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Addressing Rohingya’s Problems Is The Need Of The Hour

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By Ravi Nitesh:

“When the tears came out from his eyes and when his throat became choked, I just saw the smile on the face of his daughter who was unknown to feelings of her father because she was new to this cruel world while I know that very soon she will be familiar with all these tears and will lose her smile just because she will be able to understand that there are man made boundaries in this world, humans identified by castes and religions and desires and freedom always comes under government policies.”

Recently, when the world was looking (and was happy) on the progress of democratic powers in Myanmar (a country that bridges South Asia and South East Asia), New Delhi witnessed hundreds of Rohingyas gathered at one place.

Some of the members of our organization along with other human rights activists and organizations visited them. We saw that how they were ready to stay in difficult conditions in New Delhi simply with a hope for a better and safe future.

We came to know that these people belong to the community of Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar. They told us that members of their community have migrated from Myanmar through Bangladesh to India from time to time. The reason was obvious: security and happiness. Some also migrated to other countries and many members of their community are living in Bangladesh and Thailand too.

They narrated horrible stories of their days in Myanmar; they narrated their dangerous decision of migration and how it happened, they narrated about problems they faced during their illegal migration and how they escaped the notice of security personnel at international borders.

Asked about their days in Myanmar and the reasons behind their migration, they described how they were not allowed to marry freely, with the government wanting to prevent the growth of their population, they were denied citizenship and were not allowed to move freely at all places. They were continuously facing threats from the government-supported agencies and the majority communities. They described to us how due to various mistakes of all sides, violence occurred many times.

In fact, this Muslim community has not received the self respect, security and dignity and they started migrating from their place. Now, in India, they reached as illegal immigrants and went to various Indian states. They are living here for many years. They work as casual labourers, vegetable sellers, etc. and thus earn very low income.

At the time when Myanmar started giving shape to democratic reforms, the Rohingyas gathered in New Delhi to showcase their condition and to attract focus to their problems. Though India as a country provided them temporary stay, they didn’t receive any citizenship, neither were they granted refugee status. Here with our delegation visit, (that includes members of Mission Bhartiyam, NCHRO and Khudai Khidmatgar), we felt that religion should not be a tool of discrimination, instead religion should be respected by all governments. People who went to visit these migrated Rohingyas were not visiting with any religious tag in mind, instead they all went there just for a cause of humanity and many people came in support for their security and better living. They also provided some sort of economical help and groceries.

We were shocked to see the children who were being denied basic education in the 21st century, we were unhappy to see that religion can make men so rude that they can act with cruelty on God’s creation (upon other humans), we became intrigued to know that political forces are so mean that they only want to ensure their continuity in power and we also believe that probably men in uniforms cannot succeed in politics with the motive of development with happiness until they will start believing in non violence, politeness, democratic values and humanity.

The recent violence in Myanmar once again puts the focus on the ethnic violence there and an urgent need to settle the dispute. It is time that the Myanmar government should take initiative to protect the interest of its people by providing additional benefits and opportunities to its minority Rohingya Muslims. The government should also start providing facilities to encourage communication among various communities. In addition to the government, there are people who can take the challenge in their hands; the challenge to start considering everyone just as a human being, the challenge to start arrangements for foresighted development of all communities, the challenge to start loving each other, the challenge to live peacefully.

In spite of the militarized environment, we should believe that the people’s wish can take breath there. If it all happens and a safe environment is built there for all, then Rohingyas may return to their parent country and in this way, Myanmar has every capability to present an example to this world.

(Based on experience during delegation visit to Rohingyas camp at New Delhi. Delegation includes members Sulabh Srivastava from Mission Bhartiyam, Md. Tanveer from NCHRO & Maulana Fateh Nadvi from Khudai Khidmatgar)

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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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