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Dear HuffPost, Where’s The Actual Inside Story On The Suhana Vogue Cover?

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So, here’s an anecdote – let’s call it an inside story –  to start this article. A few years ago, a website posted a photo of Miss Suhana Khan wearing a bikini. The internet, as they say, ‘broke’. Within a few hours, the story took a life of its own. The photo itself was regular, but it was Shahrukh Khan’s daughter. A few days later, Mr Khan met the website’s owner at one of those exotic airports of the world and stopped him. I do not know whether his Delhi-boy tipped up or the Superstar in him did, but Mr. Khan told the website owner in no uncertain terms, “Write what you want about me. My daughter is a kid. She’s off limits.” That was the edict, the mandate or whatever the yuppie kids call it.

This was the anecdote, there is also a rumour. The rumour is that the timing of the posting of the bikini picture was such that SRK was safely in-flight as the photo made it way through the collective bandwidth of India. I have no reason to not believe this, but I cannot vouch for this being anything other than a rumour.

What happened later will give you an idea of why SRK is called the King Khan of Bollywood. The editor of the website, a veteran of several years, had to ask the owner of the website before any photo of any starlet was to be put up on the website. People who were around him could see it – here was a guy who had grizzled himself writing hard news. It was difficult enough to work on a masala Bollywood website, but to be kept on a short leash because of a damn photo that was just taken off a social network (believe me, I would have named the image sharing website if I remembered it, but all I know is that the photo was taken from a locked account) – was maybe the 900th paper cut – of the death by a 1000 paper cuts.

But what followed later was even more surprising. Not a single website ever put up anything about Suhana. The King had spoken, so what if he had done so in the middle of a queue to board or check-in? A year later, I was working with another website that was quite associated with Shah Rukh Khan. In my months of working with them and later, I never saw a Suhana photo or story there, at least not a controversial one.

So, that’s the inside story of how Shah Rukh Khan essentially stopped the media of an entire city from covering his daughter. There is a reason I am sharing this inside story because HuffPost has revealed an ‘inside story’ of how Vogue and the Suhana photoshoot happened. I have read the article so you don’t have to, but it essentially says this:

“We were as happy as Shah Rukh Khan to get Suhana on the cover.”

The article is full of insiders, sources who wish to remain unknown, but, yes it has a quote about someone not putting a gun to their head and all that. But what the article fails to tell is:

Why has Vogue got that girl on the cover? And the answer is plain in sight – there’s no reason that won’t infuriate an entire audience.

The problem is not that Shah Rukh Khan can outright pay to tell the world that his daughter likes a particular web series. The problem is that Shah Rukh Khan won’t need to. It’s angering. It gets to you after a while. As you spend months sending official, then courteous and finally e-mails that reek of desperation to actors, actresses other celebs to write a post about the work – the good work that they are doing – and this woman walks into the Vogue office for a cover shoot, it hurts you. To be fair, I have experienced the aforementioned editor brush off a good story about a smaller star to write a story that measures the temperature at the place where a bigger name is staying, so it’s not like he’s a safed-posh. The HuffPost article is an offshoot of this concept.

There’s blatant fluff about August being an age issue, marketing terms like organically, there’s also proof that the article has been multi-edited, who in the blazes uses a hyphen between good and enough? The article adds nothing to the story and instead acts as a platform for the unknown person at Vogue who’s proud of having the Vogue cover. More often than not, people are proud of what they do, when they aren’t, it makes news. It isn’t newsworthy to get an unnamed source from Vogue to say that they are proud of the Suhana cover – so what’s the point of the article? The article is so ambiguous that you cannot even hate-read it. So, I ask again, what’s the point of the article? Here, read for yourself:

Unless, of course, there’s someone dominating top down over at HuffPost who’s saying, “Write a 1,000-word article with Suhana as the keyword.” Is there?

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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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