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It’s a promise and it’s not fake!

I stood there bewildered, too tired to cry, too numb to feel the shock waves. I was all deaf n blind to the ear cracking voices, to the bustling streets, dingy houses, plunging necklines with raised eyebrows, garish makeup and everything else.

With a air of festivity , of celebrations , from Mahasaptami to Mahostami my life bought me from Park Street to Sonagachi – Asia’s largest red light area.

Crestfallen , helpless ; agony ,aghast and despair were creeping to every cell of my body,to every nerve ending, highly demanding to be felt.

Draped in a net saree, folded cleverly to highlight  the so-called assets, pancaked with makeup, my lips smeared with the scarlet tint, eyelashes brushed with heavy mascara and the stale floral smell of the provocative perfume, vapourizing from my fabrics, they made me stand still and attract customers. CUSTOMERS they said.

“How much”he asked.Someone negotiated and I was dragged into the dingy cell.

He introduced himself as Dev Sengupta.We both were  lockedup in a room where the suffocation of uncertainity prevailed blended with an unknown fear.

Dev- I heard you have a daughter!

“yes” I replied .. of 6 months old.

Dev- Why into this crap? You want your daughter to continue it?

At that questions, I felt the blood gushing down through my veins, with a motive to explode as a fireball, to let every unsaid, unfelt emotions out, to let just the woman inside me to speak out aloud…or to be frank to blame and abuse.

“ No woman by choice would ever want to be here, to be labeled as a whore or a slut or as your decent society would say- a prostitute. Probably people of outside world don’t know that there is no escape route for us ! It’s a loop, a vicious loop.

Every moment the woman within you would be defamed, assaulted, bargained. Your heart would be screaming to run away, but you are chained invisibly  by fate or by force..

AND I WONT let my daughter into this filthy trade, come what may!”

There was an awkward silence in the room. Deep through the fabric, through the skin, Dev met the undaunted lady, guided by principles, basked in determination, there she stood.

The scruffy curtains of shedding makeup muffled a face of innocence , the mascara shadowed the eye which was never glued to the lust in the hovering hungry eyes. Their eyes met with a fierce gaze.

And for both of them it was a moment of ecstasy as if every cell of their body was about to explode into a celebration of fireworks, a celebration of love and not lust.

What’s your daughter’s name?

Rudrani Banerjee

Rudrani will never do this. Its a promise and it’s not fake.

Days passed by and so did their meetings.It was as if two souls hovering around each other, twisting playfully, helding love.

She let Dev undress her emotions, with a naked view of faith and trust, unhook her darkest secrets and blissfully inhaled the aroma of peace.Dev wrapped her pristine soul and locked her in his arms love and affection.

Dev – “ I want to marry you dear. I want to adopt rudrani. I will try hard to convince my parents, leave them if needed.You healed my every wound with your virgin soul, I love you. “

Dev filled my every void with infectious laughter and damp soggy mumblings.

I thought to myself with moist eyes and a widened smile..quite contrasting!!

Next day

Dev found a letter kept next to Rudrani


I love you like no woman would love her man , beyond this worldly pleasures , from alpha to infinitum. You dared to love a woman though with a virgin soul but with a traded body. But who am I to marry and destroy you, to separate you from your parents. Marry a  pristine girl and be happy.

But I request you to take care of Rudrani, make her a doctor. I love  you  enough to leave you, trust you enough to leave a part of me with you..

Forever yours.

…. Still holding the letter in hand ,after 25 years Dev was bought back to reality by a sweet voice

“Baba , its time for your medicines. Come quick, am getting late for the hospital”.

Again with moist eyes and a widened smile Dev came and said “ Yes daughter, Sorry  I mean our Dr. Rudrani Sengupta , lets go!!”


Dev thought “ I had told you, it’s a promise and it’s not fake!!”

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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.

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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, 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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