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Believe Us, These 18 Things Saved 2016 From Being A TOTAL Waste

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2016 hasn’t been the best year. It saw heartbreaking conflict, economic repercussions, Brexit, US Election results, demonetisation, and the death of so many notable talents. Most of us are happy to see the year end.

But there were a few things, in India and around the world that saved it from being the shittiest year in history.

1. Army dogs made a comeback at the Republic Day parade

Let’s admit, dogs make everything better. After 26  long years, 36 Indian canine soldiers, consisting of 24 Labradors and 12 German Shepherds marched down Rajpath during the 67th Republic Day parade. It was adorable.

2. The Supreme Court agreed to revisit its decision on Section 377

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of India accepted to receive a curative petition to review its December 2013 judgement on Section 377 that criminalised homosexuality in India. There haven’t been any updates on this front lately, but it’s a small ray of hope towards equality, and we’ll take it.

3. Tiger population grew

For the first time in a hundred years, the population of tigers in the world increased. According to the World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum, 2016 saw 690 more tigers, with the total numbers rising to 3890. In India – the country with the largest tiger population – the population of tigers rose from 1706 in 2010 to 2226. Seeing that the number of big cats was at an all-time low till only six years ago, this is great news!

4. Volunteers in India planted almost 50 million trees in a single day

For anyone who says we don’t care about the environment, volunteers from Uttar Pradesh sure had a response. As part of the commitment made by India at the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015, about 800,000 people from UP, planted a mind-blowing 49.3 million saplings in 24 hours in July this year. With pollution levels rising across the world, this step shows that we do want a better tomorrow. Also, this plantation drive has also made a Guinness World Record – double joy.

5. The ozone layer is showing signs of repair

In the late 1980s, scientists discovered a gigantic hole in the ozone layer (the atmospheric layer that protects us from deadly solar radiation). Several steps were taken to improve the situation, starting with the banning of harmful chemicals like CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) as part of the Montreal Protocol. 30 years later, efforts to reverse this damage is finally showing, the hole in the layer seems to be shrinking. While it will take a couple more decades for it to heal completely, at least the process has begun, and we won’t get fried by the Sun.

6. The Indian Air Force got its first batch of women fighter pilots

Creating history, three female pilots — Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh were inducted in Indian Air Force fighter squadron in June. While combat roles in the Army and Navy still remain off limits for women, the IAF has hopefully set the benchmark for encouraging women in defence services.

Illustration by Maitri Dore

7. India won its first Olympic medal in women’s wrestling and badminton

Sakshi Malik became the first female wrestler to win an Olympic medal for India after she bagged the bronze in the 58kg category. Shuttler PV Sindhu on the other hand, not only brought home India’s first silver in badminton, she is the youngest Indian (at 21) and the first woman to do so! Even though Dipa Karmakar narrowly missed a medal in the women’s vaults finals, she is the most successful Indian gymnast, and her 4th place comes after a lot of praiseworthy hard work.

L to R: P.V. Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar at Rio

8. India’s para-athletes won big at Rio

In one of its most successful Paralympics, India brought home 2 gold, one silver a one bronze medal in 2016.

Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati won a gold and bronze medal respectively in the men’s high jump T-42 event, with Thangavelu jumping to an impressive 1.89 metres, and Bhati closely following at 1.86 metres. The silver medal came from Deepa Malik in the women’s shot put F53 event. Apart from becoming India’s first medal winning female para-athlete, she is also the oldest Indian to win a medal at the Olympics.

The second gold was won thanks to Devendra Jhajhariya who broke his own world record to win the men’s Javelin throw event.

With a tally of four medals, India’s 19 member contingent was super successful at Rio.

Rio Paralympics Gold medallist Devendra Jhajharia with his daughter and family members. Photo by Prabhakar Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

9. ISRO shoots for the stars

The successful launch of the 727.5 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite along with 19 co-passenger satellites marked win number 36 for ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in June. With 20 satellites launched, ISRO set a record in its space programme. According to The Indian Express, “Cartosat-2 series satellite will provide regular remote sensing services with its panchromatic and multispectral cameras and its imagery will be of multiple use.” The other 19 satellites are from USA, Canada, Germany and Indonesia.

10. India won’t need any more power plants for the next 3 years

According to an assessment by the government, the country won’t need any new power plants for the next three years since “it is flush with generation capacity”. While this doesn’t solve the power crisis we face every year, it shows that we have the resources, we just need to use them better.

11. India eradicated two diseases affecting new mothers and infants

In a big step towards maternal and child healthcare, India was declared Yaws and maternal and neonatal tetanus-free by the World Health Organisation in September. Yaws is a serious disease, primarily affecting the low-income areas. It starts with the skin and often spreads to the bones. India is the first country in the world to being acknowledged as Yaws free by the WHO, it also met its target of eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus in April, eight months before its December deadline. Added to the fact the maternal and infant mortality rate has been on the decline, we have big reasons to cheer!

12. Sushma Swaraj showed us how to slay at work

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been using her Twitter account to help Indians across the world. This year especially, she was actively involved in the rescue of Indians stuck in conflict zones, foreign tourists stranded in India or Indians who lost their passports abroad.

Even when she was admitted to the hospital to undergo a kidney transplant surgery and was on dialysis, she continued to continue her amazing work.

Swaraj’s dedication goes out to dispel the myth that sarkari mantris never do any productive work. More power to you, Sushmaji!

13. The Indo-Pakistani couple who broke boundaries

Huda, a Pakistani Muslim woman and Maneet, an Indian Jain man, had more than one barrier in their love story. But the couple persevered, fought their parents’ age-old beliefs, and ultimately had a beautiful wedding. It’s always nice to see love win.

14. Bollywood grew up, a little

Yes, it’s true that we saw terrible movies like “Befikre”, “Baar Baar Dekho” and “Mohenjodaro” in 2016. But it is also true that this is the year Bollywood took great strides in making commercial cinema with a social message. While movies like “Aligarh” and “Kapoor & Sons” dealt with homosexuality in India (in their own different way), we saw a powerful “Pink” which brought up the ever important message of consent. Then there was “Nil Battey Sannata” – a beautiful movie about a single mother who works as a domestic worker, and her aspirations for her only daughter. Bringing the year to an empowering close is “Dangal” – the inspiring story of how Mahavir Phogat broke stereotypes in a patriarchal Haryana village when he decided to train his daughters as wrestlers.

15. Dalit voices in the country rise against caste discrimination

In July, four Dalit men in Gujarat were flogged in public by self-proclaimed ‘Gau-rakshaks’ for skinning a dead cow. This triggered an unprecedented protest in the state with the Dalit communities that have been oppressed for centuries calling out the discrimination they face to this day. With the rise of Dalit leaders like Jignesh Mevani who led the Una protest, it looks like we are finally ready to challenge caste oppression.

Read YKA’s interview with Jignesh Mevani here.

16. Taking leaps in solar energy

The world’s largest solar power plant was recently opened in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu. Spreading over 10 sq km and with a capacity of 648MW, it can power up to 150,000 homes when at full capacity. This was also the year that Kochi airport in Kerala became the first in the world to be completely powered by solar energy. This is a huge step India is taking – away from fossil fuel and towards clean energy. Good going!

17. Trans rights and visibility took a step forward

From the formation of the first Indian band with all transgender members, the first modelling agency for transgender people, to the inauguration of the first school for transgender people, the community can now access opportunities that were earlier denied to them because of their gender identity.

6 Pack Band – India’s first band with all transgender members.

18. Those who made Demonetisation less painful

After 500 and 1000 Rupee notes were banned, what followed were long lines at the ATM and a frantic rush to the bank. Tempers obviously ran high, and so did frustration. In the face of this adversity, small gestures proved how kindness is still alive in Indians.

In a video that was widely shared on Facebook, you get to see an elderly woman handing out roses to employees of a State Bank of India branch in Lucknow for the extra effort they had to put in. Seeing that 11 officers died due to the stress they faced at work during this time, I’m sure this simple thank you made a big impact.

Sikh volunteers served tea and refreshments to those who had to wait for hours outside banks.

Food joints like Pizza Hut and Subway also chipped in by visiting bank branches in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to offer food and beverage to the overworked staff.

See? 2016 didn’t completely suck. Let’s part on good terms, and hope 2017 turns out to be better!
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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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