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In Memoriam: ‘Cokie’ Roberts, Trail-Blazing Journalist, Passes Away At 75

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Mary Roberts was (it hurts to say ‘was’) an American journalist and a best-selling author. She was famously known as ‘Cokie Roberts‘. She said that she got the name Cokie from her elder brother and it stayed with her. Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs (yes, this was her full name. However, it was still too short considering her greatness and knowledge) was born on December 27, 1943, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The reason why her elder brother Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. (an American lawyer who passed away on September 15, 2014, just three days prior to his birthday) called her ‘Cokie’ was because as a kid, he was unable to pronounce Corinne properly. Other members of her family were her father Hail Boggs, her mother Lindy Boggs, and her elder sister Barbara Boggs Sigmund, the Mayor of the Borough of Princeton, New Jersey who passed away on October 10, 1990.

Both of her parents served for decades as domestic members of the House of Representatives from the state of Louisiana. Cokie did her schooling from the Academy of the Sacred Heart which was an all-girls school in New Orleans, Louisiana. She graduated from the Stone Ridge School, Washington, DC in 1960, which was also an all-girls school. Roberts completed her degree in BA (Political Science) from Wellesley College in the year 1964.

WRC-TV in Washington, DC was her first place of work wherein she worked as the host of a weekly show ‘Meeting Of The Minds’, which talked about public affairs. After a few years, she moved to New York City with her husband and found herself working as a reporter for Cowles Communications. She changed a lot of jobs because she kept moving from place to place with her husband.

After working as a producer for WNEW-TV, she and her husband moved to Los Angeles, where she worked for Altman Productions and then for KNBC-TV. After that, they moved to Greece, where she worked as a stringer in Athens for CBS News. She was then the congressional correspondent for more than ten years at NPR. Furthermore, Roberts was also the co-host of ‘The Lawmakers’, which was a weekly program on Congress. She did this while working for NPR.

In 1988, Cokie was awarded the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting for her coverage of the Iran-Contra Affair. Roberts then worked for many other famous news companies such as ABC. In addition to being a journalist, Cokie was also a best-selling author. Cokie published seven books that talked about many political and social issues.

Cokie married Steven V. Roberts, also an American journalist, writer, and political commentator, in 1966. They met in the summer of 1962 when she was 18 and Steven was 19. The couple settled in Bethesda, Maryland and had two children. One of them is their daughter Rebecca Roberts, who is also an American Journalist and has co-hosted POTUS ‘08 on XM Radio.

Everything seemed to be going amazing for the family until Cokie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. Although she was treated successfully at that time, she passed away on September 17, 2019, due to complications caused by the disease. The world lost a great person who inspired a lot of people to work hard and be the best in their respective fields.

Many people were shocked and expressed their grief on social media. BBC posted a story on Cokie Roberts, which is very moving and inspirational. Nina Totenberg also posted on the official site of NPR, remembering Cokie Roberts, and expressing her grief over the legendary reporter’s passing. Moreover, even the president of the United States tweeted about the passing of Cokie Roberts. However, I won’t be sharing that tweet here because I want to keep this article respectful and positive.

The whole world is in shock after the passing of this amazing journalist and author. She will be missed and hopefully, her legacy will be carried forward by her daughter Rebecca Roberts. Remembering the inspirational personality, here is an immortal quote by her:

The truth is, the notion that gay marriage is harmful to marriage, is sort of mind-boggling because these are people trying to get married. But it seems to me if you want to defend marriage against something, defend it against divorce.

I have shared this quote because it perfectly reflects how amazing a person she was. This shows that she had her own voice and understanding of people’s needs and feelings, and this is the quality of a generous soul.

R.I.P. Cokie Robert. You will be missed!

Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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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 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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