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Are Objects As Important As Humans?

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Let us accept the following as a prima facie maxim in the beginning: “Our reaction to others’ actions is rooted in our own insecurities.”

That way, you will not particularize the contents of any of my article strictly to your life. Remember that your life is a meaningless curve in the space-time of the universe floating along with seven and a half billion meaningless curves.

Once I wrote an article in which I had mentioned that hats come and go out of fashion. Which means, nothing in fashion stays. We all get it to a great extent. The article, I guess, was about materiality and its effect on us and the way we are not material enough by being too deeply entrenched in materiality—because we are unable to put sufficient sentimental value to materiality.

A pen, a cupboard, a little stone, or even a refrigerator can be something irreplaceable. And I guess I have begun to reiterate my thesis of that article, which was: materialism is that inclination, in which we do not respect the materials (and by a philosophical extension people) around us because every one of them is replaceable.

Let me extrapolate.

The hat episode was, of course, taken from an episode of “Modern Family” in which they provide a social commentary on the fleetingness of fashion. Suddenly a lot of people start wearing hats, and Cam comments, “When did the hats come back into fashion?”

It tickled something in me. And I asked myself: if hats were just a symbol of prestige, a fleeting signature of social status, we would discard it as soon as the fashion changes. And one particular example comes to me at once: an example of a pair of beds which a couple I know is not ready to dispense with at any cost, even when it is ancient and almost broken.

No, it is not their marriage bed. But is sex everything? NO. The bed stands for something else. It is a symbol of lonely hours the two spent with each other when they were trying to keep their children safe and living with each other in a strange city. The bed is not made of wood; it is made of memories.

Materiality is important because a solid object can stand for memories.

When I shifted to a new place, I could not get rid of a few things. Like for example a red plastic cup, a mattress, a grater. A plastic bowl, not leaving it behind which was sort of cheap, from the perspective of an outsider: “Why bro, why can’t you leave behind a five rupee plastic cup that actually came free with Maggi? And why can’t you leave behind a mere pressure cooker? Didn’t you use them to their fullest?”

In my opinion, if materials are a symbol of our status and we are ready to dispense with them as soon as we think we are ready for a new thing (we can afford a new thing), we are materialists. Such materialists, I tend to look down upon, not judging them of course, but I feel uncomfortable with them because, for them, everything (even people) is a source of pleasure.

Everything is just a tool, and everything can be replaced.

Materiality is important. Like a scrap of a bill of a restaurant, a girl picks up after a first date with a guy she loves. Like a gift, like a fridge, a wife and husband spend hours together to buy. Materials can and should hold emotional value to them. If they don’t, if they are just an outer extension of your wealth, if you are switching from iPhone 1 to 2 to 3, (telling yourself that the subsequent version is better) then it is very likely that you do the same thing with people. You can’t hold onto them.

We are not meant to be consumers; we are meant to be collectors. We are different from animals. A collector loves objects, he loves nice things, but he loves them for their usability, and find it hard to leave behind iPhone 3 to switch to iPhone 4 (because you really need better features).

Today’s consumerist attitude is making us more of animals and less of humans. We use and throw. Nothing means anything more than a source of pleasure for us, the fleeting pleasure which puts a lot of pressure on us. This is sad. It is converting us into waste-producing fuckers in a world where everything is replaceable.

Are you unable to part with a shell which you picked from ashore when you walked with your beloved for the first time? Then you still love her, and you are not a consumerist.

And you do things for “yourself” not to show others that you are happy. Life should not be a continuous painting of a dying face in which objects come and go like whiffs. Objects are as important as humans.

Are you unable to get rid of an old cathode ray TV because it is sacred to you? Congratulations. You are still a person. You do not spend your life running after new versions (slightly better) of the same thing. You are not a consumer.

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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.

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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.”

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, 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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