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

Why I Started A Campaign To Spread Awareness About Animal Cruelty

What would you do if you saw a person physically abusing a child? Would you raise your voice? Or would you walk away?. If you believe in the idea of rights, then you would speak up against the act of injustice and cruelty, wouldn’t you? Then why do we become so ignorant when the same plea or request for justice comes from a non-human being? Why do we deprive animals of their fundamental rights?

Voiceless India is a campaign that I started in 2016 to raise a voice for the Voiceless and work for the environment! When I was in Class 9, I began volunteering at an animal shelter in Delhi, called Friendicoes, with the idea of just utilising my time to help the helpless animals. My time at Friendicoes opened me to the brutalities that animals were facing on a daily basis, and just some of them, who were fortunate, made it to the shelter. A shelter is no place for a healthy animal, but unfortunately we leave no choice for them. On every Saturday or Sunday, I used to visit Friendicoes to take the dogs for a walk. It was disheartening to see that dogs who would just shower me with love and affection on my weekly visits, had been abandoned or ill-treated by someone somewhere. Some were perfectly healthy but no longer wanted by their parents, while many were survivors of horrific acts of brutality. Keeping myself in their place, I used to just be in a state of disbelief as to how they could still be so spirited and continue to love humans.

Later, as I continued volunteering at Friendicoes, I began to hear, daily, about the culling of stray dogs in the state of Kerala calling the dogs a ‘menace’. In the articles that spoke against the dogs, the writers mentioned ‘individual’ instances of dog bites while completely ignoring the thousands of dogs who were abused or killed by humans. I even saw a video of teenage children tying firecrackers to a dog’s tail while the dog wagged his tail, unaware of the consequences. However, I never saw an article of that particular news ever in any newspaper (at least the national ones). This was when I initiated an online petition on change.org addressed to Kerala authorities and the central government to ban the culling of stray dogs in the state of Kerala. In a matter of no time, I saw several petitions on the same topic sprout onto the web demanding rights for these non-human beings. It really struck me hard that how can a ‘government’ of a state that claims the highest literacy rate in India is so ignorant of solutions like sterilisation, to control the dog population.

Within a few months, I organised a cleanliness drive in Gejha Village, Noida, along with an enthusiastic group of friends from my school. The drive saw a participation of more than 180 students from schools across Delhi NCR including Genesis Global, Step By Step, Delhi Public School Ghaziabad and Noida, and Dr Ruhi’s Foundation. I was overwhelmed by the response and was grateful to my parents, relatives and friends for funding the drive and supporting me. After the cleanliness drive, many of my friends hopped in the Voiceless India roller-coaster, and we continued to organize Fundraisers for Friendicoes, spread awareness in my school on World Animal Day, wrote letters to the Prime Minister including an open letter that was published in the School Live magazine and many more initiatives including the Voiceless India Workshops.

The Voiceless India Workshops are a medium to spread awareness among the school-going youth and are an amalgamation of various animal cruelty issues such as animals in entertainment, stray animals, abandoned animals, animal shelters, animal testing and veganism (which we introduced recently). We have conducted these workshops at several schools to sensitise the children and make them aware of issues which otherwise they may never come across. We try to make them aware of the sentence of a chicken on their plates, the motherly love of a dairy cow who’s child is torn away from her at the time of birth if he is ‘unfortunately’ male, the agony of a rabbit who has never been let outside the box-like cage of a laboratory and is forced to feel burning sensations when chemicals are poured on him, or the struggle of a dog who battles on the streets each day just to survive another.

As we started with the workshops, it used to be challenging to get permission to conduct them at schools, but with consistent efforts, we are overjoyed that schools have become much more open to the changing surroundings and feel the need for children to be sensitive toward all sentient beings, whether human or not. It is important for sensitivity to be inculcated in children from a very tender age, so they are moulded into responsible, caring and compassionate human beings.

Later in the founding year of Voiceless India, we organised a plantation drive at an animal shelter in Noida to plant a few trees for the animals to take shade during the peak summers of North India. With the support of 40 or so volunteers, we were able to plant around 100 saplings of several varieties, that we had procured from WWF India, which grew up to become tall trees.

After a successful finish to the plantation, we endeavoured to organise a Workshop Month at an underprivileged school in Noida called Diamond Valley, which provided education to children of Gejha Village. During the Workshop Month, we decided to do workshops on every Saturday of the month on two topics – animal welfare and environmental sustainability. During the workshops, the children learnt about the journey of a packet of chips from the manufacturer to the garbage dump, we focused on the importance of recycling, reducing, reusing, refusing and re-purposing, and conducted various activities such as recycling old tyres to make seats after painting them etc.

Following the Workshop Month, we decided to organize a few sterilisation drives in Noida to control the dog population so that less and fewer puppies have to die under cars or fewer dogs have to famish to death. With the help of Friendicoes, we were successful in sterilising 43 dogs and strive to collect more funds for continuing it.

While browsing through social media, I came across an article about a few people who had begun a fairly unique initiative, which was to collar stray dogs with reflective collars. These would glow when a car would flash its headlights on them enabling the driver to see the dog during night time. I decided that we should also conduct a similar reflective collaring drive in Noida which we began in March this year (2018) and have been able to collar approximately 40 dogs in these months across Noida and Ghaziabad.

Generally, we do not realize that our actions at each moment of our lives, whether it is consuming a coffee with milk in it, wearing a leather coat, housing a pair of birds in a cage or wearing a woven sweater, each has an impact on non-human animals that are beyond our realisation.

A glass of milk might seem like a non-violent or cruelty-free drink. However, it is not. For cows to produce that milk, they are forcefully impregnated every year; their calf is torn away from them so that they don’t drink up the milk which was solely meant for the calf, just so that we can steal it away from them. When the cows are no longer able to bear the physical and emotional trauma of being abused every year and are unable to produce adequate quantities of milk as a consequence, they are sent to the leather tanneries for being skinned, sometimes skinned alive, for our ‘pure’ leather jackets. The pain of your skin being pulled out of your body is unimaginable. The pain of seeing your own kind being killed right in front of you and you standing in their blood is miserable. The pain of helplessness when your friend is being killed alive is even relentless, and finally, the thought of your own death is terrifying. The cows who could have lived with their calves for around 30 years naturally are killed before their tenth birthday. Those who are not sent to the leather tanneries for their brutal deaths are abandoned on the road where they meet with accidents or starve to death.

Animals do have a language, but we are incapable of understanding it, they do try to express their pain, but we are uninterested in listening to them, they do cry for help, but we disregard their cries, and yet we call ourselves human? I think it is time; we question what being human really means. I, personally, believe strongly that humanity does not give us a sense of superiority, rather it gives us a responsibility.

Just while I work on this write-up, I am on the last chapter of a book that I am reading called- “A Dog’s Purpose”, that gives you an insight into the pure and uninhibited emotions of a dog, who is reincarnated into a variety of lives, just to find the sole purpose of his life, which is…..well, I wouldn’t spoil the suspense and would recommend it.

It is not a bad idea to grow your knowledge through the plethora of online content available on veganism. There are several short documentaries on YouTube that will give you an insight into the animal industries, and you might want to know what REALLY happens!

Watch –  “Gods In Shackles”, “Cowspiracy: The Sustainable Secret”, “Unholy Cattle of India”, Earthlings, PETA videos on various animal cruelty issues.

If you would like to reach out to us for a workshop in Delhi NCR or Bangalore, you can email us at voicelessindia@gmail.com, message us on the Facebook page- www.facebook.com/voicelessindia or message us on the Instagram page- www.instagram.com/voicelessindia.

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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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