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By Doing One Simple Thing, This Woman Changed A Child’s Life For The Better

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By Mahi Khakhar and Deepika Khatri

The children who clean our homes, the ones who look after our children. The ones that walk the streets all day, waiting for the traffic light to turn red. The ones forced into marriage, the ones that bear offspring not much younger than themselves. The ones, who are neglected, abused and abandoned by their families. The ones with no support and no fight left. These are 40% of the children in our nation with no childhood. These are the children we see all around us.

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We often see these kids and think, “I want to help them!” This moment of reflection soon turns into paralysis and helplessness- “How do I help them? Where do I start? Even if I reached out, there’s no way I could help all of them! Anyway, I don’t think I could make much of a difference.” With that, this moment of reflection passes and we carry on doing whatever it is that we were before we paused.

But there is a lot we can do…

What we don’t realize is that the issue of child safety is closer to us than we think. Maybe your child, niece or nephew has been bullied by peers or humiliated by a teacher and is afraid to break the silence? Maybe as a child you were a victim of abuse but were too scared to speak up? In such situations it is extremely daunting and nearly impossible for children to stand up for themselves- that is why we as adults need to step in. There isn’t any one expert way to protect children. Sometimes, it’s as simple as supporting domestic help to send their kids to school, or comforting a lost child and helping them find their family. Even that one-minute conversation you might have with the street kid tapping on your car window makes a bigger difference than you think. Child safety is not just the job of government or the police but in simple, everyday ways, all of ours.

#ActNow is a movement to make child protection everybody’s business, to encourage and build neighbourhoods where we’re all looking out for and taking action to keep children safe. Watch this video, #ActNow and be a part of the change.

Here’s the inspiring story of Roohi Mitra who joined the #ActNow movement and became an agent of change:

One morning, as 44-year old Roohi was driving her daughter to the station to go to college, she stopped at a traffic signal. Something caught her eye – a child lying in the fast lane of the road, head on the divider. Worried, she stepped out and went up to the child. Seeing them, some passers by came to help, one of whom was Roohi’s driving instructor. Together, they tried to rouse the child, relieved when they got a response.

3-year-old Titli was bewildered, unsure of her whereabouts. Roohi, her daughter and the three men decided to help her find her family, starting at a village adjoining the road.

In the car, Roohi’s daughter found a chocolate and offered it to Titli – winning immediate favour. “She was so cute, so full of life and energy once she had the chocolate. She could get anyone to respond to her,” adds Roohi.

At the village, they started making enquiries about Titli and her family but no one recognized her. By now, it was three hours since they’d found the child. They decided to reach out to the police. At the station, they met the constable and enquiries were initiated. The police were responsive, wanting to help Titli, and seeing to it that her immediate need for food was taken care of. However, the investigation revealed that Titli’s mother was the victim of a crime and had been killed, and her father couldn’t be located.

I was growing more and more worried. Where would this little girl go? It made me more determined to see that she was safe,” says Roohi. At the station, Roohi continued to wait to speak to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, then accompanied the police to see if they could identify Titli’s school. She ensured that Titli had a meal, changed clothes and was comfortable.

In the evening, Roohi went home, entrusting Titli to the care of the women constables, and rkept eturning over the next few days to check up on her. She began discussing next steps with the police on where Titli could go. After a few days, Titli was sent to a well-established orphanage for children, where Roohi continues to follow up and visit her.

Roohi is an everyday citizen who saw a child in distress, stepped out of her comfort zone and reached out to keep the child safe. Roohi’s story showcases that child protection is far simpler than we perceive it to be and is something that all citizens can engage in.

*Names of children have been changed to protect their identity.

Like Roohi, you can be a protector of children too! To share your stories or for more information on how you can participate in child protection, email us or visit our website.

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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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