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Love And Its Seasons

In any language, no other word is as loaded with meaning and weighed down with expectations as love. The need to love and be loved is universal. A plant, mute and inexpressive as a stone, will still search for the warm envelope of the sunshine, just as a child will look for their mother’s lap. Love, it seems, needs no language.

For something that mostly commences from something as harmless as a look, ‘love’ sure is a powerful puppeteer. Wars have been waged, families have been abandoned and people have been killed – all in the name of love. Or perhaps, we are the gullible ones. What starts out as love in every relationship transforms, evolves and adapts.

As young adults, we profess our feelings to the other – and a phone call often becomes the barometer of the strength of our relationship. If he said he will call – and then, by some sleight of fate, he doesn’t – she will arrive at the worst conclusion and profess the deepest tragedies. The poor chap’s phone may just have run out of charge, but her mind will race to the worst-case scenarios. Talking on the phone the entire night (just because neither wants to cut the call), pacifying the butterflies that break into Zumba, every time a look is shared and feeling the electricity zipping through every time you touch each other – Ah! Young neophytic love is so visceral in its reality.

We grow up and so does love. Soon, the emblem of the truth of our emotions is the ring on our finger. Mind you, our reason is still blinded by the absolute divinity of our other halves. You wait unabashedly to return home daily to the comforts of a conjoined existence and shared conversations. There is still so much to discover about the other human who shares your roof. Everything is endearing about them – the way he clears his throat, how she sticks out her tongue when concentrating on something, the semi-edible breakfast he makes on Sundays, how she manages to take three hours to get ready for a party. Nothing can come between them. And now, you are sure – this is love. It has to be.

A relationship that has decades under its belt won’t spare a thought for missed calls, forgotten birthdays or not seeing each other’s face every single day. To me, old love is like fine wine – subdued and delicate. While young love prances around in its ebullient salsa, at the center stage, the older love waltzes to the corner, sits down and holds hands. One exhibits its opulence of emotions – the other knows, satisfied in its austerity.

Does that stop the onward march of our love towards reaching the ultimate perfection of form and feeling? No. With every hardship, every success, every sorrow or joy that a relationship undergoes, it metamorphoses into a more encompassing emotion. What’s love to a 1-month-old relationship is very different to what it is for a marriage celebrating its golden jubilee. They are both veracious, virtuous and valid. One is not better than the other – they are just unique.

Love is what makes us whole when the world has carved out its pound of flesh from us. It is that we search for when we want to glue the broken pieces of our selves together. Love is all that’s worth living for, in this life. Then, why must we shy away from feeling it or expressing it to the people we love?

After having known my husband for almost two decades now, I think I will celebrate Valentine’s Day for the first time this year. Not because I want to add my bit to the consumerism, but because we need to exalt the love in our lives. We need to put it on a pedestal and mark it as all that is sacred, true and essential to derive meaning and joy in our ephemeral lives. Love is the existential hallmark of our brief presence on this planet. So why not, I ask.

It doesn’t need greeting cards, teddy bears, flowers or alcohol. They would do too – but without them, like crutches, it shall move along just fine. A bonfire in the backyard, a walk in the park, a bowl of soup halved or a poem read out loud can do the trick just as well. Of course, chocolates and wine would be essential.

We may be made of bones, but we are more souls and stardust. To have found the other half of our soul swirling around in this universe, to have felt, reciprocated and received something so immaculately divine, to have embarked on this epic, cosmic journey together – what isn’t there to celebrate in this life? This is the stuff of legends. This is love. This…

This is magic!

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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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