This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Chinu Kwatra. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I’m Proud To Be A ‘Ladies’ Man’ – And It’s Not What You Think

I was born in a rich family but could enjoy the luxuries of life only till 2006. Due to some mishaps, my family suffered a major financial loss when I was in class 10 – the so-called ‘career-deciding’ phase of a student. Consequently, my mother had nothing left which would enable her to pay my school and tuition fees.

One day, I saw my mother walking out of Nayak Tutorials, crying. She told me that the coaching fees for a year was ₹25,000. That was the day when I decided to study on my own and relieve my mother’s worries. Since I had a good academic record, my teachers decided to help me by giving us the leeway to pay the school fees, whenever it was possible for us. They also helped me by providing notes for the exams.

At the age of 16, I started teaching maths and science to my friends – as this was an easier way to learn it myself. By now, I had also become emotionally mature – and hence, I started helping my mother in running the dhaba, which she used to run single-handedly – by cooking food and selling it. After school, I used to study – and then, in the evening, I used to help mom by delivering the food and washing the utensils. This was the least I could do for my Maa, who supported me so much. With my mother as my backbone, I scored 69% in the board exams.

In 2008, I passed the class 12 exams with 61%. However, even though I wanted to pursue hotel management, I was pulled down by my financial crisis. Therefore, I decided to quit studies after class 12 – but once again, my mom supported me in finishing graduation. I started taking dance classes, choreographing fashion shows and hosting such events – and these helped me complete graduation.

During this period, I also met the love of my life. However, I was turned down by her parents as I didn’t come from an affluent family. Still, the girl continued to support me during this time. She taught me fluent English, prepared me for interviews – and even searched for a college where I could pursue an MBA. Yes – for the same guy who wanted to quit studies after class 12. Her determination and my hard work helped me earn 74% in my MBA course – and after that, there was no looking back.

Even after a tiring day with back-to-back classes, I still took time out to plan for helping the underprivileged by providing free education – and also something for women empowerment. With the support of my sister, I started an NGO – Aarna Foundation.

Everything was going fine, until tragedy struck me in April 2014. I lost the girl I loved so deeply in an accident. I was shattered and went into severe depression. I will admit that I even attempted suicide – thrice. But, I am still alive only because of my family.

Dedicating my life for the needy was my only goal after this – and seeing people happy helped me recover from my depression. By 2016, I started achieving my goal of working for the betterment of society.

Then, after the storm came the sunshine. In January 2017, I was selected as the district secretary of human rights by the All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice (AICHLS). I also ‘adopted’ two Thane Municipal Corporation schools, and our NGO was granted an 80g certificate. I opened my dream restaurant – and finally, our NGO grew bigger with the help of people who kept joining us almost daily.

I am happy that I’m not alone in making others happy. I have a big team which spreads happiness. In fact, a recently-launched campaign to provide free sanitary napkins to underprivileged women at a pan-India level has received positive responses.

The next plans in the pipeline are – starting a shelter home at Thane and study centres in Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad for underprivileged kids and women. I also want to stop rapes and other crimes against women and start a women-employment centre which will help them be independent and run their own families.

In a nutshell, I am what I am because of the women in my life. I strongly believe in women empowerment – because behind every successful man, there is a woman. In fact, I am proud of being called a ‘ladies’ man’.

The author can be followed here and here. The NGO can be found here.

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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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