This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Supriti Garg. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Undelivered Letter From My Teenage Years

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Dearest,

I don’t know how to address you. It’s been ages since we last spoke or saw each other. I am not sure if you remember me or not. Our paths never crossed after those couple of beautiful years spent in the class together. But today, after 17 years, I realize that I still cherish the little moments spent with you. You were possibly the best that could have happened to the 13-year-old me. The teens just kicked in and I had got into a new school because of dad’s transfer.

One look at you got my heart racing. For reasons unknown, I still remember all about the first day in the class. When Principal ma’am was introducing me to the new class, the first thing I noticed were those two strands of hair slipping over your forehead trying to get into your eyes, and you immediately pushed them to the right with fingers brushing into the hair. My heart paced faster when Principal ma’am suggested a seat close to yours.

Since then, every morning, my eyes kept looking for you. If I caught you standing at the corner of a corridor, my fingers quickly brushed the hair. My right leg instantly lifted up and slid behind the left one to wipe the toes of the shoes clean. And the left leg would follow the same, too, while my hands hastily adjusted the skirt.

When in class, my eyes fixated on you even while talking to my friends. But the moment our eyes met, I would nervously look here and there or straight onto the blackboard, if nothing else. In fact, the nervous me always avoided eye contact or any kind of confrontation with you.

But how long could I escape? A week later, I remember, it was Monday, the day of confrontation. Immediately after the math test, while everyone was busy discussing the answers and the class was noisy enough to be called a fish market, a boy approached me with your message. You wanted to meet me at break time. But why didn’t you tell me directly? Why was a messenger sent? With a hundred questions bombarding my mind, the loud discussions turned into murmurs and slowed down into a buzz. With my heart in my mouth, I waited for the lunch break. Taking baby steps towards you, I was still wondering if it was necessary to talk. If only our eyes could speak for us.

Knocking the door I said, “Ma’am please may I come in?”

“Come in, Supriti.” Still frozen to the core, entering the teacher’s room was no more than a nightmare for me!

Gathering courage I continued, “You wanted to meet me, ma’am??!”

“Yes. I see a major problem in your answer sheet. You have correctly solved all the difficult problems. But the easier ones? You have committed such silly mistakes. You need to practice more and not be overconfident.”

Since then, you kept hammering me to practice more and more. Principal ma’am had suggested a seat closer to yours because I was the weakest in math till then. Everybody believed that Math wasn’t my cup of tea, but you made sure that I start loving math. It is you who made me score a 100 in math. But alas! You weren’t around to celebrate that victory. Dad had been transferred again.

But you weaved magic in my life in just a couple of years. I owe my success in all the competitive exams to you. 17 years back I was always scared of evn talking to you, but today, I am trying to reach out to you. Just to say thank you. Thank you for all the scoldings, all the motivations and all the extra efforts you put in to transform the math hater in me to a math loving person. Today, when I sit back, I am not sure if I should address you as Ma’am, counselor, guru, idol or mentor. You have been all of that and much more. Thank you for being a constant support and I repent never having realized it while being with you. Back then, all I had was fear of you, but today, I just have gratitude and love packed in my heart waiting to find its way to you.

Yours,

Supriti

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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