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Country, People And The Trouble With Enforcing Choices In A Relationship

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Just last night, I was watching the iconic Yash Chopra classic, “Deewar”. In one scene, ‘the bachha who becomes Bachchan’ declines entering the temple. His mother (mother of all mothers, Nirupa Roy), warns him that if he doesn’t go inside the temple, she would never talk to him and would also never give him food. It was an intriguing scene. A mother was blackmailing her child to make him follow her faith. Then, with a halo behind his head, the priest appeared and told Nirupa Roy,

“Sister, don’t force him to come into the temple because worship is done not with force but with faith.”

Other than the obvious statement made by the priest, by enforcing her ways of worship on her son, the mother here is also questioning his own ways of worship and at the same time neglecting his love for her. In contrast, the child comes with his mother, every day to the temple doors and waits for her at the stairs. This is his way of showing love and respect towards his mother despite not believing in her ways of worship. This dynamic is important to understand. Every mother loves her child and every child loves their mother. It is a bond that is beyond reason or explanation and doesn’t require a facebook update (unlike modern day ‘relationships’). But of course, not everyone is ‘the ideal child’ who wakes up early and touches their parents’ feet first thing in the morning. At least, I have not seen such children outside the Rajshri movies. The ‘real’ people also love their parents but maybe sans the shenanigans. Some buy gifts for them, some live with them throughout their lives while others feel that only one call a day is enough love shown. The magnitude varies but I don’t think it can be non-existent.

Most human beings also share this bond of unconditional compassion towards their motherland. It brings a glitter to my eyes every time I am asked to talk about my hometown. It also pains me at the same time when someone mocks my country for its policy or politics. It is something that can’t be taken away from any individual and must not be questioned.

One can always dislike the rulers, the policy makers, the politics or the judiciary, but they might not dislike or disown the country they call their own. In other words, each one of us is a patriot. It is just a matter of choice hence, how one shows their compassion towards their country. One doesn’t have to be an IAS officer, a soldier or a sportsperson to prove their loyalty towards the nation.

The extent of freedom for its people to make this choice is what makes a country truly great. Also, the choice of deciding their own rights and wrongs, making opinions, liking or disliking a person or a belief, practising different ways of worship, food, orientation; basically, the way one decides to live his or her life is completely up to a person and it should be.

It is like any relationship in this world. Parents who allow their children to choose their own careers are deemed as ‘cool’. A wife is deemed ‘compatible’ when she doesn’t object her husband’s love for chicken despite being a vegan herself. A husband earns his share of respect when he doesn’t force himself on his wife to consummate their marriage. These are small things. Things that give a person their sense of freedom. This is not as complicated as it sounds. One needs space and respect in a relationship to give back the same. When something is forced on a person, they start to care less about the other person and that is where bitterness is born. It simply makes the other party less likeable.

Whether one wants to worship a cow or eat it must not be a matter of debate but rather a matter of choice. Whether one remembers the national anthem correctly should not be a parameter of patriotism. If one can’t speak Hindi, they should not be asked to exile the country.

We all do stand whenever our national anthem is played. I have personally never seen any Indian to have disrespected our national anthem. But now that it has been mandated, I fear that a few people would stay seated just to show their protest and prove their ‘freedom’. The national anthem and hence the country would be disrespected, on purpose. The country would be misunderstood by the people. The national anthem would be mocked by the people. As Arundhati Roy writes in “God Of Small Things”:

“That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”

The people would still love their country, but a little less.

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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.

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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.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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