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Every Woman In Delhi Has Lived Through This Day

You know, you are back in Delhi – when you alight amidst a familiar stink, all alone among a congregation of beings, a woman announcing pending arrivals and departures, as the red of the digital clock ticks. You know, you are back in Delhi when you try to free yourself from the shackles of swarming crowds, your feet tracing a path memorised.

You know, you’re back in Delhi, when sneaky faces approach you and grin from autos at Paharganj – “accompany us”, they say, you just ignore them and access the foot over bridge. You know, you’re back in Delhi, when youngsters are being robbed off by officials, fined five hundred bucks (or anything that’s in your wallet shall sing) for not buying a ten buck ticket – Yes, you know, you’re back in Delhi, when on witnessing the scenario, you are stopped too, but when you greet them with a piece of paper, they don’t bother, they let you go, without even caring to cast a thorough look.

You know, you are back in Delhi when innumerable eyes follow you, “what a lass”, “what a piece of ass”, the thought of them, seem to enter you, infect you. Yes, you’re back in Delhi, when as you exit the station, the auto wallahs tend to charge you hefty amounts – for a girl in need is profit indeed – I did rather wait than being bait, and travel via metro, all over the city, all around. You know, you’re back in Delhi, when they call you back, laugh themselves on their overpriced charges and succumb to the notion of ‘bohni’ instead.

You know, you’re back in Delhi, when the cold breeze of invitation brushes past you, as you make towards your destination, the autowallah holds conversation after conversation, as if you were a lost friend found! Yes, you’re back in Delhi, when he proclaims that ‘Ola’ ate his business – literally – you smile, he steps on the brake, you both halt at a red light – only to witness the Great Gate addressing you, as if you were someone it had singled out from the rest of the crowd.

Yes, yes you’re back in Delhi when you’re treading along some road next, and the flooding crowd ogles you, for your bra strap was hanging out that instant. Yes, you know you are back in Delhi when you still have the guts to move on and on and on – “tits, cunt, ass, fuck” – it echoes in your mind dear viewers and witnesses, why not say it loud instead. Yes, you’re back in Delhi, when on the very first day you realise, that people here, tend to say what they believe, and a few ‘ultra-masculine’ of them, won’t think twice before putting forth a slang, it doesn’t matter if it hurts, or if it harasses.

Yes, you’re back in Delhi, when people expect you to wear a bra for your ‘nips’ are hard, yes you’re back in Delhi, when a visible bra strap of the very same bra, won’t be granted a sight of respect or regard. Yes, you’re in Delhi, when you can act, talk, walk like a feminist, yes you’re back in Delhi when all you can’t do is put forth your thoughts as a woman that you’re.

Can you admit, one of your breasts is shapely, while the other one is saggy and large? No, you did rather buy a pump-up bra. You know you’re back in Delhi, when you bend down to pick up something and the crowd shall have best of your butt, you know you are back in Delhi, when you realise the food here is great, but you can’t relish the banana that your mother put in your bag when you were embarking on a journey, for people shall smirk at that sight, with you being victimised, for a mere illusion that supposedly meant that you were blowing someone – shit!

You want to steal a glance at my armpits, you wag your tongue at the mere sight of my navel, the pervert in you always wants to get a whiff of me, pity you shall never ever know of the infinitesimal venus in me, in entirety. Yes, you are back in Delhi, when you finally arrive at the room you have rented, the owner is good, the neighbours are great, the food is tremendously delectable, for hey, everything can never ever be bad, you can’t forever complain.

You know you’re back in Delhi when you lay down to rest, and suddenly realise that your period has arrived, you rush downstairs to purchase tampons instead. You know when you’re back in Delhi, when the shopkeeper hands you the tampons, hiding them carefully in a paper bag, for they are something so distasteful, something of an abhorred nature, aren’t they? You know you’re back in Delhi when you free the packet of tampons, liberating them, making way to your place, flaunting them clearly in your hands and you know you are back in Delhi when everyone’s eyes have widened and jaws have dropped at the sight of you, but fuck everyone, I am a woman, nothing has ever bound me, I know I am in Delhi, I shall not be oppressed, I shall not be victimised, I shall liberate my essence, I shall own you instead!

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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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