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Nagalaxmi Finds Inspiration In Mitali Raj To Play Mixed-Gender Cricket

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Raised in a shelter home run by Karunalaya, a nonprofit organization working for the protection and development of street children, Nagalaxmi never let her circumstances come in the way of picking up the bat and ball to excel in the sport of cricket.

Being born in Madurai, Nagalaxmi’s mother abandoned her and her three siblings, leaving them with her grandmother, who in turn sent two of the girls to shelter home, keeping the boys under her care.

Ever since, the shelter home has been Nagalaxmi’s only home. Here is where she prepared to participate in the first Street Child World Cup held in England earlier this year. Being a part of Team South India, her consistency, practice, focus and rigorous training for almost a year made her an asset to the team.

Today, Nagalaxmi is proud to have the power of choice to make her own decisions, something she realised when she played a match in a mixed-gender team. She aspires to become a social worker and help children and people from her community to fulfil their rights and find an identity.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Leher: Tell us your name, what do you like doing in your free time?

Nagalaxmi: I am Nagalaxmi. I love playing football in my free time!

L: Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

N: I am so proud and happy to be winning the first ever Street Child World Cup. I never thought I would represent India and go this far; this is such a beautiful feeling.

L: Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

N: I was fascinated to meet people from different countries, cultures and have conversations with people from diverse backgrounds. The team from Tanzania was the best as they were extremely friendly. You know, everyone was nice to us.

L: Who is your favourite cricketer? Why? 

N: Mithali Raj! She plays so well and I can resonate with her journey, her struggle to be the best at her game. For me, she is at par with Virat Kohli and I look up to her because she followed her passion to become a cricketer. It is my dream to become a cricketer like her.

L: Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

N: Dhoni! I think he treats each player with respect and holds the team together. Our team captain too was just like him, he lead the team well and always supported us. Even our vice-captain was nice, he would never scold us, was patient and we learnt a lot from him.

L: Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

N: Sachin, for sure! He is like God! Bhumra is a better bowler!

L: Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

N: I do not have access to a TV to follow the World Cup this year…

L: What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

N: I will either become a cricketer or a social worker. I want to help people so that they get their rights and a platform to showcase their talent. If I become a social worker, I will be able to help children from the streets and communities. I hope more children like me get an opportunity to go to England and get the exposure I did.

L: If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who would you pick? 

N: My team will have a mix of my friends, male and female cricketers, retired cricketers and some talented cricketers who play in the league matches. Apart from me in the team, my friend Paulraj will also be on the team. I will have Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kholi, Dada (Saurav Ganguly), Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mani Kumar.

L: You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

N: Yes, I have only known about men and boys playing cricket. Playing in a mixed gender team made me realise that both men and women are equal. As a girl, I was given power and had full control over my decisions. It shows that both, men and women are equal. I was at par with all players including the boys and that made my performance better and it boosted my confidence.

L: Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

N: I do not have access to a TV to watch the match regularly… I do want to watch the Women’s World Cup, but I do not think I can watch it.

L: Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket? 

N: Everything was so good about playing the match! I never knew I was a good bowler. Even in the final match, I bowled well and we were able to win the match! One thing I learnt while playing cricket was to never give up and that anything can happen till the end of the game. Many people appreciated me because I won the Street Child World Cup Trophy. It developed confidence in me.

L: Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

N: I think cricket should be made compulsory in schools. In my school, there are many games available to us, but not cricket. If that happens, I will get time to practice and get better at my game…

L: How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

N: You know, more than me, my sister was happier to see me reach this far. I am proud to see her happy. I do not have parents and so, going to England, playing the match and winning the first ever Street Child World Cup was a big thing in my life. It also helped me get admission in college under the sports quota. Now, if I study well and get an even better education, it will help me go a long way in my life.

#PlayMatters is a micro-campaign by Leher, a child rights organization working to make child protection a shared responsibility. The aspiration of this campaign is to start conversations and draw collective understanding and action towards a child’s right to play. You can follow us on twitterinstagram and facebook to participate. 
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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.

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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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