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How Much Does Your Life Cost?

I know it sounds weird and mortifying but seriously, how much do you think your life is worth? How much do you think your life costs?

Are you angry because I’m demeaning the sanctity of human life by putting a price tag on it?

Let me go a step further and ask you how much do you think your father’s or your mother’s life is worth? And if you are a parent, how much do you think your child’s life is worth?

In exchange for a lot of money, would you not lose sleep over letting the one you love die?

Are you furious?

I know what you are thinking – that your parents and your child’s lives are priceless and precious, and you would do anything – literally anything – to keep them alive, healthy and safe.

You would guard them with your life.

Keeping emotions aside, let’s crunch some numbers, shall we? India spends 1.2% of its GDP on healthcare as compared to 4% which is the global average (less than Nepal and Sri Lanka) which comes to around ₹47,353 crore (2017-2018 budget).

We have a population of around 1.3 billion. So, after doing some simple mathematics, we get the magic number of ₹3,642.54.

In case our ageing parents or young kids get sick or our spouse meets with an accident, technically the amount ‘sanctioned’ to be spent to ensure “a state of complete physical, mental and social well being” is ₹3,642.54.

Using the current price of petrol in the capital city (₹77.72), that amount would let you buy around 46 litres of fuel which is enough to refuel the tank of a Hyundai I10 almost 1.3 times! Or at the current price of mangoes, you could buy around 33 kgs of those!

Feel bad yet?

Wait, there is more!

Now, look at the woman who has been cleaning your room and washing your dirty utensils and clothes for years. Or the person who sweeps the streets or collects garbage from your house or drives the taxi that takes your children to school or the street vendor who comes to your doorstep every day; how much do you think their life costs?

Are their lives worthless?

Most of you are probably nodding no (at least I hope so!).

The other day, I was reading an article about feminism and women empowerment and how so many women these days are career women. It left me thinking. The first ‘career women’ I probably came in contact with as a child was my neighbour’s full-time domestic help or their ‘maid’.

She was living away from her home, worked hard, earned money and was supporting her family – a prototypical career woman. Yes, she didn’t have a fancy degree and didn’t wear formal clothes every day but is that what really makes you a career woman? Despite this, her ration card said BPL – do you know what that means?
It means that she was earning less than $1.90 a day or less than ₹3,819 a month. And out of that on an average, these people spend around 10-25% of their earnings on health-related expenditures, that is, around ₹382 to ₹955 (out of ₹3,819).

Every year, around 150 million people fall below the poverty line due to health spending and 63 million of those are in India!

Why am I blabbering about all this?

Because their life, like all of our lives, is priceless.

They are fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and children. Sometimes they are the sole source of income for an entire family.

They may be illiterate and ignorant about health issues and might not know their rights. Help them!

Help them get their Aadhar card in place or in opening a bank account. Educate them and guide them to claim every health insurance benefit that is available to them.

Guide them to the health facility if you notice that their health is failing. Don’t yell at them if they drop stuff – maybe they can’t see clearly. Help someone get what they deserve because every life is priceless.

Show them that they matter.

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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.

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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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Find out more about the campaign here.

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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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