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After Invading Farms, Forests and Seas, We Are Now Aiming For The Skies!

It was a cloudy evening. The last of the day’s sunlight penetrated the grey dome above and bathed the day in a diffused yellow light. The atmosphere could not get more vintage than this and this was exactly my kind of atmosphere. As I walked along in a half delirium, I noticed that there were several other people in the surrounding houses gaping at the orange sky. Looked like I was not the only one whom the weather had bewitched. But who would have thought that a simple stroll down the lane could evoke something as scandalous as this piece of writing. 

Since I was aimlessly wandering around the streets, walking for once and not in my car or on my bike, several sights caught my eyes for the first time. Quite a shame, since I often prided myself as an observant person. I guess the apparent lack of automobiles supporting my behind had finally revealed the fact that I wasn’t as quiet and observant as I thought myself to be. This often tends to happen when we venture to take a walk, albeit the wires and the phones and the smartness of it all. When our eyes are free to wander to a higher level than that of the glaring slab of technology we wield in our palms, we notice things that have never demanded our attention before.

We see the colours of paint on the buildings, the lush greenery engulfing the houses (by which, of course, I mean the plethora of dilapidated pots scattered around each featuring withering flora and plant life in desperate need of hydration). Most importantly, what catches our attention in a rather physically unsettling manner is the sheer height of the buildings. Cue now, the instances where you have attempted to take in the entirety of a building and ended up with a sprained neck. I am no lawyer, but with my limited knowledge of our laws I do recollect a law that clearly prohibits buildings over four or five storeys from being constructed on a site of a particular dimension. In an extreme and somewhat twisted form of obedience, I spotted a six storey building standing tall on thirty by forty site. What amazed me further was the iron rods extending higher from the top of the building in hopes of further elongation! 

After all, we know that the earth’s surface is depleting. We know that all our religious heads are advising more offspring as the solution to all the evil problems that are haunting the world. We know that there is no hope for our blissfully ignorant future generations. So we do the most sane thing there is to do. We invade. We invade all possible nooks and corners. We invade farmlands, beaches and forests to an extent where elephants and blue whales are looking up at the sky and wishing for wings. And that is when we saw it too! The sky! Now we finally understand all those statements which proclaimed the sky to be boundless and space to be infinite. Its purpose being simple-real estate! 

Now there was just one thing that stood in our way, blocking vertical nirvana; the aforementioned law. But in our land, we have a panacea to cure all things illegal and this worked miracles for this little hiccough too. The good old bribe. A little hush money and it’s all sunshine and rainbows again, though they are not as visible as they were before through all those clothes hung out to dry on the terrace now.

Now that the law was out of way, we could move on to upgrade our houses. A profusion of locks, grills and sensors are the current must-haves in trend right now. This secure facility provides a sense of warmth and security against God knows what kinds of criminals roam the streets these days. This increasing insecurity may or may not be a result of paranoia about crooks out there who are obviously more conniving than us. Ergo, the people whom I mentioned earlier staring at the skies were actually individuals sheathed behind layers and layers of protective artillery. To a person on the other side, it would look like a highly secure facility restraining dangerous animals or deranged felons staring into space with their slack mouths. The concept of neighbourhood and its curtailing emotions of affection are long lost on the present society.

Our porches extend hallway onto the roads, the space between buildings are micro molecular. Our aerially gifted contemporaries are also finding it hard these days with window panes and cloth lines obstructing their migratory routes. Maybe our tryst with concrete will end when our attics collide with revolving satellites. With these random thoughts about spatial collisions, human annihilation and a likely apocalypse, I stepped into my own house, locked the gates and proceeded to make myself a cup of coffee. 

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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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