This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shrey Jaiz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Am Holding On, Are you?

You know, you are not alone in this. I too feel the same way, hopeless and unhappy all the time. When I think about happiness, nothing comes to my mind. I feel like I am becoming detached and disinterested in things or people. I am losing the urge to get up and pull myself together and get things done. I am losing myself day by day. I didn’t use to be the person that I have now become. I know I walked down on a different road but I feel like I left everything behind and there is nothing to look forward to now.

I feel like I do not deserve happiness, comfort, care, love or anything that can make my life simple. I have become comfortable with the pain, sufferings, loneliness, silence, or talking to myself or sometimes crying in a corner. When something good happens or is about to happen, I feel uncomfortable. I question that why is this even happening? I feel like this is not true, it’s an illusion and will disappear the second I touch it. I have not been at home for 14 months, and I don’t miss it, or maybe I do sometimes, I don’t know. I don’t feel like talking to them either. They are hurt because of me, but I am not able to do anything. Everything is out of my hands now.

I can feel all the emotions altogether yet I feel nothing. I feel hungry and full at the same time. I feel like no one can help me or nothing can cheer me up. This is what I have become, but still, I am fighting every day to live for one more day so that I can figure things out somehow.

I am too alone that I talk to myself whenever I want to vent out. I am not giving up. I still have the same dreams, guts and strength. Life may have left me, but I haven’t abandoned it. Life can take anything from me, but it can’t take away my dreams, guts and my will to prove that I’m not a victim. I am not entitled to drown and disappear in the irregularities of life, not until I make this country a better place to live and breath someday. I can’t vanish until I do my part, something that I have dreamt since my childhood.

The goodness within pushes me to fight the darkness that engulfs me because I’m aware that I’m responsible for my condition. Maybe I am a lost cause, or perhaps not, but I can’t figure this out if I give up. I am no different than you if you are reading this and finding yourself in my shoes. It happens to so many people, including me. You and I are not guilty. We are just the victims of the negative energy around us.

You must be wondering why am I telling you all this. I am sharing this with you to draw your attention to the importance of self-help. If you don’t help yourself now, you will end up here, where I am. And if you already are, then you are doomed as much as I am. In that case, you need to be more patient and strong because it’s going to take some time and a lot of guts to come out of such situations. Despite my efforts, I haven’t come out of my situation. Yet, I keep trying. I know there is a way out of this, and I’m taking baby steps towards it regardless of the uncertainties and obstacles on the road down to the “Okay world”.

They say we all should be happy, and that happiness is a choice, not a condition. But how can someone be happy if there is nothing to hold on to or be happy about? How can someone be happy if there is nothing to look forward to?

Everyone goes through this phase where we suffer an existential crisis and don’t know how did we get there. We question that why should we go on? So, maybe happiness is the choice but for those who have it around or have it within them. But few of us lack that spark in our heart that can make us smile. But it’s not like that we can never be happy. We can. But first, we have to break the layer of sadness and disappointments around us. We have to do something which we like or used to like. We have to do it correctly and at the earliest so that we can accomplish some small achievements.

We must figure out and do something that gives us a feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment. Once we do that, the layer of self-disappointment will start to melt, and we will begin to believe in ourselves again. Self-belief is something that can push us forward. This self-belief will open the door for self-motivation. So if your situation is similar to mine, then start melting the layer of disappointment and discouragement around you. Begin removing the negative energy around you. I have already mentioned above how to connect the dots and help yourself to come out of such situation.

It’s not your fault that you feel this emptiness and sadness around you. You are just another victim like several others. But you have to know that only you can help yourself. You have to analyse your situation rationally and try to connect the dots.

But finding those dots is not an easy task. If you think doing something may pull you out of all this, don’t hesitate to take that plunge. Don’t worry about hurting anyone with your decisions. Being stuck might already be hurting people who care about you. Maybe things could change for the better if you take that plunge.

Be patient if you are struggling to connect dots and analyse a pattern. There is always something which triggers the adverse outcomes in our life. You have to look for that trigger. You have to look where and how it all started or who caused it. Maybe you took things more seriously than required. Once you figure out these triggers, you have to focus on damage control and try to deal with those triggers more maturely.

Once you introspect for the causes of your pain and disappointments, I am sure you’ll be in a position to control and manage your situation.

You know life is like a rope, and you can only move forward or backwards. Sometimes what’s done can’t be undone. Many times we aren’t in complete control of what is to follow. Sometimes we lose something that can’t be regained. Loss can be of anything like time, energy, hard work, emotions, person, etc. But, we can focus on damage control.

Life is full of uncertainties. Anyone can fall at any point in life. But, you have to remember that while we fail and fall, nothing can keep us on the ground forever. We can stand up, whenever we are ready again.

Nobody can tell you what’s right for you right now until they know the full story. You can’t expect proper help unless you share your story.

I have a map that can direct me to come out of this situation. I will rise again because my dreams include me as well as everyone else around me, who need help. I don’t know if my words can help someone or not. But I am sure if anyone’s inner world is anywhere similar to mine then the road-map that I presented might help them manage their situations in a better way.

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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 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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