the bus lanes. Cars on the bus lanes should not be allowed.
2. Special lanes near the intersections should be made for the cyclists so that they are ahead of the cars and a special green signal should be given exclusively for the cyclists so as to ensure that they get through the intersections before the cars.
3. Local governments should set up a micro-credit program to buy bicycles for the people belonging to the low income group.
4. A bicycle program can be launched where one can take the bicycle for rent. This provides employment opportunities for many.

With increasing concerns about global warming and the growing numbers of people with diseases related to obesity and lack of exercise, does it not make sense to use a bicycle for getting around whenever possible?

Increasing bicycle use will be key to making the urban habitat, now home to nearly half of humanity, a far more livable space.

So all you lazy bones and environment enthusiasts GO CYCLE!!!

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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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