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The Facade Of Normalcy Is A Battle With Her Emotions, Daily

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That feeling has become her friend. She likes it when it settles in her eyes making them heavy. Her brain starts shutting down and she can sense deep sleep caressing her senses. It’s a struggle for some time. She has to stare at the ceiling and pass her time looking at the outline of the fan and the creek of the window that reflects a different kind of lighting every night. When the curtains are pulled, she can see different shapes that the blowing wind gives to the silk curtain. If she listens carefully, she can hear the noises in the distant neighbourhood quite clearly. There is a constant noise of a child waking up from sleep and going back into it again. She has heard it so many times that now it has become familiar. She can hear out the occasional coughing of the men working adjacent to her room who stay back at night and light up a bidi after toiling all day at the construction site. Whenever she turned in bed, she could sense the creaking of the wood beneath her. These voices became very predictable at night. She missed them if they didn’t entertain her ears when she tried to sleep. Her mind finally found a way to not immerse in the thoughts that she easily avoided in the day by drowning her mind in work. She felt nights were still easier. She doesn’t have to speak, explain and utter words. It was difficult for her to frame sentences. It was tough for her to emote. Ironically, in her earlier days, she was a dancer, reader and debater. Words flew from her mouth and it was never a struggle to communicate. Lately, she has realized that it is easier to think but difficult to put her thoughts into words.

Her mind had clarity, but her actions and words did not. The toughest job for her was to prepare her mind and body to wake up the next day after her deep sleep. She was not lazy. It was her unwillingness to face the next morning, carry out the daily chores and drag her body to work that made her energy take a hit. The usual things made her drain out. It was tough for her to take the first glance of herself in the mirror. She would then closely look at herself and discover a new laugh line. She had a brown pea sized patch near her eyes on the nose, a sign of wearing spectacles continuously. Those pair of glasses protected her from making an effort to make her eyes look wide open. Her eyelids were always heavy. She kind of liked it. She would swoop in a little vaseline on them and the lids would shine, making her eyes look pretty. Her face had changed over time. She liked how the corner of her eyes had faint linings and the corner of her lips always remained pink. She liked her hair but she preferred keeping them in a bun, neatly tied up so that she could see her full face. She hadn’t waxed her arms in a while. She disliked the pain and avoided every possible situation to wax them. She had lost the will to dress up. Putting on clothes was the maximum she could do to step out. Her body went through some changes that she was fully aware of.

Her cheeks remained warm while her hands would freeze. Sometimes she could feel the nerves bursting in her brain and it would put her in immense pain. It would feel like a deep prick in different parts of her head each time. It would send a strange pain down her neck and her body would become too heavy to function. Each night when she would lie down while staring at the ceiling, she could feel her throat choke, but that would settle once the familiar noises started. She longed for something familiar each night even if that familiar was something she had never seen or felt. Amidst all this, herself-awareness was at its peak. She knew she was getting into the circle of feeling out of energy, heavy and unenthusiastic. Strangely, she was able to deceive people by simplifying the feeling into a headache, because the signs were similar. She feared her thoughts. More than that, she feared her words. They actually felt a lot different from what she was actually thinking.

It is strange how she managed to cope with the day and look normal. Of course, she looked normal. Any person who has had no chance to speak or emote has the ability to look normal. She would eat, sleep and function normally. Her brain was surely getting shut to the happenings around her but she was conscious of her own self. It was dangerous to know her feelings so precisely. She left no room for uncertainty for herself. The feeling of her lone self in the battle with depression seemed tough in the day but nights gave her the courage to accept her state of mind. Nights gave her a sense of acceptance and newer ideas to get engulfed in it deeply. Nights gave her peace and nights also put her at rest. Both physically and mentally.

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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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