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We Can Be A Part Of The Change If We Regard Problems As Challenges

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Ge Gao, MFA from Columbia University says writing is political. It is ultimately about the freedom of speech. In his essay, George Orwell argued that all writing contains certain political opinions. We want to be remembered. We want to be loved. We have a sense of injustice and feel that our stories—either stories about us or stories by us—need to be heard.

When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is. And your life is just to live your life inside the world, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. Be happy when the bank account is full and running over; when the job is secure, and a promotion is on the horizon; when the salary is good; when our health is fine. But we have a tough time believing when those things aren’t true.

Maybe your situation is caused by other people, broken relationships, and betrayal or hurt that has wounded you deeply. I think that’s very important, and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change your life and make it better. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

There are hardships we experience with difficult work environments and bosses who ignore you. You may have bad breaks, bad health and bad days. The divorced know this feeling. So do people with disabilities. The unemployed have felt it, as have those with lesser access to education. We keep our distance from the depressed and avoid the terminally ill.

Every one of us should consider our relationships from two angles: Who influences me? And who do I influence? We should be purposeful about both of these things because both are so very important in life.

Inclusive Education To Become A Reality

“My Friend’s Story of Discrimination Is A Reminder Of India’s Biased Education System” is a wonderful article By Teesha Chugh and Anisha Shekhar who bring in a real-life scenario which can revolutionise education.

They write, “For inclusive education to become a reality, it is essential to build flexibility in the curriculum, sensitise children in mainstream schools and train teachers in transformational pedagogy. We can no longer afford to treat our future workforce as a burden. They might require additional attention and training but it is worth the effort, in order to make our society open and equitable.

“The last citadel to be breached in creating an inclusive society is that of our minds. For far too long, we have promoted and appreciated ableism. It is essential to transform our patronising thoughts from these positions to one of respect and inclusion.

“A strong and inclusive public school system with a vigilant government, media and community is the only answer for an equal and fair education system. Every school should be audited and certified Right to Education compliant, which means ensuring inclusive education in school. Inclusive education will not be ushered in by having an accessible infrastructure, but by ensuring that our teachers develop an inclusive mindset.”

Lives Of 60 People Were Transformed In The Himalayas

Another headline which caught my attention was: “This Team Treks Hundreds of Kilometers In Himalayas To Electrify Villages That Are Not Even On Google Maps”. I was also impressed reading about the feat of Hitesh Mahawar and his team who had climbed a section of the Himalayas and achieved the feat. What they did was very simple, but it has the potential to transform the lives of 60 people.

The Last Colour

In a Hindustan Times article, debuting director Vikas Kapoor had this to say about the film: “It’s a very simple story capturing the richness of India. I found this story so compelling that I couldn’t resist telling it to the world. I mean, imagine being denied the right to touch colour.”

The film’s plot revolves around the Supreme Court order against an age-old tradition of not allowing widows in Vrindavan to play Holi.

I met my childhood friend after many years. He informed me of his wedding. He married a widow. He is a Bengali Brahmin and so is his wife. He just took the decision based on the belief that everyone deserves a second chance in life.

Meeting Problems As Challenges

Villagers assert that marriages do not happen in their village since most of the eligible bachelors cannot find brides who are willing to marry and settle down in Rajghat. The village gives an impression of a deserted outlook which was lost and found. It doesn’t have clean drinking water, no electricity, no power and no toilets. The Health Centre is the only means of providing medical facilities for the water-borne diseases prevalent from the polluted water from Chambal.

You may find decomposed bodies and worse still, bodies of unmarried women and children who are often buried in shallow graves along the riverbank. This will definitely alert environmentalists. Public services, especially healthcare, education, employment and scarcity of water are in a poor condition given the lack of infrastructure and skilled manpower to deliver these services.

This year, after a span of 22 years, a wedding took place in this Rajasthan village of Rajghat.

We Should Add Colours To Our Lives

Problems are also opportunities. If you want to be a part of the solution, then this is what you can do.

You can adopt a child, fund a school, do crowdfunding, provide electricity, construct toilets, provide clean water, use the platform of Youth Ki Awaaz, move places, teach a class, change careers, etc. Make a difference. Sure, it isn’t safe, but what is?

Truthfully, life is full of problems. And not all problems can be solved. But I like the idea of regarding problems as challenges, because it’s a wonderful reminder that we have been given the power to do something about them.

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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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