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Photography, The Free Gift To The World

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The freedom movement of India or the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center or the deceased body of a Syrian refugee kid lying on a sea beach, the unearthing of the mighty Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from a bunker or the unfurling of Tiranga by the brave Indian soldiers on the hilly terrains of Kargil celebrating the victory. Every heartening or heart-wrenching incident we recall, a picture comes to our mind immediately. This is because a picture is worth a thousand words.

The picturesque mountains of the Himalaya or the beautiful migratory birds of the Chilika Lake, the roaring lions of Africa or the Olive Ridley turtles on the banks of the Rushikulya river, the Statue of Liberty or the magnificent Sun temple of Konark, all these bring a series of images to our mind. Our brain is designed and programmed in such a way that whatever we remember is only in the form of an image.

The text, the verse, and the numerical, everything create their own images in the mind. Experts who work for developing the memory of a person do certain practices where every single input is linked with an image. Children in the formative years are taught with pictorial aid – this helps in developing their imagination and retention power. As long as the brain functions, we remember most of the images.

Konark Sun Temple

The person who first thought of capturing images physically needs all appreciation. These images can be stored for years together and each of these tell their own story. Yes, this is the beginning of photography. No doubt that from the time immemorial man has tried the best to capture myriad moods in the form of cave paintings, art, and posters. But everything was just an attempt to make the image a real one, hundred percent similar to the original. Modern photography made it possible to make images real.

Each image is a story in itself. It narrates silently yet effectively the underlying scenario. A perfect photograph not necessarily need an explicit explanation. For example, a photograph of a pigeon quenching the thirst from a tap of water is sufficient to indicate the scorching heat and rising mercury in the nearby area.

Everyday, billions of photographs are captured throughout the world. Smartphones with high quality cameras are easily affordable and available, courtesy the advancement of science and technology. Everyone is a photographer. Each one of us wants to capture time in all possible ways. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram made it easy to share these photographs with the world. People, irrespective of their profession, have a passion for photography. There are multiple websites which provide tips and tricks of photography. YouTube contains plenty of videos that will help a novice shutterbug to hone his/her photography skills. Thanks to technology, the complexity involved in clicking a photograph and developing it in the initial days is no more in scope.

August 19 is celebrated as the World Photography Day. Photographers from across the world share their ideas, thoughts, perceptions and of course photographs with others. This encourages people from different cultures, traditions and geography to come under one umbrella and ideate, opine and gain acceptance. The photography concept came to existence with the invention of Daguerreotype photographic process. It was invented by the Frenchmen Louis Daguerre and Joseph Nicephore Niepce in the year 1837. Long ago, on January 9, 1839 the French Academy of Science announced the Daguerreotype process and later the French Government purchased the patent on August 19 same year. The then French Prime Minister Francois Arago announced that “This is a free gift to the world”. Today that free gift has become a part and parcel of everyone.

Photography is the best tool for documentation and storytelling. The action, emotion everything becomes immortal when captured in the form of a photograph. Still photography, in later stages, developed to motion picture. The basic unit of the motion picture or video is the still one. When a series of photographs are captured and played in a speed of 25 pictures per second, that creates the illusion of motion. Be it Hollywood, Bollywood or any other film industry, photo journalism, television channels, video production, all could not have been possible without the invention of photography. So ultimately, the picture or the photograph made all these things possible. Picture plays the role of educating, entertaining and informing people. It captures time and makes and preserves history for the future. Let there be new inventions in the field of photography. Let it narrate the story of every life.

(Written on the occasion of world photography day)

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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.

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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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