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Arunanchal Pradesh– The Rugged Bounty of Nature

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Sanjukta Majumder:


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

And I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost

These last lines of the famous poetry, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost describes my recent tour to a less explored part of the North Eastern region of the country, Arunachal Pradesh. One of the reasons for less tourist crowd here could be the bottle-neck security that exists here, which is quite justified due to various political and diplomatic reasons, making it mandatory for even a citizen of the country to have an ILP (Inner Line Permit) to enter the state. But the treasure it holds within it is beyond imagination and hence all these pains are worth taking and it can be realized only one when one experiences the idyllic beauty of the place.

Located in the Himalayan range of mountains, Arunachal means ‘the land of dawn lit mountains’, the name itself is suggestive of the beauty the place is impregnated with. One of the gateways to the hills of Arunachal is through Bhalukpong. On the way from here to Bomdila falls the biggest Orchid Conservation Sanctuary of Asia which houses orchids ranging from known to little known to the unknown. Bomdila is the most commercially viable place in the hills of Arunachal since it is located at an altitude of 8500ft from the sea-level. This place is overburdened with private travel agencies that promise a jerk-free experience to the further spots above. The place is also ornamented with the river Kameng that travels along the way to Dirang.

Dirang, situated at an altitude of 4910 ft is almost 42km away from Bomdila. The place again abounds in natural beauties with swift flowing river Dirang Chu (‘Chu’ meaning river in the local dialect) and a Holy hot spring adorning the place. Apart from these Dirang is famous for its apple orchards and Orchid Research and Development Centre.

Our next and last destination was Tawang, it is the highest residential area in Arunachal at an altitude of 10,000ft above the sea-level; the most controversial place in the recent times regarding its possession by the two countries- India and China.

To reach this place one needs to cross the Sela Pass at an even higher altitude of 13,700ft. The most surprising fact about this place is the existence of a lake amidst mountains at such height and its stupendous beauty. On our way down to Tawang, we came across a place called Jaswantgarh commemorating the outstanding bravery of a rifleman, Jaswant Singh during the Indo-China war in 1961. All the way from Jaswantgarh to the whole of Tawang is concentrated with numerous military base camps. The place sends a shiver down the spine since it looks like readymade war-field with bankers here and there, the presence of amry-men all through and always . It is constant reminder of the previous war and that might crop up anytime. The border-line that divides India and China, the MacMohan Line is just kilometers away from here. However this brute scenario is unable to rob Tawang of its spectacular beauty. With the clear blue sky as an uniform backdrop to the mountain ranges forming horizons at various levels and distances with smoggy clouds like fumes over- forms breath-taking view. Apart from this, the place also has a 400 years old Buddhist Monastery or Gompa of the Mahayana sect, which is the second largest in Asia and also hosts a military museum.

The place may lack in so called ‘sights’ for tourists but a tired set of eyes and a hungry heart , so full with the bustle and bustle of a concrete jungle is sure to find them at every corners of the mountains – the innumerable springs with their happy songs, the Rhododendrons and various colourful flowers, the smell of the pine, oak and juniper trees , the abyss, the feeling of touching the sky at any moment and their presence in entirety gives sense of eternity.

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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.

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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.”

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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, 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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