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A Child Disappears Every 8 Mins. In India, So Why Are We Not Talking About It?

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What the world knows about human trafficking is meagre relative to its spread-out operation all across the globe. It is the fastest growing organised crime globally, making it the most lucrative crime business among the other contenders.

The media hardly talks about it, even though, it is the world’s third-largest organised crime, following arms trade and drugs in first and second position respectively.

According to The Global Slavery Index, there exist about 18.3 million slaves in our country and 40.3 million worldwide. About every eight minutes, a child is found missing in India and the average age of those abducted children (mostly girls) is 12. Adding to that, allegedly, India is the epicentre of all the human trafficking racket managed in Asia. These statistics are just real figures that grimly paints the dismal state of our country without any further explanation.

Human trafficking is done either through luring in girls through promises of a better lifestyle, handsome money or abduction. They are made to stay under the traffickers’ surveillance against their will and forced into bonded labour or sexual exploitation. Most of the girls are sent to brothels or sold to clients at lucrative rates.

In states like Punjab and Haryana where the female to male ratio is very low, the abducted girls are forced to marry men for procreating intentions. The boys are also no less unsafe in the world of inhuman crimes. They are exploited as labour workers at a very cheap rate.

Most of the time, the children, and their parents are brainwashed with dreams of a better education and life, before they are sent off to different places for exploitation. Many times, it is the parents who sell off their girl child as they find them to be ‘a burden’ in their life. Whatever may be the case, these biases, and degeneracy for the moneymaking business need to stop now.

The Indian bias when it comes to gender, poverty, corruption and demand for brothels have given rise to orchestrate this atrocious crime worldwide, which leaves me to the belief that civilization is just a term we use to appease our ego. Somewhere, we behave worse than animals do. Education and literacy among the children, the parents, and the society can be possible solutions here, but I think we have crossed the point from where we could come back to ‘civilization’.

I feel ashamed to be a part of this grievous world full of sinister, immoral and evil people. I feel afraid and scared for the little girls out there, uneducated and unprotected, ready to be abducted at any given time. I came across some of the most heart-wrenching stories about the trafficked children through their eyes, and I felt very disheartened about the sad condition of our society. We are not able to protect our children, and every year more than 20,000 children are falling victim to the human trafficking industry.

The traffickers are becoming very smart nowadays as well. They mostly target vulnerable and needy families because of the higher chance of consent from the family. They are using social media to track and trap kids. Most of their interactions with clients and peers are done using technology. So, it helps them to hide their identity and carry out their business in an organized way.

My Choices Foundation is a non-profit organization that has been helping prevent human trafficking for more than two years with “Operation Red Alert”. They plan to uproot the trafficking system using three steps – expose, empower and eradicate.

They have built around 450 SVPs or Safety Village Programs in the villages which are highest prone to traffickers all over the country. They started off with West Bengal (258 SVPs), Telangana (118 SVPs), Andhra Pradesh (43 SVPs) and are focusing on the other primary states susceptible to trafficking.

Under the SVP program, they conduct two days workshop for the students, teachers, parents and the gram panchayats. They also develop a ‘Community Vigilance Committee’ that protects the village from future trafficking and passes on the learning and activism that was initially started off by the SVP.

I am hopeful that the societal frauds will be eradicated sooner than later if we join hands against such crimes. The children will be rescued and brought back to their families. With all the love that I have, my prayer and empathy go out to those children who have no idea where their life is heading to, yet they are forced to be the puppets of such heinous crimes.

I congratulate and fully support My Choices Foundation for their initiation and constant support to end girl child labour, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. As rightly said by Michael Yangad, the Director of Operations of International Justice Mission, the NGOs and the government bodies have to unitedly evolve to be smarter and better than the traffickers, and cope up to their fast-paced adaptation system to bring an end to this malignant crime, not only in India, but all over the world.

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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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