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Ghevra: Challenging the Status Quo In A Slum

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By Ayesha Nusrat:

Are you ALL going to J.J colony, Ghevra?” A woman asked us, with an incredulous look on her face as though we’d asked the driver of the shared auto to take us to the wrong place. When we convinced her that Ghevra was indeed our destination, she said “Achha aap log kisi sanstha se honge” (Oh! So you all have come from some NGO) and before we could respond, her tone and demeanour completely changes and she continues, “haan ji ab toh yahaan NGO wale hi kuch badlaav la sakte hai” (Only NGO can bring some change into the situation here). What she meant by “here” was Ghevra.

A hot Sunday afternoon and that was our first visit to Ghevra – a slum resettlement colony on the fringes of the national capital, a revolting result of the preparation to the commonwealth games. Families and whole settlements were shifted from the heart of the city to this extreme periphery without even the provision of basic drinking water or a primary health centre.

The metro ride to the far end of the city (after which we had to take a shared auto) should’ve been a clue as to what lay ahead. Here, one bids adieu to the magnificence of the city’s huge apartment buildings, malls, office complexes and then a 20 minute ride to Ghevra abruptly projects an image which is a stark contrast to our increasingly “urbanized” and “modernized” city of Delhi.

The very first sight we saw was that of people crowding behind a water truck to get their supply of water. And children brutally honest as they always are, asked out aloud if gathering was due to a fight, which was an incredible eye-opener to the vulnerable situations they live in.

School children and daily workers leave home before daybreak to catch the early morning train which is the only one that links this place to the city. And since the metro is expensive, they cannot afford to miss the same to return home in the evening. We learnt of children contributing to their family’s meager earnings assist in construction work with no safety regulations after school and recently, a child had lost his life a few months back.

While the community members ventured on long daily journeys to the city, where they used to work prior to shifting, the only question that occupied their mind was how will they earn a living now. Most of the population comprised of daily wage earners who didn’t have anywhere else to go now. Many families had no other choice other than leaving their allotted land to return to the hub of the city for livelihood. Sights of deprivation, loss of dignity and lack of opportunities moved us.

We comprehended that urban poverty had its own challenges; clogged drains, poor sanitation, long queues for water, rampant diseases, encroachment on open spaces, garbage strewn everywhere — all of which present a gloomy picture of the “development” done to this “resettlement colony”. And, right before our eyes was an overwhelming evidence of the historical silencing of the disadvantaged.

Ghevra is the reason why months later, I still believe that collective efforts of interfaith social action, maternal health advocacy and malaria prevention can make an incredible impression in changing the status quo. Ghevra challenges us, inspires and instigates — and I couldn’t have asked for a better community to work for.

Image courtesy: http://www.architectureindevelopment.org/news.php?id=41

Ayesha is a Faiths Act Fellow of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation working for maternal health projects and malaria prevention in Ghevra, New Delhi. To know more about Faiths Act and its work in India, check out their Facebook page and www.faithsact.org

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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