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5 Months In A Rajasthani Village Smashed My Ridiculous Notions About Rural India

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A guy who had never experienced life in a rural area, who had never seen a village, what was he supposed to think of a village? A place full of uncivilised, rustic people leading a simple life, a place in the lap of nature, with very little advancements. This is what I thought how a village must be. After being born and brought up in a city, I never thought I would get a chance to spend a part of my life in a rural area, unravelling and exploring all the new things it has to offer. My stereotype about a village was completely challenged after taking the real hand experience.

In my life so far, I have experienced the urban cultures of different cities. At first, I was very fearful about the whole idea of spending one year in a village, but the Kotda village of Udaipur district, Rajasthan, gave me a new outlook towards the rural life. Different villages have different cultures and so does this village. When I set my foot here, I was well aware of all the difficulties that were awaiting me.

I was being a typical city person who had allergy from dust, mud, and ‘unhealthy’ environment. I was even scared of being exposed to sunlight, climbing the hills etc. But, as I walked ahead, holding a water bottle to avoid the unclean water offered by the villagers, wearing a cap to protect myself from sunlight and covering my mouth to get rid of dust, I met different people who had very a friendly demeanour.

They all greeted me. “Namaste Sir” and looked after me with great affection. They were glad to host a ‘civilised’ guest, on the other hand. I was behaving like I am the only hygienic and educated person there. They offered me tea, but then again I dreaded the offer thinking about the hygienic conditions in which the tea must have been prepared. They were stoic and kept saying “apko chaai peeke hi jana padega”.

Then it dawned upon me that even if we think of them as unclean and rustic, they are way better than the ‘modernised and educated’ people. The villagers showered me with so much love which I could never have been possible anywhere else.

Sometimes, we run after the wrong things and we are blind to see the genuine love of simple people.

Now, having spent five months in this village, I have totally become comfortable with their culture and environment. I can feel a complete transformation within me. I feel like this I is my own village, and the people are my very own. I can share their joys and sorrows; I find myself one among them. The same person who was scared of having a cup of tea from their hands, who was carrying mineral water, who dreaded the idea of walking in the stark sunshine, had started loving the ambience of the village. Now, I love to wake up to the sound of chirping birds, bleating goats and mooing cows.

We shouldn’t judge the depth of a river without stepping in it. What we presume of a village from the outside, totally contrasts with what is inside.

Earlier, I used to think that the villager’s store water in an unhygienic manner, but I was wrong. They store water in an earthen pot (matka) which keeps the water cool and kills the harmful bacteria. We think that desi alcohol consumed by them is quite poisonous. But it actually is helpful in curing many ailments and acts as a medicine for them. Most of us are unaware of the utility of cotton seeds. Most people usually have thrown away after extracting the cotton, but the villagers use these seeds in the fodder to feed the cows, which helps to increase their milk production. People usually treat cow dung as fertilisers and fuel. But here, the people have a whole new way of using it. They keep the cow dung in a pit from one full moon to the next. After taking it out, they mix it with water and spray over the plant which increases the size of vegetables.

Even if the advancement in science and technology haven’t penetrated into the village, the people here know many ways of living a good and productive life.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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