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Meet The Couple Who Are Giving A New Dimension To Chhattisgarh’s Tourism & Tribal Culture

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India is a vast country with varying culture, traditions, languages, festivals and rituals. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, we observe the different colours of life.

History, in its ancient, medieval or modern form has provided evidence to the fact that India has been a country which has attracted global attention right from the timeline of Alexander to the British Raj. Some of the dynasties that have ruled the country have left indelible impressions in art, culture, architecture. Most importantly, they have left a legacy that is a part of India’s contemporary life.

Back in 1993-94, when everyone was dreaming of their tourist destination, he decided to make his place a tourist heaven. After completing his higher secondary, he started working as a guide and was parallelly pursuing MA in English. As a guide he observed the people from India and abroad very closely about their choices to declare someplace a dream destination.

In his journey of exploring the beauty of rural India, he met another beautiful soul named Sabrina. She was from abroad. She was a tourist and a hardcore lover of rural culture. Her unique perspective on a particular thing, her patience and art of adaptability is what made him fall for her. It’s been seven years since they got married. Now, they are giving their everything to preserve and protect the beauty of tribal and the rural culture.

Sunny with his wife Sabrina

They started the Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat in the year 2004 (a residence having rural architecture). Bhoramdev is located 16 kilometres away from Kawardha. They had just two to five rooms with additional rooms for the staff.

What Is The Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat?

It is a residence constructed with the bricks of tribal culture, tradition, unique style and selfless love. In this modern era, where one craves for air conditioners, the people from other countries come to stay here to feel the smell of mud, the purity of the air and the essence of love Chhattisgarh’s tribal people have for others. The furniture and the facilities provided here are made from the raw materials bought from the local people of that area in order to generate employment for them, and provide a unique identity to their place.

Early on, it was hard to gain the trust of the villagers and to make them learn the concept. The arrival of foreigners and the difficulty of communication and the stratified culture made it difficult for the villagers to accept them with wholeheartedly. Since tribal people give more priorities to their culture and become aggressive when someone violates them, it was hard on their part to get used to new innovations. They also had to welcome people from other places. Apart from this, there was a financial issue but they managed to cope with the help of many like-minded people who willingly contributed to the cause. Now, the place is a home to many.

Other Contributions

1. Free school: The best way to bring about a change in mentality and to make people accept new trends with time is to impart them education. They have started free education for all the students living out there. Apart from knowledge about the materialistic world, they are also taught the philosophy of life and social concepts. The art of discipline, punctuality, safety, cleanliness, health and personal hygiene – these are their main mottos.

2. Suti saheli: This is a school for knitting, stitching and embroidery. It’s free for girls and women.  When everyone is giving speeches about women’s empowerment, Sunny and Sabrina are implementing what is actually required.  There were times when the women only performed household chores but now, every woman there is mastering rural entrepreneurship.

3. Marathon: This was conducted by various organisations on January 26, 2017. One hundred girls took part in it to celebrate the Republic Day of Kawardha. In the Raipur Pink Marathon, 150 girls participated who were provided with free running shoes, tracksuits and offered a one-day-stay in Raipur. In a marathon organised by the government, around 25 girls, along with some foreigners, participated actively with a message “Jungle Bachao”.

It was not only the marathon for them but for the first time, they were exploring a big city like “Raipur”. It gave them a new hope to do something in their life.

4. Blood donation camp: Sabrina, Sophie (from England) and other 15 people have contributed to this campaign in order to remove from the minds of the tribals misconceptions of blood donation. And it worked well. Now, they are eager to donate their blood and to save someone’s life if get a chance.

5. Water conservation: Work has been done with Frank Water UK and Samarth (India) with the help of Sophie and Sabrina in order to make people aware of the importance of saving water and to promote its sustainable use.

What’s Next?

They are planning to build a wildlife sanctuary named “Tenduakhar”. It’s going to be 100 acres in size, of which 29 acres have been completed. It is a habitat of animals like bears, leopards, blue bulls, jackals, hyenas among others. They are searching for like-minded individuals and professionals who are nature lovers and who could contribute to the movement in their respective area so that they could make Chhattisgarh a tourist heaven and also help create a healthy ecosystem.

More than 50% of the tourists from abroad or India repeat their trip to this place. Sophie, a good friend of Sunny for the past 15 years, is visiting the place every year and willingly contributes her earnings towards the development of Chhattisgarh. When the world is moving at a fast pace in terms of technology, it is quite easy to come up with five-star infrastructure but preserving and beautifying something in a natural way is difficult. This is partially the reason tourists from faraway countries visit us.

Chhattisgarh should be proud to be gifted with such natural flora and fauna and a distinguished tribal culture. People like Sunny Upadhyaya have already made it a destination for many.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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