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Would You Work In A Village For 1 Year If Given The Chance? Meet Someone Who Did

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By Asmita Sarkar:

Shashank, an apprentice with PRADAN and a former student at Indian Institute of Forest Management, learned not only about failure but also about how to move on from it. Being a grass-root worker, failure is not something that one can stay unacquainted with but it makes the success that comes after, that much sweeter.

Shashank, conducting a theater of the oppressed session*

The apprenticeship took Shashank to Tokapal, Bastar District. Chattisgarh’s Bastar, a conflict-ridden area, has made headlines over the years because of numerous State vs. Maoist skirmishes. And yet the living go on. He was stationed at Tokapal for more than a year, where he had to stay in the house of native, research and find answers to critical issues in the area, and monitor the change over a period, as well as mobilise women to form self-help groups. A programme like this then becomes a training ground for future change makers, like Shashank, who want to impact the lives of those who live in rural spaces.

One can remark that Shashank’s choice of profession is exceptionally hard but it also equally enriching and satisfying. A forest management student, who chose to work in a rural space instead of becoming an IFS officer it just proves that individuals from any educational background, with a will for working at the grass-root level can do this. And Bastar district boasts of retaining all its apprentices!

However, while in the programme the learning was a hard curve to follow. He did not achieve success at one go. There was a process involved in the whole programme, following which certain positive results were attained. He chose Dondarguda to implement the Integrated Natural Resource Management planning exercise. The first part of the exercise was identifying the needs of the community, and water supply in this village hamlet turned out to be the greatest woe. For this, it was proposed that a pond be dug, however, after trying to mobilise the village for four weeks it did not work out. Having failed at his task, he chose to move on to the next village, thinking that there he would be able to start afresh with a new set of people.


He next moved to Pandupara, where through the film ‘Jal, Jungle, Jameen’, the residents were encouraged to try new crops in their lands. One such success story is of Phoolmati and Hamkant Patel from Khaspara, Palwa, who were farmers since generations. They grew vegetables in their land and sold it mainly to the tribals in the forests. By becoming a part of a self-help group, the couple managed to earn an income of Rs. 31500 by March 2015. The increase in income has been so much for them that they can keep a part of it in the bank for a rainy day now. Being able to impact a family’s life for good, even at a micro level, can give someone a great source of encouragement to go on. Shashank, when asked if he would repeat the programme if given a chance, says that he would do much better next time around instead of showing any signs of regret.

He faced many difficulties before being able to make a change even in the lives of a few people. He had to deal with his parents’ expectations as his chosen path does not fulfil their idea of what a career should be, and he still continues to fight the non-acceptance that surrounds his profession. The thought that can help any social change professional to go on would be that while looking at development from a bird’s eyes view might seem daunting, when these ideas are taken apart and implemented, one step at a time, one can start seeing real change.

*Theater of the oppressed creates a space for active participation for the audience. The method helps them feel enabled to create solutions for their problems.

Like Shashank, 351 PRADAN professionals work directly with around 3.7 lakh families in 5700 remote villages spread across 39 poorest districts of India. PRADAN offers a one year experiential learning programme for young professionals to explore and contribute towards socio – economic change in rural India.

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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.

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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.

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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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