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This Amazing Lesson From My Teacher Helped Me Fight My Judgements And Biases

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These days, I am doing a creative workshop on weekends to brush up on my writing skills. Recently, we discussed about perceptions and perspectives, which turned out to be an eye-opener. This was mainly due to our amazing teacher, Ramesh Menon.

The discussion started with how we believe what we see. Ramesh Menon asked: “Can we look beyond what we see ?”

He explained how what we see depends upon where are we standing.

To understand it better, we conducted a simple exercise, in which I volunteered. Ramesh asked me to come to the front and sit on the floor. Then, I was asked to just look forward – the condition being that I couldn’t see what was above me or anything to my left or right. I had to focus only on what was in front of me. Then I was asked to share my experience to the class in minute detail.

Then, I was asked to kneel down, see what’s in the front and again describe my experience to the class. Next, I had to stand up straight and again speak about what I saw. Finally, I had to stand up on a chair and a table, and then share my views with the class.

For me, the view changed each time. When I was standing on the table, I could see the whole view. It was totally different from what I could see while sitting down on the floor.

Through this exercise, Ramesh showed us that even though the walls and the class were the same, our view of it changed according to where we stood and viewed it from. I would urge you all to try this.

He described how we have become judgemental of people and their opinions, without thinking where they are standing.

This reminded me of my own biases. In the last three months, I have talked to many rickshaw-walas (rickshaw pullers), auto-walas (auto-rickshaw drivers), sabji walas (vegetable vendors) and chai wale bhaiyas (tea vendors).

Previously, I used to think that they must be poor, unhappy and unsatisfied with their lives. I used to pity them. I thought that their lives would be tougher and very different from ours. But honestly, it is actually not as I hadthought it to be. I have found most of them to be very happy and proud of their work. They appreciate their journeys. They have clear goals in their lives and know what they want from it. They live in the present moment. More importantly, they support each other.

I won’t mind admitting that these people have helped me become a better person. My perspective and biased views towards them have changed by viewing their lives through their lens. They made me realise about my inherent conditioning, and how we make assumptions about people in our lives without understanding their points of view.

I am still biased. But, I am happy that I have started to recognise this. Ramesh Menon suggested some simple steps that may be of help:

1. Ask questions: Always question yourself and your understanding of the things around you

2. Read: Read as much as you can on any variety of topics

3. Travel: Travelling teaches you a lot. Always go for tough options and keep all your senses open

4. Be hopeful and have a positive frame of mind

5. Keep your mind open all the time

While writing this post, I was wondering how beautiful all our lives will be if we become non-judgemental. This can only happen if we accept people the way they are, and start viewing life from a broader perspective.

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Image Source : Author, Mike Prince, David Stanley/Flickr
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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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