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#CycloneFani: The Unquiet After The Storm

Imagine the wind blowing at a speed of to 200 kmph, strong enough to uproot trees and rip through huts like a pack of cards. You are amidst this misery when a huge 13 feet monstrous wall of water gushes from shore gulping everything it could. Now we are in a better place to understand the plight of 1.2 million people who have been displaced from their houses, separated from friends and relatives and have no clue of what tomorrow holds in store for them. Fani is the worst cyclone hit in India in the last 2 decades. It locally translates to hood of the snake. The cyclone battered Bhubaneshwar, Puri and other coastal areas of Odisha on May 3.

After the disastrous cyclone in 1999, which caused massive destruction and loss of life, the Indian Meteorological Department tracked down the storm and issued numerous yellow warnings for most of the southeastern part of India when the cyclone started to intensify. But what couldn’t be controlled was the destruction of numerous capital resources causing a major shortage of the necessities of survival. The Odisha government on Wednesday submitted a preliminary report, which estimated damages worth Rs 11,942 crore.

While disaster affects both rich or poor, the effect on poor people is more. Displaced populations, health risks, destroyed infrastructure, food scarcity, and emotional aftershocks affect the poor way more than the rich. The recovery is easier for the rich as compared to the poor whose ‘Katcha makkans’ were the first things to be blown off. So far 1,89,095 houses have been damaged in Puri. Structures of temporary street vendors have also been completely damaged.

As on date, the Fani death toll has reached 64 with Puri being the worst hit. 160 people injured and admitted to hospital for treatment. Not just this, communications are greatly disrupted. There are uprooted trees on the road, destroyed infrastructure, and large-scale concrete mess. Among the first things to go off was electricity. As many as 75 towers have been uprooted by the high velocity winds in Puri district alone and a huge investment is required to make them operational.

With lakhs of electricity poles uprooted across the state, major sections of the population in the cyclone-ravaged Odisha continue to reel under the intense heat wave with limited electricity even 2 weeks after Cyclone Fani. Another section of society that faces extreme situations is women.

Apart from other problems, one major problem for women is sanitation. Smile Foundation volunteers who were working on the field found that with no access to clean water and sanitary pads, women are at a higher risk of infection in Odisha’s cyclone-affected communities. During its ongoing relief distribution and needs assessment visits, Smile Foundation’s Disaster Response Team heard this across villages. A group of women in Puri District said that they have been using dirty water for hygiene purposes. The only shop near the village of Hansapada that provided sanitary pads and soap collapsed during the cyclone. The other closest option is 7 kilometres away. A community toilet that the women used was also destroyed, forcing them to open areas in the dark at night or early before the sunrise.

According to government data, livestock casualties are over 34 lakhs and over one crore sixty-five lakh people were adversely affected by Cyclone Fani in the state. A story posted by Smile Foundation on the loss of livelihood talks about a family of 6 surviving on pensions and meagre income having everything wiped out in front of their eyes. Smile team helped them with necessities and helped them build their moral back. The Odisha government announced Rs.1600 crore packages for livelihood support for farmers, fishermen and others affected by Cyclone Fani. The government is providing about 50kgs of rice and about 2000-2500 rupees to everyone but there is a lot that is still needed to be done.

It’s evident that the cyclone has hit not just Odisha but the country very hard. The need of the hour is to build back better. The roads are blocked by uprooted trees and blown off roofs. Rehabilitation of the displaced would be an important step. The dispatched people need to resume their normal life but most would come back to broken shelters and destroyed livelihood, we need to support them to build back better.

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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, 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.

Bidisha was selected in’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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