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The Only Water Source In This Delhi Slum Is A Leaking Pipe

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By Vandita Sariya:

I visited a slum near the bus stand in R.K. Puram, Sector-12, Delhi that consists of some houses made out of tarpaulin and cement. The houses surround a huge open drain. Filled with tons of garbage, the slum has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other bacteria. When I tried to converse with the residents of the slum, they were initially suspicious. But I ended up having a conversation with them for half an hour.

I asked them about their livelihood. They had been cheated off the basic amenities in the slum. During times of chikungunya and dengue, I also asked them about the preventive measures they had taken to keep themselves safe from such viral diseases. The only thing they did was light a fire. The smoke from the fire drove the mosquitoes away.

It’s not just the threat of disease which is a huge issue in a slum like this one. Basic facilities like electricity, water, education, sanitation and health continue to be a privilege for people living in such slums

Electricity

The unavailability of electricity makes it necessary for them to complete their household chores before sunset. One of the ladies told me that her daughter’s name was Karishma. I jokingly asked if her name was Karishma Kapoor. After I saw the blank expression on her face, I realised that she might not have seen much TV to know the Bollywood actress.

Water

The slum has no source of fresh water. A pipeline goes across the slum and a leakage from the pipeline is the only water they have access to. The drain is used for washing clothes, taking baths, cleaning utensils
and collecting drinking water. They don’t boil the water before drinking as it saves fuel wood which is used for cooking and light. Sometimes residents use that drain as a toilet as well.

slum-4

Education

Government schools are far away and not all parents can send their children to school as it is inconvenient. Teachers in schools are not strict at all. Children are not given any homework. The kids have no idea what they are being taught. They tear their notebooks up and nobody scolds them. A woman living in the slum said, “My daughter goes there and I know she doesn’t learn anything.

“Forget about electricity and water, we’ll work our way around it. But for these little kids, please get a teacher. So that at least they can board the right bus to go places. If you ask them to write alphabets, they will write a single alphabet for four pages and not understand what it means,” another woman added.

Sanitation And Health

Many work as labourers at construction sites in Motibagh. Their work includes making tiles for toilets and washrooms. Despite being responsible for the construction of toilets in the houses of other people, they have no choice but to defecate in the open as they do not have facilities of a proper drainage system.

It’s not just sanitation, the general health of the residents isn’t taken care of either. I got to know that a few days back, two guys came with the promise of setting up a medical camp. They wrote everybody’s name from the slum and assured quick action. But the medical camp has not been setup yet.

“They (govt. hospitals) never provide us with free or subsidised medicines and ask us to get it from the shops outside the hospitals. And then we have to compromise by not having food for a day or two. The ones who don’t have ration cards will get it during elections,” said Premwanti, a woman residing in the slum.

Despite leading a life full of challenging circumstances, the residents of the  slum hold no grudges against anyone. Premwanti said, “Yes, survival is hard. But we’ll get through. There are just two things one shouldn’t do. Don’t steal and don’t snatch. Beg if you need to. But don’t hurt anyone.” Fulfilment of basic needs is the right of every citizen and it’s high time that everyone gets access to a house, electricity and clean food and water. Maybe we can start with this slum in R.K Puram.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.”

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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