This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by SHEROES. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Started A Writers’ Community Not Knowing They Would Support Me In My Battle With Cancer

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By Shiny Hoque:

In my schooldays, I was a bookworm and wrote down the sentences I liked on the blank side of bus tickets, classroom benches and sometimes on the wall (apologies, if any teacher of mine is reading this!).

I even gifted small write-ups to my friends on their birthdays.

As a child, I read and re-read those six to seven novels in my stock without ever once getting bored

At age 19, I got my first mobile phone with internet connection. It marked the onset of my knowledge quest. I literally tortured the small phone, searching for writing competitions, famous poems, author interviews and much more. Gradually, I became conversant with using the right keywords in my Google search and the world of writing unfolded before me.

I got into the mailing lists of many writing-related websites and searched English newspapers for writing opportunities. Amidst all this, my diary continued to be my confiding space.

With time, I felt the need to connect with other aspiring writers like me. I wanted to share my ideas and yearned for feedback on my write-ups. Among the other things happening in my life, I was also facing some challenges on the personal front, one after the other.

I reached a point where I felt needed a space where I could share my experiences without being judged. It resulted in me searching for women-only websites.

I love to engage my community members in sharing their story

After some rigorous search, I landed on SHEROES – an all women forum. The Love and Relationships community and Mala community for legal and counselling support, were my first acquaintances and I started posting little heartfelt write-ups about my real life experiences. A girl from the SHEROES team praised my writing and invited me to write regularly, but there wasn’t any community for writers.

“I thought of taking charge; I wanted to start a writing community.”

Clueless in my mission, a SHEROES mentor helped me get started. For the first time in my life, I created a powerpoint presentation depicting my community start-up ideas. Once that got approved I set out on my new journey.

On August 2, 2017 with the help of SHEROES team members, I started the Aspiring Writers’ Community. My past years of searching and browsing proved to be of great help and they were now my pillars of support in forming the community. Within two months, thousands of women joined the community and with each day, their number was increasing. Through the community, women with similar interests were coming together and sharing their journeys. I was getting close to the members on a personal level.

Testing Times

At the peak of things, I fell ill suddenly one night. By next month the doctors confirmed a malignancy. I was detected with a rare kind of cancer in my urinary bladder. My world suddenly stopped. To my limited knowledge cancer meant the end. My inward struggle began in accepting the bitter truth. I connected with old friends to say goodbye. Forgiving became easy and I forgave those who had hurt me in the past.

For the love of writing, our journey together in starting our own blogs

“In my illness, too, I continued writing, even if it was with a shaky mind.”

Personal emails poured in from compassionate Aspiring Writers community members.  They pumped in hope and assured me that all wasn’t over. Through the community members, I came to know about other cancer survivors.

For me, it was more than a community moderator’s job. It was a place where I derived strength and earned proof of my existence. Forgetting my illness, I restarted my life.

Today, I’ve come to terms with my illness and hope to get cancer-free within a year or two. I’ve grown with my community, and my struggles with cancer remind me that life is unplanned.

The Aspiring Writers community, my companion in worst days, proved what amazing transformations women can bring in each other’s lives. Maybe someday in future, published authors will look back at their old days in the Aspiring Writers community.

About Shiny Hoque:

I’m the Aspiring Writers’ Community Manager at SHEROES. I love to travel and connect with people. I’m an avid reader,  passionate writer and dream of having a small library of my own someday. I believe in the power of pen more than that of a sword and consider empathy powerful enough to bring change in this world.

SHEROES Communities for women are accessible via and the SHEROES app 


You must be to comment.
  1. Rekha Rani

    Shiny, you are one of the finest beings I’ve ever met… bold and beautiful in the face of life. Huge respect and an abundance of love and hugs.
    May your journey be filled with fulfilment. Bless you ?❤️

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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, 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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