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What You Could Have In Common With Amitabh Bachchan, Jinnah And Nelson Mandela

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We usually associate famous people – be it politicos, actors, artists or scientists with exciting, exhilarating lifestyles. But just like any of us they have their share of trials and tribulations. One of the common threads among these seven individuals, is that they all suffered tuberculosis, an infectious disease, which generally affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body.

12801278_1211133502253770_4193365079713571586_nAmitabh Bachchan contracted TB in 2000 just when he began shooting ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati‘. He underwent treatment for about a year, and is now hale and hearty. He went on to become an ambassador for TB prevention and treatment, and has played a role in busting many myths about the disease, including the most common one – that TB is a “poor man’s” disease.

If you’re a fan of classics like ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’, you’ll be surprised to know that their author George Orwell, spent time in a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1938. In 1947 he was diagnosed with TB again. He struggled with this infection and was constantly in and out of hospital. Sadly, he was not lucky as others and succumbed to a haemorrhaged lung in 1950.

One of India’s greatest Mathematicians and autodidacts Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar (born in 1887), was also diagnosed with tuberculosis and admitted to a sanatorium, during his time in England. The time period was during the first World War, and his health had further deteriorated due to the scarcity of vegetarian food supplies. He eventually returned to India, and died of dysentery 32, but not before he had complied 3,900 results (mostly identities and equations).

U.S. Singer Tina Turner arrives at the Legends Ball at the Bacara Resort Santa Barbara, California May 14, 2005. Oprah Winfrey invited more than 80 luminaries of the entertainment and political worlds to Bacara Resort and Spa to honor remarkable women. REUTERS/Phil Klein PK/KS - RTRB649
REUTERS/Phil Klein

One of the most famous women who survived TB was singer turned activist Tina Turner, most famous for her song ‘Simply The Best‘. She was diagnosed at the age of 31, and after trying conventional medicine to combat the disease without much success, she turned to homeopathic doctor Chandra Sharma, whose use of homeopathic and natural medicines worked. Not only was Tina Turner allowed her to continue performing but she was also cured within six weeks.

One gentleman who managed to camouflage TB for the longest time was Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s book ‘Freedom At Midnight‘, argues that the Partition of India could have been avoided if “the most closely guarded secret in India” had become known – that Jinnah was suffering from tuberculosis, which was slowly but surely killing him. He kept it a secret as he believed public knowledge would have hurt his political career. He eventually passed away at the age of 71, a year after partition.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela laughs during an interview with the media at his house in Qunu, Eastern Cape, July 18, 2008. Anti-apartheid icon Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday on Friday. The Nobel peace laureate, who retired from politics nine years ago, has become a symbol of freedom admired the world over. REUTERS/Themba Hadebe/Pool (SOUTH AFRICA) - RTX81T9
REUTERS/Themba Hadebe

South Africa’s most famous President Nelson Mandela contracted TB in 1988 while imprisoned in Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, a maximum security prison, which has housed South Africa’s most dangerous criminals and anti-apartheid activists, alike. Mr Mandela’s condition was treated early on and he was fully cured. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993. His fellow opponent of apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was also diagnosed with TB at the tender age of 14, but he is alive and kicking, today at the age of 85.

In 2015, TB overtook AIDs/HIV as the leading disease killer in the world. TB can lie dormant within us for years, and it can also be camouflaged, the consequences of which can prove to be fatal. The good news however, is that unlike AIDS/ HIV, which needs to be managed, TB is curable. To know more about its prevention and cure, you can delve into our rich collection of resources 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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