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Let The Childhood Breathe, Let Them Live

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By Trishla Gupta:

Last week after coming back in the metro after a particularly exhausting day of math’s, my half dead brain was aroused by a sight which immediately got me thinking so much so that it lead me to writing this article.

It was around 4:30 in the evening and mercifully I had got a place to sit and breathe normally in an otherwise overcrowded metro. I was staring blankly at seemingly nothing when the speaker announced ‘Laxminagar metro station’. It was just then that I saw this small boy, not more than 9-10 years old, get up and lug this huge bag on his small shoulders, trying to balance the bag, bottle and a piece of chart, all with a straight face. Not a wince, not a sigh. It was like watching a robot go about doing his duties mechanically, without feeling or thinking about the pain caused by the burden of carrying that heavy bag.

Seeing that small boy with his bag and books losing his innocence so soon, spending the years that we call as the best years of one’s life in a metro with this huge boulder on his tiny shoulders incensed me so much that for one moment I felt like taking that bag from him, apologizing to him on behalf of everybody (his family, his school, the system) and promising him a tomorrow where he can actually live and enjoy his life.

Why is it this way? Why is it that we try and live our dreams and unfulfilled aspirations, our desire to be glorified — through our children? Right from the time a child is born the competition starts. He should start talking, walking at as early an age as possible. He should be the best in everything, so he should start going for classes from the age of two! His classmate takes part in 20 activities and also does very well academically whereas he only manages to do 10 activities so there has to be something wrong with him… Why this constant comparison? Each child has his own strengths. Why can’t we be happy with whatever our children have been able to achieve? Why is it that a child as young as 8 or 9 cannot go to sleep peacefully; actually looking forward to waking up to a tomorrow where he can be happy, where he can play, he doesn’t have to worry about his next test, or disappointing his parents or not doing better than his peers!

I know I am rattling on about a subject which has probably been debated umpteen times on national television and which probably has no solution. Every parent wants his child to be successful, to be looked up to and for this he needs to do well. I agree. But there is a time and age for everything. How can you send a 1st standard child for tuitions just because she is soft spoken and not able to conserve fluently in English? Why can’t we let our children be! Why do we snatch away their happiness because we are worried about what others will say? People will think and say what they want to say. It is us who needs to see where our child’s happiness lies.

I strongly believe that during childhood and by childhood I mean at least till the age of 13, the child should be allowed to play the maximum, there should be minimum or even no exposure to tuitions or coaching of any kind. If he/she is learning a sport or dance or music it should be because he /she is enjoying that particular activity, not because they have to learn a sport as everybody else is learning. Parents need to guide them, teach them but also give them a bit of freedom. Now, by freedom I don’t mean giving them a cell or unlimited access to the computer or not knowing what they are doing in school, what company they are in. By freedom I mean letting them spend their time the way they want. If they want to spend the day reading a book, they should be allowed to that; if they want to paint they should be encouraged to do it, if they want to play for 3 hours they should be allowed to do so. Remember that childhood days are the only days where we can be free in the true sense of the word — and develop ourselves fully — without life’s pressures.

What we learn in our childhood, the way we spend these memorable days leaves an indelible impact on our mind. The more relaxed and happy childhood we lead the more confident and optimistic we are when we face the ‘outside world’.

I know that not everybody reading this article is a parent, it is after all a youth platform, but almost all of us have younger brothers, sisters, or can endeavor to spread the message of the importance of leading a happy childhood, one which does not involve competing in the rat race. Hopefully there will be a time when children like that small boy in the metro with his bag will not be a common sight.

Till then its just a dream… Are you willing to convert it into reality? Do drop a comment below. (or email us at; tweet us at @YouthKiAwaaz).

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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.

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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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