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We Have All Been There [Part 4]

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By Tanaya Singh:

Ever heard of a universe with more than one centre? Mine has two, and trust me; the feeling is scarier than the sound of it.

I am 26. Luck and fate, are two incomprehensible words for me; everything that has ever happened to me till today is all because of me; it’s all inside; I am my future. How can two small words be responsible for the things that I wanted and the ones I was trying to eschew away from? If these words ever had something to do with me, I’ll have to say that luck has always been in my favour and fate is unable to keep secrets from me; so no surprises on my way.

I don’t pray but I believe in His existence. I am attracted to the beauty of traditional rituals and prayers. The vibrant colours, the shimmering lights, the loud chants and the essence of beliefs; together they help me curb the storm within. So here I am, sitting in the super holy city of Banaras, on the banks of Ganges. I don’t have a reason for being here and not with my family back home. I guess being alone in a crowd is the best place to think. And I happen to have a lot of things to think about; things which can only be thought of and about which nothing can be done. Love being one of them.

“Love” is the most important part of my life–the centre of my universe. If I talk to somebody who is just an acquaintance, I’d say that I fell in love when I was 21, but our relationship did not work out and I got married to someone else last year. But a few people, who know me better, are familiar with the original story. And me being me, the few people are just the two centres I was talking about. Sharing thoughts is a very difficult thing for me but a time of brim- over definitely comes. That’s when I found myself at a strange place clacking out the turbulence inside.

I met Varun in the last year of college. He was working in the same city and we were introduced through a mutual friend. Sounds like the most common story ever, right? Back then, it was a very omnipresent thing for me too. We met; talked, met again, liked talking and everything was normal. The only weird fact being this: I was in love and I wasn’t aware of it. I can’t say that I know when exactly I fell for him, but it seems like forever now– A perfect Bollywood dialogue. But perfect endings happen to stories in the perfect world. Mine, is not one.

Friends, lovers, acquaintances, colleagues, relatives, fiancés, in-laws….and a million other names; every relation has a proper noun to tell people what exactly you are to each other.

‘I don’t love him! We are just friends!!!!’–Absolute rubbish. Since when did we stop loving our friends? Why is it so important to name every single feeling? I love Varun. He is more than a friend but less than a lover. Now where do we place such emotions? Is there any way of walking past crossroads? When will we get over the absolute need of forced relations? If some of us don’t understand this notion, then why is it considered something wrong?

I know now that Varun had feelings for me which had a definite stand. He wanted to spend his life with me. When talking about Varun I considered myself the luckiest woman on earth because he understood me more than I understand myself. He knew I loved him, but he also knew that the fabric of our thoughts was totally different. He was the one who introduced me to myself. He said “I love you” with the ease of saying “good morning” and I knew I loved him back. But I did not have a name for my feelings back then, neither do I have now.

I am married to a guy who made me believe the meant-for- each- other theory. I met him last year and knew since the first time we talked, that I wanted him to be there. I have a husband I wished for. The decision of spending my life with him is perhaps the easiest decision I ever took. When Varun met him, he was absolutely confident about us being happy together. And I couldn’t ask for more. The two centres of my universe; together concerned about making it a better place to be in. They too, share a relationship that is stuck at crossroads. Nobody will ever understand how they can be friends….if ‘friendship’ is what you name their state.

This reminds me of my favourite scene from the movie Eclipse; when Edward tells Bella that “she” loves Jacob. Bella replies by saying that she loves ‘him’ more and all Edward had to say then was, “I know”.

So you can consider me vampire-lucky (if you have seen the movie) because that is precisely how the two centres of my universe let me be the centre of theirs.”

And because such relationships do not have names, I do not have words. All I had for you was this story. The story of some girl you might know. Look around and look within, if you do find her, just let her be happy. So if you agreed with me on the first article of this series about the confusions in relations, I’ll leave you confused yet again. If nameless is the way they are meant to be to the world, let these spirits be alive in the hearts of those who have the passion to leave the names behind.

“I love you” he said,

Just before the final call….

And the spark in those eyes…

Were the brightest of all.

No answer was needed,

No questions were asked….

“Always be the way you are”….

Was all he wished for.

I don’t have the will, neither the desire….

They are jealous, they are on fire.

This does not have a name and they’ll always curse….

‘Cause I have two centres for my universe.

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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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