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How I Lost My Phone And Realised An Important Thing About Humanity

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By Amreeta Das:

girl-948246_960_720Yes, it is dark. It is fatal. We have to put up a hard fight to lead a normal life and enjoy our freedom in an environment often contorted by meaningless violence and hostility. We have an election which is reduced to a mere display of voter cards and queuing voters suffering 43 degrees Celsius with the real election neatly conducted by invisible voters ‘beeping’ inside booths after polling hours. We have bloody roads, opened skulls, raped bodies. We have men teaching doctrines of ‘decency’ to a free individual for smoking on the road because she is a girl and that too, a girl in shorts. Doctrines of the vilest kind, sanctioned by self-proclaimed leaders and moral police are being preached everywhere. It is frightening and nerve shattering. The sky is overcast. Apocalypse is at hand.

It is strangely coincidental that moments after I read the report on the Presidency College student’s courage to stand up to some patriarchal people against the harassment she was being subjected to, my telephone rang. Apparently, there is no perceivable connection between these two contextually disparate incidents. But both are linked through an honest commitment to a righteous life.

When I lost my phone, I naturally gave up all hope of ever getting it back, convinced that even if someone finds it, the possibility of getting it back was dim. Yet, contrary to this ‘natural’ line of negative thoughts, I got it back. An unknown voice rang me up. In three more successive calls, I realised that I was going to get back my phone that I had lost the previous day. I had accidentally dropped it in front of my flat and when I came back to look for it after quite some time had passed, it was gone.

The man who gave it back to me is the driver of a gentleman who lives on the second floor of my building. He performed the most simple and yet the most difficult act. He proved his human worth. He could have decided to not pick the phone up and let it be crushed by some car. But he chose to take the trouble to return it. It was a choice which altered little, but important, things.

I didn’t have enough words to thank him. He quickly left on his motorcycle. In fact, I couldn’t hide my blush at shamelessly fumbling the ‘oshesh dhonnyobaad’ (Thank you very much). It seemed strangely inadequate. Yet, language offers us only this much. And it reinforced my belief that perhaps, the root cause of this mounting horror and barbarity lies in our inability to simply be human; to obtain that essential consciousness that differentiates us from ‘beasts’.

It is alright to err and slip. But to do good to ourselves, we need to reach out with this gesture of being simply human. To rectify, examine, recognise our errors and lead a life that involves questioning what we are and who we are. And we do this for ourselves.

Hope is struggling against this overpowering darkness. Hope in the form of students relentlessly struggling to keep alive this spirit of questioning, this refusal to live in obstinate complacency and easy reverence of outmoded and dangerous ideas of morality. Hope in the form of relief workers in the war-battered Middle East, in Palestine, Syria, and Libya. Hope in the teacher who chose the taste of bullet wounds to save his students in Pakistan. Hope in the form of all those Good Samaritans who spent nights pulling out half dead, bloodied bodies from under the wreckage of the Vivekananda flyover. Hope in the form of all those who leave the comfort of their warm hearths and fireplaces to make small or big changes.

The fight is visibly ‘silly’ because the darkness is formidable. But here the fight is not simply one against one equation of good and evil. This world is much more complex than reductionist definitions. But it can ultimately be boiled down to an internal battle of choice. And all those who are consciously giving hell to others, or living lives that are stagnant no-lives, are trudging their way to an end that shall stare back at them one day and utter, “You had one chance. You nicely spoiled it.”

We have one life and we must do justice to ourselves. There might be no God to judge us, no book of virtues and sins, and no Judgement drama either. We have what we have, here and now, this good minute.

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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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