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Instead Of Passing Blame, There’s A Very Simple Thing We Can Do To Start Real Change

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In a country where political discourse takes place in every nook and corner, where perpetual debates on television channels are undertaken to grab TRPs, and where important issues are sidelined so conveniently that even the most brutal rapes and the most heinous and ethically illicit ceasefire violations seem normal and a part of everyday news. Aren’t we becoming unsurprisingly complacent? Are we forgetting what entails humanity? Are we unable to draw the line between propaganda and serious legitimate content which needs immediate attention?

If you’ve been sitting in front of the ‘stupid box ‘, sipping early morning tea while commenting over the state of politics in India, lamenting over your current status of living, dexterously shifting the blame on fate or giving your bit to overrated discourses without offering a solution, then you are a part of mainstream India (congratulations though). But I’m not a part of this group, so this diverted black sheep wishes to make a point. Other than being the black sheep, I am an optimist, and I believe that things can change and that the world can fall into place, how? Let’s decipher.

So what the world is lacking, in my opinion, is really very simple. Even when everyone tells you that everything is fucked up and complicated, even after your brain feels like the world is full of negative and disturbing news, it’s not (a lot of disturbing news is, in fact, made up and the relevant news is trivialised). Life is pretty easy going, so the most important part is to perform your roles effectively.

Had the priests practised what they preach, there would have been no Kathua, had the bus conductor understood what is written in bold colourful letters behind vehicles, there would have been no Nirbhayas. Had teachers sank into what they taught from books, there had been less school dropouts and cases of absenteeism. Had the doctors realised that it’s health that’s the real treasure in life and not wealth, there would have been no Gorakhpur child killings, oops child deaths. Had the journalists believed in the ethics of journalism, there would have been no cases of fuelled, manipulated riots and controversies. Had the businessman understood the ‘aims of the enterprise’, there would have been no creation of haves and have-nots in the society.

So, instead of playing the blame game and pointing at the government for the apathy and nonchalant behaviour towards the issues in the society, one needs to look deeper and understand that it’s when all of us as individuals play our roles in the society in a responsive manner. Only then will we be able to eradicate all the menaces that surround this country.

But all of us consider ourselves relatively perfect, don’t we? Claiming to be helpless citizens of a nation who are so indulged in their personal lives to earn their daily bread and butter toiling harder every day for a better lifestyle. We give into materialistic baits and fall into temptations contributing our ‘insignificant’ bit towards the vicious circle of unethical behaviour and malpractices. We find ourselves completely comfortable in mortgaging our values for gains because hey, the corruption we indulge into is at a very very insignificant level and everybody else does it, politicians do it and they do it at a humongous level, massive business tycoons do it, they literally rob banks off, so what’s wrong if I do it too?

My only concern is to make each and everyone realise and take a little while to ponder that what if one fine day we decide to stop ranting about what’s wrong in our lives and the system and start acting? The very basic step is to DO YOUR PART RIGHT. When you see others falter, remind them that it would be pointless to later complain about scams, corruption.

If this article and that advice make at least 10 people realise what’s wrong and act, then I will be extremely gleeful to be a part of this drive. The change starts with you, that small wrapper you threw today will tempt others to dispose of their wastes, because only dirty places get dirtier. If today you jumped the red light and bragged about not being caught in front of your son, remember he will take it up as an act of pride, you’re are not being heroic or badass or practical while doing this but you’re spoiling a generation ahead of you, you’re making sure that your children inherit a world that’s driven by immoral acts, so make effective decisions.

And how did an 18-year-old come up with this? It is when people around me tell me to be smart and skip my duties, when people boast about they not performing their roles well and getting away with it with such pride that I fail to judge whether I am being a fool or they are being practical.

The incident which made me realise this was when my friend told me about her mother (a government school teacher) who took an eight-month leave in the name of maternity leave (even though she wasn’t pregnant) and kept missing classes, because who cares in government schools? Their teachers are non-existent, and you say policies for poor don’t materialise. Yes, they don’t, because you, yes you, distribute the funds provided by the government for books, mid-day meals and uniforms amongst yourselves and then sheepishly complain about the government not making enough schemes. You don’t let the schemes penetrate in the first place.

Teachers are said to be second parents, not money laundering agents who digest funds which are desperately needed for the education of underprivileged children. This incident was deeply disheartening, and I thought maybe I should make myself strong enough as this was just the start of the scams that were unmasked and unfolded when I got to hear some more incidences. For example, one where 21 out of 28 teachers were suspended in an MCD-managed school near the periphery of Delhi (including the principal) for absenteeism. Worse is the fact that the other seven who had a narrow escape were also not ‘teaching’ but were at least present unlike the other 21. This state of apathy and sheer negligence shows what is wrong these days and what needs to be taken care of.

I would like to again reinforce my appeal to anyone who wishes to change the scenario and contribute their bit, to only make a significant change in one’s outlook towards the ethics that guard the human race and their profession and everything else will eventually fall into place. It’s a gradual practice, but it will materialise if all of us want it to,  let’s walk with slow but persistent steps like the tortoise and we will eventually lead the race.

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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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