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In A Remote Maharashtra Village, Women Are Adding On To Their Incomes In This Unique Way

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By Anwesha Dhar:

When I was a child, we used to have Art and Craft classes in school. I was quite terrible at it – In fact, I was one of the very few kids in the history of mankind who managed to flunk drawing in kindergarten. There was no hope for me to develop any artistic talent at all. Years later, when I went to teach children at a shelter home, the first gift I received from a student was a paper frog. I was really fascinated by how something made of paper folded fancifully, can catch one’s attention so strongly. Later, while continuing as a teacher in the same shelter home, I saw paper-quilling being taught to the kids as a part of life skills. I often wondered how something like that can help kids to earn their livelihoods on growing up. It was just a hobby, after all. And then, after years of reeling under this confusion, I finally met Shriya.

shriya1

Shriya grew up in Dubai; material comforts were not alien to her. After completing college in Chennai, she took the decision of shifting from engineering to development studies. This proved to be a stepping stone for her. “I knew I wanted to do something for the development sector in India, but I did not know what”, she said. That was till she chanced upon the SBI Youth for India Fellowship, while looking for jobs online. She took a chance and before she knew it, she was stationed in a remote village in Maharashtra. Once stationed, Shriya started working on her project. This project involved several communities in the village coming together and working as one composite unit to earn an additional income. “I was earlier working with Warli artists to try and promote their Warli art and connect them to markets.” However, she soon found herself grappling with obstacles and had to abandon the project midway. “There is a lot of fake and printed Warli in the market which is very easy to replicate by the people outside the community. The artists are spread out geographically and I struggled with community mobilization.”

But this initial hindrance only worked to strengthen her resolve. She undertook a second project, this time with a small village community to prevent it from becoming too large and unwieldy. The project involves making paper quill jewellery and selling it as a means of an additional source of income. Shriya recounts, “The second project was not really related to the first. There are women self help groups here who are seeking an income source in addition to agriculture. It had to be something that they could do for a few hours each day in addition to their farming or daily wage work – something that requires minimal investment, which needs little or no skill.” The women earn a hundred rupees as daily wage labourers and they get work only once or twice a month. That would tantamount to 4000 for two people per household. “Where they are currently getting 5 rupees an hour for labour, we are pricing the jewellery such that they get at least 45-50 rupees per hour.”

shriya2

Also, the only raw material needed being some paper, the cost of production per household hardly exceeds a few hundred rupees. This worked towards removing any financial impediments there may be for the villagers to start working on a new project to increase their income.

This time, the project being well thought out, the response was much better than the previous attempt. Since it is less time consuming and involves very less production cost, the villagers have readily accepted her project. Shriya also credits BAIF MITTRA and Youth for India, two NGOs that have been helping her in her work, “They provide a lot on field support: connecting us with people, logistics, finance if required and so on.”

shriya3

Running away from reality is not a solution, Shriya believes. One must fight it, even if it’s just one day at a time. “I do not know how long this will go on or whether they will still enjoy it once my fellowship is over”, Shriya said, “But we must try. We can never stop trying.”

Shriya - Paper Jewellery

Realities are not always pleasant. In fact, most of the times they are too scathing to live with. However, what this story has taught me is that without jumping into the fray, we cannot root out the problems. People like Shriya work, fall and then rise up-just to see that for some people, this harsh reality becomes a little more acceptable.

You must be to comment.
  1. harleen

    Hi

    Is there a way i can be connected to Shriya and other such SBI Youth For India Fellows? I run a social sector organization dedicated to promote and market the products of such communities and self help groups across India, free of cost.

    Thanks!

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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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