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The Govt. Alone Can’t Clean Your City, This Is Why You Need To Step Up Too

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 The poor condition of cleanliness and sanitation in India needs no introduction, at least for its citizens. We’ve learnt to live with it, and have accepted it as a normal part of our cities, towns and villages. And if one’s personal experience wasn’t enough, there’s data to back it up too.

In 2010, India was ranked 123 out of 183 countries in cleanliness as per a report. The worst condition is that of Delhi, the national capital. Out of 434 cities surveyed across India, the north, east and south municipal corporations of Delhi ranked 279, 202 and 196 in the Swachh Survekshan-2017.

In fact, Delhi’s problem is so dire that even the Delhi High Court has given multiple, strongly-worded warnings and notices to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (north, south and east) for violating court orders in matters related to sanitation. Apart from being a matter of national shame, such unhygienic surroundings are a major health hazard, especially because they serve as breeding grounds for vector-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya.

Causes And Solutions

If we dissect the major reasons behind this condition in the National Capital Region, one of the oft-quoted responses is the overlap in areas of functioning of multiple government bodies such as MCD, PWD, etc. As a Quora user rightly put it, “Multiple government bodies is another reason for lack of proper infrastructure which leads to filth. For example, it’s the PWD which manages and plans roads, municipality decides where to put garbage bins etc. Running a city is like running a company. You can’t have different teams reporting to different CEOs. PWD reports to CM. Municipality to the mayor.”

Say2Gov, a civic-tech startup,  has made an attempt to decipher this complexity by outlining the functions of various local bodies in NCR along with relevant links for a better understanding. The purpose of this analysis is to help citizens be aware of the working of local agencies in their cities as well as decide correctly which complaint goes to which authority.

Another major cause of this state is the disconnect between officials and the real world. As the High Court of Delhi recently put it, “The top officials of the corporations did not appear to have  left their offices to inspect the affected areas.” It seems the officials do not step out and even if citizens want to complain about issues in their locality, they do not have a reliable platform to do so.

And surely, nobody has the time to physically visit the local leaders’ office time and again to lodge complaints, owing to their busy schedules. In this regard, the performance of the Swachh Bharat App launched by the central government has been dismal, as reported here. A small analysis of the entire Swachh Bharat Scheme was done by Say2Gov on the occasion of three years of the Modi government, showing its poor performance in areas apart from publicity and marketing.

Bright Spots

In today’s times of a wide internet reach, an unconventional yet interesting way of curbing the cleanliness menace has emerged, that is, by encouraging the common people to join hands and bring about change. This can be done by highlighting bright spots in front of citizens – by sharing positive stories of spot-fixing, government initiatives that lead to better sanitation, etc. A couple of social media handles such as The Ugly Indian and Swachh Bharat are garnering a good response doing it. The Ugly Indian on Facebook shares stories of how Bengaluru citizens team up and ‘fix’ local issues by cleaning up, repainting dirty areas. Swachh Bharat on Twitter is an unofficial app that tweeples can use to report cleanliness issues with social handles of the government or they can share success stories.

Our Civic Responsibility

As disappointing as it may sound, even after 70 years of independence, India and its national capital are yet to see a proper-functioning sanitation system implemented by the government or administrative officials. Well-meaning citizens are left in a confusion. They want to live in clean surroundings but don’t know how to contribute.

Sanitation is a basic human right but at the same time, ensuring it is our responsibility. Look for options to lend a hand in a cleanliness drive, don’t ignore heaps of dirt lying around your homes and workplaces, complain to authorities in whatever way you can. The only way forward is for citizens to join hands to bring about a change themselves and push the authorities for change.


Another version of this article was published 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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