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As I Get Poisoned, Everyone Is Busy Passing The Blame: From Delhi To Its People

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Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown — said, Shakespeare. But what if there are too many heads which wear the crown or a crown which spreads over too many heads? Well, then everyone rests! And that’s precisely my story. The heart of a nation and with heart in my name — I am the capital of one of the fastest growing population of the world. My name? Delhi!

A union territory in the past, a state at present, I am adorned with a package of ministers and a lieutenant governor. And if that wasn’t enough, the nation’s supreme minister still holds my reins for many issues and terrains! Privileged and special one may think, but I am a case of a confused identity with accountability going to nil! A unique case of ownership loss and blame games.

Coming back to this important state of my heads as they sleep and rest; mind you, it’s a special one where they behave like Gandhiji’s three monkeys. Though selectively, but stopping to see, hear and speak. They need several petitions and noise from the entire universe to wake them up from their slumber as they engage in a continuous tug of war with other parties and stakeholders.

Recently, the monster called smog almost suffocated me to death so much so that experts compared it with the Great Smog of London. As I coughed and choked, the entire gamut of state heads slept in their special slumber. When citizens asked for action, they were told to get signed petitions numbering thousands as if the smog wasn’t enough. What a display of neglect and inaction! Busy people, you see — lots of work needs lots of sleep even while it was getting difficult to breathe! While my sun and skies got obscured by poison, there were shocking revelations when a humble citizen tried to use his right to information. It was disheartening to see how my leaders slept on crores which had been collected in the name of taxes and grants to protect my environment and me.

As I write this, I’m feeling nostalgic. Things weren’t this bad always. Once upon a time, I had everything. I was irresistible and beautiful, full of life with freshness in air and water. I was green and energetic, exuberant and chirping. Crackling with the sound of laughter of old, young and children who played and spent time outdoors. I delighted everyone who came and embraced me. Life of many, a hope for many. I adopted anybody and everybody who needed me. But in return, I got neglect and apathy. When my surrounding cousins burnt stubble, I bore the brunt, while everyone in the leadership played their favourite game of passing the buck, even the weather Gods weren’t spared.

The MLAs and the municipal councillors kept fighting their own tug of war. Even when the statistics showed road dust as one of the major sources of pollution, it couldn’t convince anyone to fix my roads. These people fought and cried on who owned which stretch and who had more funds to fill the cracks of my broken roads. How I wish if Modiji’s “Swachh Bharat” narrative could also include “swachh hawa” and do away with traditional brooming which cleans the roads but chokes everyone’s lungs.

“Sharing is caring” is what I believe our kids are taught at school and at home. But what happens to my citizens when it comes to sharing public transport? Sinhaji and many of his ilk still can’t leave the mithya of “each one, have one” when it comes to cars and vehicles owned by them. For convenience and luxury of the earning members and a symbol of pride for mummyji and papaji at home! While Vermaji from Rajouri still isn’t ready to accept waste segregation at his home, Guptaji from Lajpat evades getting his diesel and petrol commercial vehicles pollution checked.

My cousin cities welcomed the festival exodus this year and the friendly countries are basking in pride of attracting the talent pool and young children away from me. I feel helpless and concerned, but after all, my air hasn’t given them much beyond masks, purifiers, cancellations, reschedules and many days of literal house arrest!

It’s a cycle I witness every year around November. Media; Noise; Petitions, discussions and then reset; back to normal. Loopback next year!

But I haven’t lost hope. My hope is in every child who pledged not to burn a single firecracker this time, the child who also got their family and neighbors refrain from doing so and every citizen who signed several petitions and took even a small step in changing a bit in their immediate world. This year, maybe my citizens would break the loop and not stop working for clean air till the colours change to orange or yellow.

Wishing for better air and a beautiful winter sun in days to come, this is your city, your Delhi — breathing at an AQI level oscillating between severe and very bad — signing off!

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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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