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Just A Reminder, Because We Forget Things Too Easily

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By Joanna Shruti Sundharam:

The tragic gang rape, ending with death of the 23-year-old paramedical student, moved the entire nation to tears. There is anger everywhere and public pressure on the police and judiciary are at an all-time high. But, this isn’t the first time a girl has been raped. Shockingly in India, a girl is raped every 20 minutes. New Delhi is not just the national capital, but also the rape capital of India. Last year, a total of 23582 rape cases were reported in India, out which 453 were reported in Delhi alone. As the nation mourns its ‘brave-heart’, it is also a time for some introspection. How many more ‘brave-hearts’ have we forgotten in the past?

reminder

1. Nayana Pujari: The 28-year-old software engineer was gang raped and murdered by 4 people in Pune in 2009. The main accused, Yogesh Raut, is a cab driver and has been absconding for the last 15 months. The case is a classic example of police inaction as the main accused escaped from police custody when he was being taken to a hospital for medical examination.

2. Thangjam Manoroma: In 2004, 32-year-old, Manoroma was brutally tortured and executed by personnel of the paramilitary force of 17 Assam Rifles stationed in Manipur. According to the victim’s family, the accused broke into their house around midnight, and dragged her out. The army personnel told the family that Manorama would be handed over to the Irilbung police in the morning. However, the bullet ridden body of Manorama was found the next day; the body wore no proper clothes and many fatal bullet wounds were seen on her back, the upper buttock and the genitalia. Assam Rifles personnel claim that she was part of the banned Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), and was gunned downed as she made a bid to escape by jumping from the army vehicle. The matter is still pending in court.

3. Bhanwari Devi: Gangraped in 1992, Bhanwari Devi’s battle against her perpetrators attracted a lot of attention. She belongs to a low-caste potter family from Bhateri, a small village in Rajasthan. Bhanwari worked as a saathin (friend) as part of the Women’s Development Project (WDP) run by the Government of Rajasthan. As part of her job, she took up issues related to land, water, literacy, health, payment of minimum wages and child marriage. Bhanwari’s attempts to persuade an upper caste Gurjar family against child marriage was what brought the tragedy on her. On 22nd September 1992 she was raped by 5 men from the Gurjar community. She ran from pillar to post to get justice for herself. Her fight culminated in 1997, when the Supreme Court of India, in a PIL for the first time, defined sexual harassment at workplace, preventive measures and redress mechanism. The judgment is popularly known as “Vishaka Judgement“. She was also invited to be a part of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

4. Aruna Shanbaug: In 1973, Aruna Shanbaug worked as junior nurse at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai. Life was beautiful, a marriage was on the cards, but it all ended when she was raped by a ward boy, Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki. Due to her injuries she has been in a vegetative state ever since. The case came back to light in 2011, when Aruna’s friend journalist Pinki Virani pleaded on her behalf for euthanasia (Mercy killing). However, the court turned down the petition, and Aruna has remained in the same condition for the past 39 years.

5. Scarlett Keeling: 4 years after her brutal rape and murder in Goa, in 2008, Scarlett’s body was finally released by the Devon coroner in April 2012. The rape and murder of English teenager Scarlett Keeling is an example of how even foreigners are not spared in India. Scarlett was on a holiday, with her family when tragedy struck. Her body was found covered in cuts and bruises on a popular Goan beach. The first post mortem concluded that she had drowned, but a second post mortem carried out after pressure from Miss Mackeown (the victim’s mother) confirmed she had been drugged, raped and murdered.

The above instances only throw light upon the fact that Indians have very bad memories. We forget things too easily, maybe that is another reason why our country is in a perpetually sad state. Every drop in the ocean counts and we should therefore make an effort to remember the injustice done to our fellow beings. This small step will turn out to be the biggest form of redress.

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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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