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The Onus Of Peaceful Co-Existence In Society Is On Us, Not The Govt.

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India is a composite country, where the people have come to historically celebrate harmony in heterogeneity. It is a country whose singular identity is that we can only talk about it in the plural. From the picturesque mountain ranges of the Himalayas to the exotic Andamans, the geographical spectrum of the country is like no other. Indian society takes pride in accommodating a wide array of cultural ethos, ethics as well as establishments. Such a society needs a strong mobilising force for constant leverage and is highly vulnerable to destabilisation. Given the unparalleled uniqueness of the Indian society, the elements which constitute our society need perpetual churning and continuous changes for the better. At such a crossroads, social reforms become indispensable for the healthy functioning of the society.

India is not alien to social reforms. Every time, societal norms and ritual operability have reached an ignominious nadir, India has felt the dire need for social reform. In this regard, mentioning the names of visionaries like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jyotirao Phule inter alia, is sine qua non. They were mavericks who showed the world that Indian society is, in no capacity, sacrosanct, and is subject to constant pro-human improvements.

In the 21st century, in an age of massive technological overhaul, India still faces critical issues which are at the heart of a throbbing society. For starters, the very notion of considering India as a monolithic and standardised entity is flawed beyond measure. India is a melting pot of differences, and a multitude of societal patterns stare us in the eye. Society in a remote village on the outskirts of Alappuzha is radically different from that in a bustling urban setting of the central business district of Mumbai. These individual societies have their own needs which not only need to be recognised but also need to be addressed and all their grievances redressed.

Sadly enough, we live in a time when a person’s caste still determines his capability, in some parts of the country, and colour prejudice is at a shameful high. The grotesque caste cauldron in of parts of North India is plaguing the societal ethos and is leading to unsolicited tussles between communities, thus disrupting the stability and balance which are so intrinsic to any progressive society. Seven decades after extricating ourselves from the vice-grip of the colonisers, it seems we are yet again yielding space to bigotry and perverse notions of division.

From asserting religious fervour to fueling the caste hierarchy, from hideously discriminating against women to not recognising the existence of the third gender, from Rohith Vemula to Nirbhaya, from Babri to Dadri ; it is unimaginable that such abominable incidents have taken place in India, a country which is setting global milestones in the start-up sector with Flipkart and Ola, alongside admirable advances in space technology. If all these information seems too heavy to digest, we could just contemplate how a country boasts of honing women athletes who have made us proud in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, as well as have an 8-year girl atrociously raped and murdered to send out vengeance signals to a particular community.

India is an absolute potpourri of social aberrations. The common people, who are the foremost constituents of any society, need to come forward to address these devious occurrences. The Mahatma had advocated for being the change we want to see in society. We have to bridge the gulf between personal and public, and break away from the aloofness analogous to the theatrical ‘Brechtian alienation’. Sensitisation, correction and progression are the only ways by which India can raise its head from the muck. Censorship is thriving, while amendment of regressive patterns is not. A country where Dalits get flogged by vigilantes, has no credit in joining the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, a country where people from the South are always prejudiced against because of their darker skin colour and general non-adherence to a standardized image of India, cannot claim to be inclusive and tolerant, a country where the microcosmic identity is fundamentally flawed cannot massage its macrocosmic identity and claim greatness.

Unless there is a radical overhaul in the minds of the people, ushering in genuine societal changes is impossible. The Government can facilitate non-discriminatory schemes like the MGNREGA and PMAY available for all and sundry, but is a society whose well-being is contingent on State intervention, even desirable? The onus of peaceful co-existence in society is undoubtedly on the people. Therefore, it is the people who have to assume a role of greater significance, rather than merely being passive receptors of tradition. Blatantly blaming the Government will yield no fruit, neither will dispassionate demonstrations for justice in college campuses; the pressing need of the hour is to become an active agent of change, to be inquisitive and sceptical about the society, to question the unquestioned, to raise voices so that the voiceless be heard, to ultimately evolve as a human being and let benevolence do the talking.

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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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