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Fighting 2 Years Of Depression Became A Little Easier When I Stepped Out To Run

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I am Jaskiran Gill, a 27-year-old presently working on a project titled ‘Turning My Mess Into Message’. As an engineer by qualification, I worked with InMobi for three years but quit my corporate job in the quest for happiness. Then I went on to work in the slums trying to heal myself by healing others. Currently, I am a Child Rights and a Mental Health Advocate and have worked with Noble Peace Laureate Shri. Kailash Satyarthi.

I was diagnosed with major depression (MDD) two years ago. Doctors informed me that it had been present for the past 12 years due to the abuse I had seen growing up. All this while I knew something was wrong, but couldn’t figure out what it was. I had always been extremely active and enthusiastic as a child before depression started taking a toll on my health. I started getting headaches so severe that there were times when I couldn’t lift my head up. I had always been a fitness freak but could not work out anymore and started gaining weight drastically. The depression was affecting not only my mental health but also my physical health.

To conquer that, I participated in Pinkathon to take my physical health and my mental health to the next level. I was aware that my mental health might make it difficult for me to get myself out of bed sometimes. But I also realised that I could either stay in bed or get up and keep pushing myself every day. I’ve learned that if you have faith in yourself and if you keep working towards your goal, eventually you will get results. Although I have participated in a few dance and fitness related events, I had never taken part in a running based event primarily because of health concerns. My motivation to run the Pinkathon was because I wanted to take a leap of faith and experience what it would be like to run alongside such a powerful group of women.

It could be terrifying for a lot of people to find out that they’re suffering from depression, but fortunately I felt relieved because then at least I knew the problem. It wasn’t particularly easy after that either, but one thing I knew for sure was that I couldn’t let the term ‘chronic depression’ win over my ambitions. So I was ready to do whatever it took to push my limits every single day. I have been working on my mind and my body because both are interlinked and interdependent. One cannot sustain without the other. It has taken me over a year to get where I am today. Running has helped me tremendously, but along with that, the healthy changes I made regarding my habits, my diet and lifestyle have made a huge impact.

I work out religiously and have been doing cardio as well as strength training for an hour to an hour and a half every day. I run every day no matter if it’s a short distance or long distance. On the days I can’t run, I push myself to walk. So, I am using my mess and turning it into a message for everyone to believe in themselves and keep fighting hard.

My Pinkathon journey has been a truly inspiring and rewarding experience. The very sight of seeing thousands of women of all age groups from little girls to ladies, to baby wearing moms and grandmothers, lace up their running shoes and hit the ground at 4 in the morning to run was awe-inspiring! A special mention should go to the men who come all the way just to cheer the ladies. The best thing about Pinkathon for me was experiencing the freedom and positivity along with thousands of women gathered at one place for a common cause – to empower and feel empowered at the same time.

Pinkathon has been working towards getting women to lead a healthy life and start taking care of themselves. Last year I participated as a runner, but this will be my first time as a Pinkathon Ambassador. The reason it is doing so well and spreading awareness is because Milind Soman is an example in himself. It’s incredibly motivating to see him so fit and healthy and watch him share his experiences with so many people, encouraging them to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Being able to witness women who inspire us through their dedication and hard work like Smt. Mann Kaur is a dream come true. The best investment you can ever make is in yourself and your health, which is exactly what Pinkathon nudges you to do. Even though it’s been less than a week, my experience as a Pinkathon Ambassador has been amazing. I have been a part of two events and have met so many people who are inspiring in their unique way. You can feel the energy and enthusiasm in all ambassadors, participants and onlookers which motivates you to do more and give it your best.

We always stress upon the need to be fit and healthy but when we say ‘healthy’ we tend to focus on our physical health alone and we forget that our mental health is equally important. We don’t want to talk about it or even make an effort to understand it due to the stigma attached to mental health and the fear of being judged or ridiculed. But in the times that we live in now, I believe that we cannot afford to ignore our mental health anymore. It’s important for women to find a support system among other women to open up about their struggles and lead by example.

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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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