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How ‘Pinkathon’ Helped Me Ditch An Unhealthy Life And Take Fitness Seriously

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It wasn’t as if I wasn’t fit before I got pregnant, I did follow a fitness routine. After I had given birth to my daughter in March 2013, I decided to focus more on nourishing my baby and ignored my health.

Soon, I tried to eat right for a while, but I went back to binge eating even faster and gained weight. When my thyroid levels started increasing, my doctor told me that I needed to lose weight. To address that, I joined a marathon training group. My daughter was about a year old, and I would sleep for just 4 hours every night, robbing my body of time to rest and recover. Understanding your body is the key to maintaining a regular fitness schedule. I realised my mistake, and my coach was kind enough to tell me that I needed to get enough rest and sleep. Once I began walking 2-3 kms every day, at my pace and convenience, it was more enjoyable, and my body didn’t feel punished.

The incident that really inspired me was when Milind Soman completed the IronMan challenge. I read the news and felt inspired. After this, there were three separate incidents which changed my lifestyle completely.

The first was the Baby Wearing Walk in Mumbai on November 22, 2015. We usually come across many dieticians and fitness experts who talk about weight loss as the primary goal to a healthier life. What inspired me most is when Milind Soman spoke about regular exercise being the key to a healthy, disease-free life. He stressed on finding those 30 minutes to an hour’s time every day to stay fit. His mantra that weight loss is the byproduct to a fit, healthy life is what motivated me the most. I downloaded a tracking app and started walking 2-3 kms every day.

I had participated in a few short runs in Bombay before I participated in the Pinkathon. What appealed to me the most about the Pinkathon was its inclusivity. The fact that people, who otherwise found it challenging to take part in other events could participate was commendable. It was all inclusive and non-judgmental. I did the baby wearing walk which was a promotional event before the main event.

The second life changing experience was the main event at Pinkathon Mumbai 2015 when I volunteered to run with a visually impaired woman. When I saw a post on Facebook, requesting people to volunteer to pace the visually impaired girls, I jumped at the opportunity. My partner was a 48-year-old, working for the Sales Tax department and had gone trekking every year across various cities and terrains. It was an incident that changed my life. When you volunteer to walk or run with a visually impaired partner, it’s not just them that you’re supporting; you’re doing yourself a big favour because you end up learning so much. You learn why you shouldn’t take your life for granted and you realise that you can either choose to sit and brood over your issues or tackle them head on and move forward.

We were briefed about the way we needed to guide our partners throughout the run. It wasn’t very different from my regular walk or run. In fact, with all her trekking and active lifestyle she was fitter than me. We had a good chat, and I told her my stories, talked about the buildings that we passed, spoke about why women need to take fitness seriously and so on. It felt like just another walk you’d go for with your friend in the park. We shared about our life and trials, and the entire experience left me spellbound. I ended up crying when she finished. That year, she was the only contestant to do a 10k. In December 2016, we had four visually impaired women doing the half marathon.

The third incident was when I met Giridhar Kamath, who in just one meeting, convinced me of the ill effects of sugar. I gave up sugar the next day, and so did my husband. As a result, I lost 20 kgs in a year. My focus wasn’t losing weight; it was making healthier choices.

Ever since I heard Milind speak at the Baby Wearing Walk in November 2015, I had been walking and running 3 to 5 kilometres every day. So the race day was fun. And for me, it was the idea of participating in India’s biggest women’s run and the associated paraphernalia; the Zumba, the energy, the palpable enthusiasm, the support of other women and the fact that you’re not being judged, is what mattered most.

Pinkathon is a movement where women support other women, uplift them and encourage them to focus on fitness. No one judges you by your timing or the distance you covered. The fact that you dedicate at least 30 minutes of your day to fitness is appreciated.

We often feel that women don’t need to exercise because they’re active the entire day taking care of their family and running behind the kids. Working mothers are considered doubly active as they manage both work and home. Well, truth be told, some of the most dedicated women I know, are successful professionals who manage home and work with dedication and don’t miss their workouts even a single day. No one is too busy. Everyone can take time out for taking care of themselves. It is a gift that only you can gift yourself.

My commitment to the cause only grew stronger once I became an ambassador. It was a huge honour and a great responsibility since this is a cause I truly believe in. The fact that you can motivate many others through your actions, posts and updates is something which is very humbling. I realised the effort that went into making Pinkathon the flawless celebration that it is. Right from the duties assigned to standing at the flag off and end line and looking at the pure, unadulterated joy on the faces of the women as they sprinted to the finishing line is and will always be the most heartwarming sight. Kudos, to all the Pinkathon Ambassadors who work tirelessly to bring Pinkathon to every woman’s doorstep.

About the author: Swati Mukund is a Pinkathon Ambassador and an integral member of the Pinkathon community.

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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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