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How Street Art Is Bringing Delhi Alive, Thanks To Some Special People

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By Ananya Kumar:

Lodhi art district

“Moment, second, minute, hour, day, date, month,” I speak aloud as I read, craning my neck to comprehend the string of words mounted on a wall in Lodhi Colony. The searing May afternoon heat of New Delhi makes it impossible to look at them for too long and I avert my gaze when the glare of the sun gets intolerable. The words lie parallel to the plane of the ground and perpendicular to the plane of the wall and perhaps, it is this seemingly inane arrangement that leaves me awestruck and fuels my determination to figure them out. Ignoring the protests made by the muscles in my neck, I continue my pursuit. But it turns out I’ve come at the wrong time. A passer-by who is a local resident tells me the catch is in the effect the sunlight has when it falls at a certain angle and the shadows formed as a consequence, tilting from left to right. Hence, the art on this particular wall reveals itself in its entirety only at noon when the sun is overhead.

The Lodhi Art District was created by St+Art, a non-profit organisation that works on art projects in public spaces, as part of their St+Art Festival in Delhi. Starting December 2015, over 25 artists from India and across the world collaborated to create India’s first ever public art district. Located between Khanna Market and Meherchand Market, the Lodhi Art District is a testament to the diversity and eccentricity of the city. With fascinating art work that inspires one to think beyond the obvious, walking through these streets – almost all of which have been painted over – becomes an enthralling experience.

“I believe that all forms of art are a representation of the society,” said Sidika Sehgal, my friend and fellow spectator as she gazed in wonder at the beautifully drawn birds on the wall in front of her. “This art district reaffirms that belief. The street art adds so much character to this city that is already so complex and lively. It has so much soul and that, always translates into beauty.”

St+Art was started in 2014 with the aim of “making art accessible to a wider audience by taking it out of the conventional gallery space and embedding it within the cities in which we live in,” according to their mission statement published on their website.

It has had numerous festivals and art projects in Mumbai and New Delhi, one of the most commonly seen of which is the mural of Mahatma Gandhi on the Delhi Police Headquarters building at one of the busiest crossings in the capital, ITO. It has often been cited as the tallest mural of India and was finished in five days in January, 2014.

“ Street art has become a global phenomenon these days with festivals being held around the world and this has helped it gain momentum in India. The idea to do something like this was always there. We just got together and worked everything out,” said Thanish Thomas, one of the co-founders of St+Art.

St+Art started with the vision and hard work of a few and has now grown into an organisation which has people actively volunteering and participating in all the ways they can.

“I started working with them in December,” said Tanmay Singh, one such volunteer. “This was when Chifumi (a French artist) started his wall. I ended up assisting him and then I started working with them full-time. I did everything from assisting artists to managing paint to giving instructions and (handling) other various logistical operations. I was one of the Lodhi site managers and also helped many artists at the WIP (Work-in-Progress) exhibition at Okhla. Soon, I was given my own wall at the Lodhi Art District and have been working on that ever since.”

As the work they are doing gains more attention, St+Art hopes to expand its operations and find new avenues in other urban spaces of India.

“We’re looking at increasing our base in Mumbai and are targeting cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. We would also like to shift from the format of a festival and be more project-based,” said Thanish.

St+Art truly makes our streets beautiful and succeeds in adding to the charm of any city.

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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.

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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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