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The Bliss, The Festivities, The Bites: Sydney, From The Eyes Of A True Local

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By Susmita Abani:

Fifteen years ago, at the age of 9, I migrated to Sydney from Auckland, New Zealand. Life here was more dynamic than what I was accustomed to, but I immediately fell in love with this aspect and never looked back. This beautiful, bustling city is capable of hosting both intimate and special moments, as well as communal celebrations that unite its multicultural population. Despite being quite detached from Sydney’s night scene, there’s an abundance of notes that I’d like to share through a list of carefully selected places I’ve been repeatedly drawn to over the years.

The Bliss:

Parks, Beaches and Bays: Brighton Le Sands, Coogee, La Perouse, Royal National Park and More
What could be more Australian than spending your warm summer afternoons at the beach on the best paddle boards brands or laying in a park? Even if you’re not a strong swimmer like myself, the beaches and bays in Sydney are just as pleasant for a gentle stroll along the shoreline, for dipping your feet in their shallow pools and for watching the calming stillness of their moist rocks, being endlessly lapped by undulating water.

Coogee Beach

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Encircled by the Royal Botanic Gardens, away from the city humdrum, this gallery was first introduced to me by a beloved high school visual arts teacher on an educational class excursion. Since then I’ve held it quite close to my heart. In addition to the usual Indigenous and European pieces, it exhibits collections of contemporary and interactive artworks, imported artefacts from around the world, and a yearly showcase of the best final projects submitted by Year 12 Visual Arts students.

What’s so special about a bookshop? This Japanese store stocks a splendid collection of Manga and graphic novels that I’ve grown to love. Browsing through its shelves of vibrant comics filled with an infusion of cartooning styles and genres often has me transfixed for hours, flicking through the stories or images.

Spit Bridge to Manly – And then Returning by Ferry!
Last year I triumphantly trekked the 10 kilometres from Spit Bridge to Manly, albeit with a struggle, and the photos below provide a glimpse of why each minute of the 3.5 hours it took me, was worthwhile.

The Festivities:

Darling Harbour:
When there’s nothing on elsewhere in town, Darling Harbour is a celebration of its own. Fireworks string its skyline on the evenings of Valentine’s Day, Australia Day and on every Saturday leading up to New Year’s Eve – and in the absence of such airborne sparkles, there are plenty of restaurants and activities to keep you busy. Visit celebrities made of wax at Madame Tussauds, immerse yourself in an underwater sea life at Sydney Aquarium, meditate in tranquillity at the Chinese Garden of Friendship, watch your children frolic in a giant interactive playground or soak in the views of the shimmering harbour ripples. Darling Harbour simply never fails to please.

Chinese Garden
Darling Harbour on Valentine’s Day
Madame Tussauds

An artistic display of dancing lights, luminous sculptures and projected images that decorate the city every year, attracting large crowds of over a million viewers in total. Although all the creative pieces at the festival aren’t equally spectacular, the picturesque slideshow on the Opera House made famous by many postcards of Sydney is always worth a visit for even the most moderate photography enthusiasts!

Crave Sydney International Food Festival – Night Noodle Markets
Rows and rows of stalls, a canopy of Chinese lanterns and Asian food galore – need I say more? Every October, Sydney city brings us a culinary ride to die for. The biggest downside to this event is the unbelievably long queues of people waiting hungrily at nearly every stall, but by being intelligently picky about the timing of your attendance, you can beat the crowds and enjoy the tasty food without delay!

Newtown and its Annual Festival
Newtown is our hipster suburb with unique and exclusive stores. Whether you’re after art equipments, antiques, hilarious and offensive gifts, retro attire or vegan dining, Newtown owns all the quirks. Walking through the main street of this town gives me a liberating sensation from witnessing the diversity of personalities represented in its inhabitants and guests, and in particular it’s large and proud LBGT community. Attending Newtown Festival is also a tradition for my friends and me, an annual outdoor marketplace selling all things Newtown from live music and entertainment, to incredible food, fervent political views, and a mixture of crafts.

Circular Quay – New Year Fireworks
The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House fireworks on New Year’s Day are beyond words.

Photo Credit

The Bites:

Lal Quila Pakistani and Indian Restaurant
A taste of home against a foreign backdrop, dimly-lit with red walls adorned in Islamic inspired ornaments; by now I’ve returned so often that the friendly staff members miss me when I’m not visiting!

Menya Noodle Bar
Due to my Muslim upbringing, learning that most ramen dishes consist of a pork-based broth was a huge disappointment for me – until I discovered Menya! Their spicy beef ramen is my default order, featuring a light, flavoursome; chilli flecked chicken-based soup – unlike the thicker ramen broths I’ve previously come across.

Hilltop Phoenix Yum Cha
Tinkering tea cups and the sound of steamers full of dumplings rattling atop rolling trolleys – yum cha has become one of my preferred lunchtime choices. I mostly enjoy the suspense of not knowing what the next trolley passing by my table will hold – and the surge of delight that results from finding what I want (usually some flaky egg tarts!)

Chinatown’s Emperor Puffs
Food and culture are an explosive combination in Sydney’s Chinatown, and one of its major allures is its tiny, but delicious cream puffs – globules of creamy custard encased in soft golden pastry.

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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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