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Be Better, Be A Hero: The Green Batti Project For Socially Deprived Kids In Mumbai

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By Ankita Ghosh:

My mentee, Sharmeen, is a sensitive 13-year-old girl who finds great happiness in spending time with her baby sister and is disturbed for days when her mother falls sick. She’s a thinker, thinks a lot and talks less“, fondly recollects Neha Mathur as she writes to me about the child she’s mentoring. Well it isn’t every day that an early morning correspondence via email plays you up like a little breeze. Neha is a 23-year-old marketing professional who’s gone out of her way to try and bring some positivity, a cup of latte a week and a rare change in the life of a kid, that’s probably not as fortunate as my niece growing up on the PSP.

Image source: The Green Batti Project
Image source: The Green Batti Project

There are in fact a whole clique of students and young professionals that are looking to help impressionable, albeit corruptible young children born into economically ill-fortuned and therefore socially marginalized households. They remind me of something I read in a catalogue for a leadership seminar about how given an opportunity, you can find a hero right in the next person you meet. In this case the opportunity is being fed by The Green Batti Project, a mentorship initiative by Social Quotient, that’s pairing a kid from a low-income group family with a young adult pursuing a degree or a working professional. You’ll be pleasantly taken by the meticulous and rather comprehensive modalities of this one-of-a-kind program that’s operating in collaboration with the United Nations Organization, Teach for India, Mumbai Smiles and Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Currently running primarily in Mumbai, The Green Batti project takes under its wings kids between the age of 11 and 15, recommended by partner organizations Teach for India and Mumbai Smiles.

Parental consent and psychological fitness of the child is a must to avoid accidental and irreparable damage, and same-gender pairing is also mandated. Prospective mentors are made to go through a systematic training period under Centre for Lifelong Learning, Tata Institute for Social Sciences covering areas like the role of mentor, cultural sensitization, session curriculum, problem-solving & safety procedures. Mentors also meet the mentee’s parents for deeper insight into the conditions in which the child is growing up and for future reference, in case of concerning situations. Through personal conversations, interactive activities and fun games the mentor assists the child in harnessing life skills, social skills and technological exposure, targeting key areas like goal setting, problem solving lateral thinking, self-efficacy, social adjustment and acceptance of responsibility. The mentor-mentee duo meets once every week at a public area like a coffee place. Thorough safety nets are in place to ensure that no harm befalls the child and meetings are regularly monitored to appraise progress.

From available referee reports, I gather that the kids on the receiving end are infinitesimally benefiting from the ‘friend, philosopher, guide’ rhetoric. Midway through Cycle 2 of the project, Neha observes that Sharmeen “has become more positive and happy, and makes a conscious effort not to let the negativity of certain things affect her.” In theory, this program is about the mentor assuming a voluntary leadership role to help a less fortunate mentee to strive to achieve the best of his/her abilities. But essentially it’s about one individual stretching an arm out for another to grab. It’s about micro-people doing macro-things.

Simoni Bhansali, a 25-year-old freelance communication designer says, “Ruby is a 12-year-old girl who lives in the Worli slums and studies at the Worli Sea Face Municipal School. Don’t be fooled or pity her for her humble upbringing, she has an extremely supportive and loving family, and she aspires to be a heart surgeon” about her mentee. Ruby in the meantime has grown “bolder and more confident. She is not afraid to speak up, and now she knows how to order whatever she wants at Cafe Coffee Day”, a moment of beaming pride for Simoni and one that abysmally melts your heart.

For the mentors, the experience has been singularly removed from experiences of routine altruism. From initially being intrigued by the idea of mentoring a child she has “learned how to be more patient and understanding”: Neha’s words. Simoni’s firm faith in the wonders of education had prompted her to take up the mentorship project and she has come out with greater perseverance, reiterating the belief that “with the right guide and assistance, a hero/heroine can come from anywhere.”

What Samyak Chakrabarty, Deep Master and Aakansha Kedia had begun three years ago, with humble aspirations, has grown to become a reason of immense gratitude for several children and their mentors. The Green Batti Project is not only turning a kid’s late Sunday mornings into a day they’re looking forward to every week, but it’s also helping them turn their lives around.

To know more about the program, click here.

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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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