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A Pakistani’s Open Letter To Indians: ‘I Think We Can Do Without War’

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By Zeeba T Hashmi:

Dear friends across the nation,

We in Pakistan celebrated Pakistan Day yesterday. You are also celebrating it today, as we have both been doing for the past 70 years on our respective days. We hoist our flags, flaunt our pride and patriotism with much vigour and zeal every year. Instead of living to the spirit of freedom and independence, it is quite unfortunate to see how we end up rallying out slogans against the ‘enemy’ neighbour and feel a sense of great achievement in that.

The love for the country here, it appears, has been taken over by our pretences and prejudices. As we compete against one another to show one’s toxic power show, we fail to notice the very dark part of history we share behind all this grandiose. There is a constant pain we had been feeling for years; the pain of the muffled cries of the countless souls we lost in the madness that entailed our partition seventy years ago. The sacrifices many have already forgotten, or don’t want to talk about anymore.

Our current generations breathed into India and Pakistan and Bangladesh, and we may have acknowledged one another as sovereign states on the map of the world, but, I have a sense that there remains an amnesia of our shared histories, legends, arts and politics. While our states will insist on the differences that justified India’s division, no one can deny that we resemble each other a lot to this day. While there are people who will continue to cash on ideas of revenge, we cannot ignore those who want to confront hate, and it is exactly for this reason I am writing to express how moved I am by the common will for love expressed the people on both sides of the border.

A group from India played Pakistan’s national anthem, and in reciprocity, a group from here also sang the Indian anthem. Nothing can be more symbolic of love that we have, no matter how is it shot down by the hyper-nationalists on both sides, ready to jeopardise our contact at any slightest opportunity they find. Recently, we hosted the friendship letters exchanged between our students, and I must tell you how amazing it was to see the response from the people here, something you may not be aware of through your mainstream media. I have to say this. The media is largely to blame for why our people’s voice calling for peace between our people is shunned Instead, people are being portrayed as ‘traitors’ to the land for promoting peaceful, progressive relations between the neighbours. They wouldn’t tell us that people have suffered a lot due to the policies of our governments.

We have seen our misery with extensive spending on ‘defence’ in both countries by using the rhetoric of ‘enemy neighbour’. And I don’t think that at any level of our state relations have we really addressed the real common enemies we have: poverty, population explosion and most importantly, climate change. Yes, if we do not act or strive to policies to counter our potential disasters now, we will be doomed.

The sense of patriotism, the idea of one country’s success by ‘defeating’ the other is nothing but a false sense of security we are being given. You know it well, as much as I do, that we can never claim ‘success’ by ‘beating’ the other. We may not agree to certain policies we have, but making one’s prejudices a basis of policies is what we can disown through awareness.

We need to encourage each other for better relations, political or non-political, by making our voices heard through all the forums we have available. The letters exchanged between our students across the border is an inspiration, and I hope that we can establish this culture with more such contacts. The more we talk to each other, more will we able to set aside our differences. I believe we can do without war, but I don’t think we can survive without each other’s support.

Lots of love from Pakistan,

Zeeba T Hashmi

An Indian’s Open Letter To A Pakistani: ‘We Need To Talk Bhai’

Hi, Hope you are doing great. As you just celebrated your 71st Independence Day, I want to address a lot of thoughts which have been running in my mind. A lot of unanswered questions which have kept me awake at nights.

This open letter was possible due to Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-Pak friendship initiative. Zeeba T Hashmi, the author of the letter is an education consultant based in Lahore and can be reached at @zeebahashmi on Twitter.


Image source: Koshy Koshy/ 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.

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, 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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