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Instead of Blaming The Govt, How Mumbaikars Can Fix The Flood Situation Themselves

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On August 29, 2017, the financial capital of India, Mumbai was brought to a standstill by heavy rainfall. All it took to sink the city of dreams, was 300 mm of rain. At least 20 people have lost their lives, and many are reported missing.

It was déjà vu for Mumbaikars. Something quite similar yet more severe had transpired July 26, 2005, when the city received 944 mm of rain in 24 hours taking a huge toll on the city. The rainfall spelt disaster, killing 450 during the floods and another 248 later.

Twelve years and a government change later, little appears to have changed in terms of preparedness. Even the TV debates on the topic seemed to be a repeat telecast of 2005. Condolences to those who lost their lives were given in sombre voices by each political party’s spokesperson before the debate turned into a free for all screaming competition.

Each party declared the other has been an utter failure in handling the situation and proclaimed themselves to be the true messiah of the masses. The rains however on both the occasions have literally poured water on the tall claims of preparedness of both the parties.

Mismanagements like these are neither exclusive to Mumbai nor limited to natural disasters. From the routine monsoon floods in Bihar to rail accidents, building/infrastructure collapse, riots and stampedes, the array of mismanagements is wide and diverse. The question to be asked then is why do things never change? Why is it the same story every time irrespective of who the ruling party is?

The answer to this can be found if we analyse our attitude towards politics and the politicians. Based on that approach our entire population can be broadly divided into two sets of people – The pariahs, those who don’t care about the electoral matters and the idolizers, i.e. those who are mesmerised by political personalities. There is a third category as well but since they seem to be a handful in number, let’s deal with them later. First, let us look at the two prime categories.

Many of us don’t like to burden our minds with questions like who our leaders are, what credentials do they have and how good or bad of a job are they doing. For them, election day is just a holiday, and they don’t exercise their right to vote. These people fall into the category of political pariahs. Some of them even proudly proclaim to hate politics and at the drop of a hat say that nothing good can ever happen in this country and politicians have taken the country for a ride.

When they hear of any calamity or adversity, they just shrug it off. For them, it’s something that always happens to others, and they never think that they may find themselves in a similar situation someday. It certainly doesn’t behove those who not perform their duty to vote, to expect that our politicians will do their jobs seriously.

Our ignorance and indifference are used against us, and people need to realise this. I would urge people who are indifferent to start caring a little at least and start voting consciously after analysing the merits and demerits of each candidate. There is no point complaining until then. If you don’t like politics and don’t bother to take the initiative, then you will end up being governed by people inferior to you.

The second set of people are the polar opposites of the first. These are the political fan boys, the idolizers. In their eyes, their favourite political party or politician can do no wrong. While blindly idolising them, they forget that politicians are elected to serve us and the interest of the nation, not rule us, and so they should be judged on their merits and not on their personalities, eloquence of English, or the dynasties to which they belong.

Majority of an idolizer’s time is spent either defending his/her favourite or clashing with the other idolizers of different parties on social media. This fighting for politicians based on blind idolization is akin to a bar debate between two drunks about who the better pugilist is, Mayweather or McGregor.

In the process of trying to defend the honour of their respective idols, the drunks get into a fist fight of their own. When they wake up from their drunken stupor, they realise that all the fight left for them was a hospital bill to pay while Mayweather and McGregor both walked away with a $100 million each.

The same thing happens when we mindlessly fight among ourselves. The nation suffers, while those entrusted to govern it walk away with the jackpot that we financed with our taxes.

When disaster strikes, it is a fellow citizen who is found volunteering to help, and of this, we should be proud. In dire straits, we should be able to keep our differences aside and do the needful. Similar was the case in Mumbai rains this year. People took it upon themselves to help those who needed it.

Now tell me, how many politicians did you see wading through sewer water helping out others or offering food and shelter in their personal capacities at their bungalows? None I guess. On the contrary, politicians can usually be seen doing an aerial survey of flood affected areas, with a photograph of them looking out of their helicopter window with a much practised and perfected solemn expression.

There is a third set of people that I mentioned in the beginning, ones who are a handful in number compared to the other two. These people are the rationalists; ones who judge the politicians based on their merits and use their right to vote judiciously. They are aware of their rights and duties. The rationalists in a way can be thought of as an intersection of the two majority sets. They care enough to know who they are voting for and at the same time are aloof enough not to be infatuated by personality or dynasty.

I hope that this tribe of rationalists grows, that people make judicious use of their right to vote and stop being political pariahs in their own country. On the other hand debate and dissent both are a must for a democracy to thrive but in the process let rationality of thought prevail. Don’t just blindly idolise. Otherwise, you will end up like those proverbial mice following the pied piper-ultimately falling off the cliff.

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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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