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It’s Heartbreaking To See What’s Become Of Delhi, The City I Grew Up In

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I was in love with Delhi. My heart aches as I use the phrase in the past tense. Delhi is the city I was born in, the city that introduced me to a plethora of outdoor games, the city I got educated in and the city that gave me my livelihood. I remember that up to a few years ago if anyone said anything against “my city” I would get offended and fight for it. But can I, anymore?

No! I am ashamed of you, Delhi. I am ashamed of your people and most of all; I am ashamed of the political parties. I am infuriated at what you have become. As if to be titled the ‘rape capital’ of the country was not enough humiliation that you had to become the most polluted city in the world as well.

Politics Of Environment

The man in power in Delhi is not the head of the state—because the constitution does not allow him to be. When he confronts the states from where the pollution originates, he is advised to fund the farmers of Haryana and Punjab so that they have access to effective machinery and won’t have to burn the stubble. You see, the Chief Minister of Delhi should pay the states of Haryana and Punjab because his state is being affected the most. What sort of logic is this?

I am not saying he is doing the best to deal with the situation, but before I get attacked by the supporters of the opposition party, let me say that at least he is trying. The odd-even rule is a step towards it. But more stringent steps are required. I, as a woman, do not want an exemption in the odd-even rule, because I believe in equality. The rule also needs to be applied to two-wheelers; otherwise, the entire scheme loses its essence. Also, why can’t we ration the licensing of number plates, as Beijing did? Why is there not a stricter ban on old and junk vehicles?

Stubble burning brings the issue of pollution into the limelight, as the AQI hits the hazardous category on the scale. But even otherwise, the Delhi’s air is not safe.

The Delhi President of an opposition party promises that they will make Delhi pollution-free in two years if they get in power. Why wait for being in power, why wait for more black lungs and more lives to be lost? Why can’t they save the lives of the people who got their government to rule the country? Oh, and that reminds me, where is the central government in all this? Why is everything based on vote bank in our country, why can’t all of them come together for once, without any blame game and resolve this mammoth of an issue?

Now that the case of a ‘rightful claimant’ to a religious property has been resolved, could the focus and energies be shifted towards the most ignored ‘burning’ issue? We live in a country where temples and mosques, the non-living structures and religious sentiments of humans are more important than the humans themselves!

A Call To The People Of Delhi

The people of Delhi share the responsibility as well. People who continue to drive age-old vehicles even when they realise its poisonous impact on the environment, the ones who burnt crackers while the environment is already dying—it’s as if they do not care about protecting mother nature for the future generations. People even refuse to wear anti-pollution face masks. Reports claiming that we have lost seven years of our lives are not lying. We need to wake up and take precautions, at least do what is in our hands.

I cannot imagine the thought of bearing a child here. How will I ever hold fingers of my little one and stroll through the parks I used to spend hours playing in or pass through the roads and raise my fingers and say, “look, I was born here”, “look, I used to stay here”, “look, that is my school”?

Wake up Delhi, our lungs are dying;

Wake up Delhi, our children are whining;

Wake up Delhi, fresh air is our right;

Wake up Delhi, we deserve a clear sight.

Wake up Delhi, our leaders are in slumber;

Wake up Delhi, channelize that anger;

Wake up Delhi, worry about your future!

Wake up Delhi, new lives we need to nurture…

PS: Stubble burning brings the issue of pollution into the limelight, as the AQI hits the hazardous category on the scale. But even otherwise, Delhi’s air is not safe.

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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.

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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 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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