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The Khalsa Aid Is Restoring Our Faith In Humanity In Kerala

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Tightly holding a plastic water bottle in her hand virtually on the verge of squeezing it, she was forced to interrupt the proceedings of the conference blatantly violating the decorum and norms of the proceeding. She shouted not as a delegate of a helpless NGO whose documentation remains doubtful in the world of authenticity, but as a human being who sought answers to the false claims of Humanitarian Intervention and Relief. She was sick of listening to the big powers debating on eventual control and not to save the world. She was gagged. Well, sipping coffee slowly she struck a conversation with a senior delegate. The talk smoothed out flourishing into a comfort level. Not being able to hold back her tears since she stormed out of the petty level of debate which was argued at an extremely insensitive level, she asked the delegate as to what can be the solution to the humanitarian crisis once and for all?

He stared deeply at her red face and after taking a couple of more minutes he finally answered, “Until you do not feel the pain suffered by that Syrian Kid who faces the vagary of war in the form of an endless brutal carnage, till then no use of shouting unnecessarily and claiming to be the saving grace of humanity.”

Someone had lit a bulb of intellectual seed in her brain as well as an emotional shrill permeating in the deepest layers of her heart. She took on a voyage to search for her answers and professed never to back down. From pillar to post, she examined the intellectual maps of BBC documentaries, books, interviews, newspapers trying to break concrete. After a lot of setbacks, she read a book on Sikh Gurus in the pursuit of finding some peace and solitude in a religious space. The author narrated an extremely progressive account of all the Sikh Gurus whose lives revolved around evolving social justice, humility, faith in God and humanity and elimination of any form of discrimination to any person irrespective of discrimination. The long period stretching from the time and teachings of Guru Nanak Dev ji till Guru Gobind Singh ji, the whole religion underwent circumstantial changes.

From undertaking the path of peace, kirat karo, naak japo and vand chakho, Sikhs gradually honed their identity under the aegis of the bravest saint soldier, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He gave the Sikhs a new identity with the Khalsa Panth. In order to be baptised under the Khalsa Panth, there are five external manifestations which are to be a part of one’s life forever. Over the years, the spirit of Khalsa Panth established itself as an indomitable spirit. Sikhs were more than ever fiercely protective about their identity and were living examples of doing good and punishing the evil doer apart from being exceptionally good military fighters. Like the Khalsa Panth which continues to function as a democratic institution, there was another practice among Sikhs which make them stand apart from the whole universe.

And that is the custom of Langar, started in the medieval history by one of the early Sikh Gurus, it soon took the form of a regular functioning of a community kitchen. Everything at the Langar centre used to be cooked fresh; people voluntarily came there to offer their services to feed the needy. Guru Sahib once refused a hefty sum of land and other fortunes by the then Emperor Akbar as he said the Custom of Langar is to be built brick by brick by all the followers, it does not need luxuries settings or money. All it needs is faith and recognising the whole human race as one. It never relied on the fortunes of the rich and privileged. It was a voluntary service undertaken by all willing to submit themselves to the service of mankind and will of God. It is an age-old and evergreen living testimony of the practice of humility where the rich and poor sit down together and eat together.

The recognition of the whole human race as one and the utmost faith in humanity based on the absolute negation of discrimination is deeply entrenched in the most selfless and fearless organization named Khalsa Aid. It is a perfect amalgamation in an etymological sense of two words Khalsa “the fearless spirit” and Aid “the langar and seva spirit”. With these two meanings, the message of Sikhism rises above any sort of communalism, religious bigotry, division, physical barriers and enmity. All these form the bedrock of Khalsa Aid.

Over the years Khalsa Aid has embarked on the path of selfless service on the lines of honesty imparted by Sikhism. Khalsa Aid responds to calls of urgency and humanitarian crises. It converts the dreams of alleviating hungriness and removing shaking faiths of people in humanity into reality. The founder of the NGO, Ravi Singh has been nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. Khalsa Aid has its reach all over the whole world. It has subsequently set up community schools, initiated efforts for clean drinking water in remote corners of Africa, provided meals in the most dangerous war zones. What astonishes me about Khalsa Aid is the earnest encouragement it gives to young volunteers to offer their services.

Floods have recently wreaked havoc in the state of Kerela wherein 800,000 people have been displaced, and over 350 people have died. The actual damage can only be assessed when the water recedes back. The roads are now not fit for driving, houses have been reduced to rubble, and people are risking their lives to save others. God’s Own country is truly facing the flurries of nature. Khalsa Aid has taken it upon itself to feed more than 10,000 people a day with hot and fresh cooked meals in the ravished areas of Kerala. It has carved a niche for itself in providing medical facilities to the affected people. Winning over the hearts of people not only in distress but it inspired a kid like me who mustered the courage to write about this organisation sitting far away from the conflict zone and wishing someday to bring a smile on the faces of people in need. In collaboration with the Gurudwara at Kochi, Khalsa Aid volunteers have set up their base. The pertinent point is how to manage the crowds who are hungry and haplessly in need of some relief. The credit goes to the deep sense of humanity and patience in all the volunteers who have kept the spirits in ‘chardi kala’ (a state of optimism) always.

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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.

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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