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Protect Public Property? Who Cares!

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In February, an incident of Train 18 being pelted with stones during a trial run was reported. As I read this incident out loud at the breakfast table, my caretaker immediately responded, ‘this is the government’s fault’. ‘Our governance is good for nothing. Scammers…’ continued my driver. These are the people who form a very integral part of our everyday life. More so, they are a significant part of what is coined as ‘Indian masses’.

My driver needs to be reminded more than often to put his seat belt on. My caretaker almost always tries to sneak the plastic waste in the barren land behind my house. The neighbourhood, which is inhabited by the so-called elite crowd, finds it hard enough to segregate recyclable and non-recyclable waste. My friends refuse to keep a dustbin or waste collector in their cars because that will make their car look filthy and thus, they choose to dump everything on the road. Does this sound familiar to you? I am sure it does. Oh, wait. I often stop at the red light to see the flyovers covered with fantastic pieces of heartbreaks or love proposals and in worst case scenarios, abusive words.

With such everyday instances, our lack of civic sense begins to breed until one-day Patidar protests or protests for Baba Ram Rahim strengthen to make civic sense negligible. Our public places, heritage sites and monuments are gradually turning into narratives of our frustrations rather than symbolising our history. Who is to blame? Of course the government and the governance! We are guilt free. Aren’t we?

These faces choose to hide amidst a pool of people. They like to address themselves as a part of the mob because who wants to take the onus of the damage they do? It can be anyone. You or me. You spit, so I will choose to utter ‘India won’t change’ and I too, spit. Public accountability? What’s that? Lack of civic sense plays a pivotal role in lack of accountability and resorting to destruction of public properties.

Governance is an essential part of democracy. So is public accountability. We conveniently fail to do our bit, abide by our duties and willfully ignore to raise our voice against anything that hampers public decorum. Democracy is a two-way street. If you choose the people who govern you, you even choose to help them do their jobs. We reside in this nation and it is our moral duty to help it stand strong and better. “If you change nothing, nothing will change”, remember?

What good do we achieve from burning buses during protests to vandalising buildings, heritage sites or throwing stones on passing trains? Indian history is celebrated across the globe for its non-violent means of protest. Now, after more than seven decades of Indian independence and increasing technological advancements, why do we resort to such inhuman mechanisms?

Most of us are ignorant towards the cause and relationship of such mistreatment of public properties. Every time we resort to such ill-treatment, we flush a part of the taxes we pay for the betterment of this nation into the drain of backwardness. The resources which were meant to aid our betterment, instead, get trapped to rebuild what we already had/achieved. While on one hand, this is a waste of resources, on the other hand, it even leads to duplication of work and time. Perhaps, work and time which can be used for a lot of productive outcomes.

Lack of respect for public property is a significant cause of such acts. While we have our grievances which need to be heard, we surely have various means to be heard other than being violent. Burning a mode of public transport is now a standard procedure to register protest during bandhs, hartals, or political demonstrations. So, is the absence of fear among such demonstrators. Any act of mistreatment of public property is used as a pressure tactic more than anything else. Destruction of public property is seen as the impact and achievement of any agitation or political demonstration.

Till we choose to understand our responsibility, it is the time for the government to step up. After all, we like to be governed 24*7 and only when governed, we abide by something as primary as respecting our public properties. A report in The Hindu suggested, ‘these acts of arson attract the provisions of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984, a law enacted to curtail the growing menace of causing damage to public property. But the act is seldom enforced. Under Section 4 of the Act, punishment for causing damage to public property by fire can be imprisonment up to a maximum of 10 years. Due to non-enforcement, the statute has failed to achieve its objective.’

Further, the Supreme Court has stressed that damages should be recovered from the concerned party or whosoever is a participant in such acts. The 1984 Act also needs to be amended suitably to recover the damages from the perpetrators. In events where the demonstrations and act of mistreatment are suspected to be a part of any vested interest of political parties by promoting anti-social elements, the political party, group or the suspected organisation should be made liable to pay.

It is high time that we realise our responsibilities and duties towards our country without requiring any national tragedy to act as a reminder. This country deserves citizens who are self-aware and don’t depend on tragedies to unite for its betterment. That is the least that each one of us can do.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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