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This Young Woman’s Brilliant Idea Helps Artists Work In A Free Space

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By Prashant Jha:

“Ek bangla bane nyara” – These words from a song from the 1937 film “President” is probably a dream all of us have. Everyone wants to build or buy a beautiful house for themselves. But what if someone has dreamt of a house that’s open to those looking for shelter? Meet Jaipur’s Nimisha Verma who’s building something really unique called the ‘Home for Artist’.

She wanted to live her life on her own terms, wanted to choose a career of her choice, wanted to study Visual Arts, wanted to write, and model and all of this was reason enough to piss her parents off. That is exactly what happened, and Nimisha was left with only one thing that she could do – leave home so that she could make something of herself. Nimisha was only 19 when she left her parents’ house with her brother Sudhanshu and started her journey of turning her dreams into reality. This was when the foundation stone for ‘Home for Artists’ was laid.

Youth Ki Awaaz spoke to Nimisha about her unique idea and all that she did to make it a reality.

Prashant Jha (PJ): Where did you get the idea for ‘Home for Artists’?

Nimisha Verma (NV): When I left home last year with Sudhanshu, things weren’t easy. We didn’t know where to go. For four days, we didn’t have a roof over our heads. We wandered from one place to another looking for a place. We were asked all kinds of questions. They asked us, “What’s the point of living in a different place if your parents live in the same city?”, “Are you really guys really brother and sister?”, “How will you pay the rent if you click pictures for a profession?” Even if people agreed, they would ask for an exorbitant security deposit that Sudhanshu and I couldn’t afford to pay. We somehow found ourselves a room with help from a few people. I will never be able to forget those four days of my life. I had decided right then that I would make a place that all artists who had gone through similar times, could call home. So that every time an artist left home to chase their dreams they could concentrate on their art instead of worrying where they were going to spend the night.

PJ: What was your plan after the idea struck you? I’m sure it would not have been easy to work on an idea that was so different.

NV: I went with the idea to many places and many cities. I met a lot of artists and told them about my idea. With time ‘Home for Artists’ went from being a dream I had to something I became very passionate about. When you’re dedicated to something, you gather all the courage, face all obstacles to achieve your goal. Now I have an answer to whoever asks me what I do life.

PJ: The ease with which you’re talking about it, I’m sure you must have had to go through a lot to make ‘Home for Artists’ possible.

NV: When you get things easily you often don’t value it and after I left home and while I set ‘Home for Artists’ up, I realised the value of the most basic things (food, friends, clothes, etc.) in life.

For me, the biggest challenge was to convince my family. They were against me doing anything new and different. The reason for opposing my ambitions was simple – they were, like all other parents, afraid of their child’s failure.

I know the pain of living and eating alone and sometimes not having eaten at all. It troubles me a lot when I think of how misunderstood artists are in our society. We don’t encourage those students who’re studying a certain form of art. I was also one of those students. I had decided that I would do something for myself. Even though things are not that smooth all the time, sometimes there’s not enough food to eat or we can’t stay at one place for too long, but we’re happy about the fact that we’re doing what makes us happy.

PJ: Now that things are getting better, how do you feel or what do you think about the journey, the experience?

NV: At ‘Home for Artists’ we are both students and teachers. Here, every artist is free to live as they wish to. Artists have the freedom to do what they like at all times. They live here, paint, cook, write, and sing while they dance. Like I said, they are free to do all they want. We learn a lot from each other’s art too. We often go and meet other artists and speak to them. So what’s important is not how much we are earning from our art but how much we are living it.

PJ: How difficult or easy is it to do something that’s not conventional?

NV: The moment you choose art as your career, you start fighting for acceptance and equality. Our country is extremely diverse; there’re so many things that one can do, but even then we don’t have the freedom or the choice to do what we want. If you have noticed, a lot of women have their husbands’ name tattooed on their arms, and that’s accepted and welcomed, but when a stranger looks at someone like me who has a lot of tattoos, they give that ‘I’m-judging-your-character’ look.

We really enjoy when we see stars in cinema theatres or on the television but the moment children want to opt for theatre or dance as their career then the reaction completely changes.

PJ: What is one day in ‘Home for Artists’ like? How does it work?

NV: We are a family that’s beyond the limits of age and time. We meditate every morning and cook after that. After we eat, we go on to practice our respective arts. We welcome new artists and travellers to ‘Home for Artist’ every day, who share their stories and experiences with us.

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Image source: Nimisha Verma
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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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.

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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.

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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