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Looking Back At Nafisa Joseph’s Tragic Death And How We Can Fight Suicidal Thoughts

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I won the crown for what I am – I’m certainly not going to let go of that

– Nafisa Joseph

The winner of Femina Miss India pageant in 1997, Nafia Joseph ended her life in 2004 when she hanged herself in her Versova apartment on July 29.

Nafisa was only 26 and she chose death. She was the daughter of Usha Joseph who is a scion of Tagore’s family. A medley of Christian and Islam Nafisa quit the theatre of life leaving behind her aggrieved parents and her siblings.

A student of the famous Bishop Cotton Girl’s School, who started modelling at 12, she was the youngest contestant in the Miss India Pageant. For a period of five years, she hosted the MTV House Full show. She also featured in a short role in Subhash Ghai’s film Taal. In her short span of life she achieved so much, still, the question remains, why did she die?

We all need love, we look for love, she too looked for it but sadly knocked the wrong door. Reports state that she was engaged to a man who had told her that he was divorced but was still married. Two weeks before they were to be married, the wedding was called off, and then she killed herself.

 

Her fiancé was called in by the police, there were routine investigations, her parents lodged a complaint but the question still remains – is it worth taking your life just for a relationship which went wrong? No, not all.

The first step that comes into the picture is parenting. Right from childhood, it’s the parents’ duty to groom the child, make them understand self-worth.  Self-esteem develops early, and it’s these life lessons, not degrees or grades and subjects that need to be taught.

To explain how to develop self-esteem, Postive Psychology Program writes, The practice self-acceptance includes becoming aware and accepting the best and the worst parts of you and also the disowned parts of ourselves. The self-responsibility […]. The practice of self-assertiveness. Act through your real convictions and feelings as much as possible. The practice of living purposefully. Achieve personal goals that energize your existence. The practice of personal integrity. Don’t compensate your ideals, beliefs, and behaviors for a result that leads to incongruence. When your behaviors are congruent with your ideals that is where integrity appears”.

But the above points on self-esteem will come into picture only after proper parenting. On the importance of parenting,  reports Greater Good magazine reports, “Parents should provide continual warmth, caring, and support; […] Strong social and emotional skills; […] Positive peer relationship; and also work to change school environment.”

We do fall in love and it’s not a crime to love someone. Relationships do matter, we need love. But one must figure out the right versus the wrong. Love someone who doesn’t keep you a secret, if a relationship has to be a secret you shouldn’t be in it.

Melanie Greenberg sites four reasons for failing relationship in Psychology Today: “Selfishness, Narcissism and unbalanced ties; Not making the relationship a priority; Angry Outbursts and Rage; Infidelity”. Be cautious, in that moment of love you are bound to ignore all the other elements, this is where self-esteem comes in the picture – understanding right versus wrong.

On love and relationship, Psychology Today reports: “Love is one of the most profound emotions known to human beings. There are many kinds of love, but most people seek its expression in a romantic relationship with a compatible partner. For some, romantic relationships are the most meaningful element of life, providing a source of deep fulfillment. The ability to have a healthy, loving relationship is not innate. A great deal of evidence suggests that the ability to form a stable relationship begins in infancy, in a child’s earliest experiences with a caregiver who reliably meets the infant’s needs for food, care, protection, stimulation, and social contact. Those relationships are not destiny, but they appear to establish patterns of relating to others. Failed relationships happen for many reasons, and the failure of a relationship is often a source of great psychological anguish. Most of us have to work consciously to master the skills necessary to make them flourish”.

The last but not the least, the devil called SUICIDE. If you go to your psyche level and peel off the layers of your mind one by one you can understand the damage you are going to do – That is to end your life.

The American Psychiatric Association says,  In some cases, an immediate stressor or sudden catastrophic event, failure or humiliation like a relationship break-up, legal problems, financial problems (e.g., home foreclosure or job loss) can leave people feeling desperate, unable to see a way out, and become a “tipping point” toward suicide. If someone indicates they are considering suicide, listen and take their concerns seriously. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their plans. Let them know you care, and they are not alone. Encourage them to seek help immediately from a knowledgeable professional. Don’t leave them alone”.

My essay started with the narration of the beautiful, young, successful model, Video Jockey, and winner of Femina Miss India, who had so much to give to this world, yet took her life but I earmarked some other factors as well – Parenting, Self – Esteem, Relationship, and Love.

To conclude this essay here is my appeal, do not take your life. Sometimes the worst place you can be in is your head. To that one soul who is reading this – I know you’re tired, you’re fed up, you’re close to breaking, but there’s strength within you, even when you feel weak, take rest but keep fighting. I know you are afraid of your mind, but no harm, open up, keep fighting. The bravest thing you can do is continuing life when you want to die.

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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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