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Gaai Hamaari Maata Hai, Par Doodh Kahaan Se Aata Hai?

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The celebrity of the year 2017 is undoubtedly the holy cow. Right from the time that the new government took charge of the centre our news, cow premis came to the rescue of the holy cow. They are a bunch of contradictions. They can go to war for peace, they can hate and kill for love. They think cows are the most sentient beings,  good. It is right.  But they are overtly selective. They think that Cows are the “only” sentient beings other than the breed of “upper caste”,  “vegetarian”, “Hindu”  humans. They think it is best to destroy those who don’t comply. BJP MLA, Gyan Singh threatened, “If you smuggle or kill cows, you will be killed.

However, this does not emerge from any kind of deep-seated love for animals. In fact, it is the inverse. It’s a pity that the “piety” of the government and the ruling party is restricted to religious fundamentalism and obsessive fanaticism with just the slaughter of just one animal – the cow. Somehow though, the animal love is not only specific to this species but also only against meat. The same religious fanaticism also provokes people to drink milk. “The lord drank milk and butter, and so shall we”.   These people are still fixated on the romanticised version of milk production – cows in a cowshed, taken to graze,  milk being extracted after the calves have their share. Though I am against drinking the milk of another animal on principle, I am willing to look at this from people’s perspective, where a cow is sick in the village and their grandparents give the cow a name and look after her, her kids and her husband till their death.Well, that’s quite utopian and way away from the reality.

We are completely oblivious to what really happens in the commercial milk industry. In a press release, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh stated that the milk production has increased by 18.81 %. Now, where does all these milk come from? How many cows do we see grazing around to give us that kind of milk production?

I went through a video report called Deadly Dairy. I would not want to fill this article with trigger warnings, but urge you to visit the link with an understanding that this is not for a faint heart. It is gruesome and painful to watch if we have even an ounce of kindness.

Gau Mata is not free to roam and graze in commercial dairy firms. She is tied up all day.

The holy cow and its cousin, the buffalo, are tied up all day, for months, for years. They have no moving space. So the image of ‘God’ roaming about is a myth. Cows are just tied to a small leash.

Bulls and Gau Mata Are Sexually Harrassed

The bull is sexually excited by simulation techniques so that it gets easy to masturbate and remove the semen to then artificially impregnate the cow. As this article in The Hindu puts it, “Artificial insemination involves extracting semen from selected bulls and forcibly placing it in restrained cows. This technology is popular because it is efficient, allows for selective breeding of high-yielding animals and reduces the need for males.

We need veganism, not vigilantism, to protect native Indian breeds.

There has been a spurt of festivals to celebrate the Indian breed of cows and buffaloes. Innumerable pieces have been written in favour of Jallikattu as much has been written against it. There is one justification that is way too superficial and selective – that we are focused on festivals like these to save Indian breeds of cows from extinction. This report in The Mint reads “Over the next two years, India will need to produce 100 million doses of high-quality, disease-free semen annually, up from 90 million now, according to the government. Holstein Friesian bulls imported from Germany are also set to start producing semen soon.” So the kids of the progeny between a German bull and an Indian cow will be Indo-German and not Indian.

Cow Leather Is Claimed To Be Not From Slaughter, But Natural Death

This Make In India report reads,The Indian leather industry enjoys a predominant place in the Indian economy and has been a major contributor to export earnings. India has an abundance of raw materials with access to 20% of world’s cattle and buffalo and 11% of the world’s goat and sheep population. Globally, India is the 2nd largest producer of Footwear and 2nd largest exporter of Leather Garments.” There is also an advertisement in a leading newspaper about an approved grant of ₹2600 crores by the government of India to boost the leather industry.

It’s natural that the number of animals that are going to be slaughtered has to increase to meet this demand for leather. Several reports by several animal welfare groups and think pieces suggest that unproductive cows are starved and so are male calves. Obviously, when they starve and die, they would die a “natural” death. Here’s a piece from Poorva Joshipura that makes a case for “India’s High Beef Exports Are Linked To Its Milk Consumption”.

So, all you cow lovers who are overtly moralistic about the slaughter of cows, I want to ask you – why is your empathy selective? Does a buffalo feel less pain than a cow? And if you love the cow so much and consider her a mother – why don’t you let her feed her milk to her child? So, Shri Gyan Dev Ahuja, one can’t speak about killing for cow-love when you are drinking a glass of milk. The act is not just moronic, it is oxymoronic. You get the drift?

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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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