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With Only A Cycle Rickshaw, This Man Set Off To Ladakh On A Mission To End Global Warming

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As told to Tirthankar Das:

I started my first journey in the year 1993. The incident that made me so strong happened at a picnic tour to Puri, Orissa, organised by our locality. They had charged Rs. 400 per person. Due to lack of money, I told the organiser that I would give half before leaving, and half after we return but they didn’t trust me and I was not able to go to Puri. Then I motivated myself to make my journey to Puri via my cousin’s bicycle. It took two days for me to reach.

When I returned home, local people started taunting me by saying things like “Go to Benaras”, “Go to Allahabad”, “Go and visit Taj Mahal“.

Sujit Banerjee, who stays next to my house told me to go to Darjeeling. And so I went to Darjeeling with only Rs. 650 in hand. It took me six days to reach. Sujit Da had told me that you have to speak in Hindi or English in North India or else no one will understand you, so I learnt Hindi.

I sold my old rickshaw for Rs. 3000 in the year 1994, on December 25, and I returned to my own city after three years, that is, on February 2, 1996. Officially, it took one year and eight months but as I started my journey that December, three years got counted on the tour. That time those areas were so peaceful; there were only 27 states; no Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, or Jharkhand.

Again, after returning to the city, I used to pull my rickshaw in the Netaji Nagar area. There I met Manik Sarkar who bought me a new rickshaw and helped my family by both mentally and economically.

In the year 2007, I went to Puri again, this time with my wife and my 2-year-old daughter, by rickshaw. In the year 2008, I visited Vaishno Devi, via Kolkata. I went to Benaras, Allahabad, Agra, Mathura, Vrindavan, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, the Wagah border, Himachal Pradesh, Kulu-Manali, and the Rohtang Pass.

I started my own Swacch Bharat Abhiyan even before PM Modi, when I returned from these travels. I told every villager in my area not to contaminate the road by making them into latrines!

In the city when I changed my rickshaw route to Naktala, I met Debasish Das, who had recently visited Ladakh, and told me to visit too. His words inspired me, and I started my journey again. That time, local club presidents and local peoples helped me a lot. They even decorated my rickshaw by spending Rs. 12,000. One of them even registered a postpaid SIM card for me, by showing his ID card at the dealer’s. It took two months for me to reach Ladakh in the year 2017. On this journey, my motto was to stop global warming. So I carried 5,000 date palm seeds along with me and kept on planting the seeds all my way to Ladakh. One day I will die, but those plants will remain immortal. They will give birth to other plants, and will keep on providing oxygen to Mother Nature.

During my return from Ladakh, I gave my rickshaw to Sonam Wangchuk’s school. Yes, the character that Amir Khan played in the movie “3 Idiots”. At least the visitors and students will see that if, with willpower, a rickshaw puller can visit Ladakh, then anyone can do anything.

We are proud that we have Satyen as our friend. We always support him, and will keep supporting him in the future also. He is a gem,” says Abdul Salam, a fellow rickshaw puller. “I am thinking of going to Lahore in the future, and I will name my tour the ‘Maitraye Jatra’. I already applied for documents, I have to wait for the confirmation from the Governments of both India and Pakistan.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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