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This Mother’s Efforts Helped Her Autistic Twins Learn, Grow And Thrive

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Sudhanshu Grover is a 48-year-old mother of two, living in Ghaziabad. She has a Master’s degree in Biochemistry and has worked with a reputed pharmaceutical company in Baroda, the place where she grew up, and eventually got married.

Shortly after her marriage, Sudhanshu and her husband were elated to find that they were going to become parents of twins. In 1997, she gave birth to twin sons- Drishaan and Sunny. But, when they were about two years old, she noticed her younger son banging his head on a pillow, and crying incessantly- a behaviour that soon became a pattern. To compound her worries, the twins still hadn’t learned to talk. She brushed it aside initially, telling herself it would pass- that every child grows at their own pace. But on the day of their third birthday, the boys were diagnosed with autism, a disorder that she and her family had never heard about.

That night she cried herself to sleep. But as the sun rose the following day, she realised that she could not afford to be borne down by the weight of her heavy heart. Her sons needed her now more than ever, and she had to think how as a mother, she could give her sons the best life possible.

Driven by this resolve, Sudhanshu began looking for services for autistic children around Gujarat. She went door to door looking for help, but the city had close to no options for the care and support for differently-abled children. Determined not to give up, she went to Mumbai – the city where her children were first diagnosed. However, here too, her efforts were in vain.

Sudhanshu’s resilience and undying determination allowed her sons to live freely. Image via Getty

She finally came to Delhi, accompanied by her father and two young sons- where she had been referred to by an organisation that worked towards autistic children’s development. Within months of moving to the capital, Sudhanshu realised that going back to Baroda was not an option. The services and training her sons needed were only available in Delhi. As a parent, she realised how important it was for her to understand her sons and raise them without making them feel incomplete in any way. She joined a diploma course at Action for Autism in Delhi, the only organisation at that time that specifically addressed this topic.

With this clarity to guide her, Sudhanshu took one of the biggest decisions of her life- she quit her job at the pharmaceutical company in Baroda and moved to Delhi permanently with the hope that one day her children will not be seen as a liability to anybody. Her husband, who at the time was the sole breadwinner of the family was unable to accompany them.

Moving to a new city as a single mother came with its own unique set of challenges. Sudhanshu and her sons shifted into a small flat owned by her aunt an hour and a half away from the autism training centre. She bought herself a two-wheeler and took her sons to the training centre every morning- tying one with a dupatta to her back and the other in the front.

With the passage of time, her efforts were rewarded. Having spent a few years in the training centre, her elder son began to attend a regular school. Here, he learned to talk and aced his studies. He was particularly good at mathematics and physics and could solve problems that his classmates could not. Her younger son never developed speech, but he learned to communicate using his hands and objects and was mostly self-sufficient.

Today, Sudhanshu’s elder son is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Meerut, while her younger son is enrolled in a vocational training course in Action for Autism. Both boys love their mother dearly and support her work at home. After a few years of training with Action for Autism, Sudhanshu took up a job at the organisation. She works as the head of educational services today.

Sudhanshu’s resilience and undying determination allowed her sons to live freely. The city gave her and her husband hope and is a gift to their children. It gave them the support they needed to overcome what seemed insurmountable. For Sudhanshu, the provisions that Delhi has for differently-abled people, are responsible for giving her sons their independence.

In the eighteen years that she has spent in the city, she has seen changes in people’s attitude towards differently-abled people. According to her, people are more aware of autism today, thanks to the increase in support facilities and legislative reforms that have included autism under the Disability Rights Act, bringing it into the public eye. As the city grows, her dedication and motivation towards spreading autism awareness never waver.

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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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