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Social Distancing, Isolation And Self-Quarantine Are Not Interchangeable Practices

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

With the pandemic situation of coronavirus, people are worried about being vulnerable to inviting the novel virus COVID-19. There are three phases of disease transmission that were recognised before it was declared a pandemic. Firstly, transmission from those coming from another infected country; secondly, localised transmission, and thirdly, community transmission. As per the ICMR updates, India has not shown evidence for third phase.

The reason for the slow progression of the virus in India attributes to low testing. The ICMR stated that there’s a lack of proper precautionary measures, and the Indian healthcare industry still requires 7.7 million kits to conduct proper testing. Meanwhile, experts have recommended behavioural practices such as self-quarantining and social distancing oneself for at least 2-14 days. For a society with a vast cultural pattern, it becomes quite a challenge to consider the technicalities of ‘social distancing’ as a concept and put it into practice. Let us understand what it means, how it can be practised, debunk a few myths, unearth the facts, and critically assess the usage of correct terminology.

The impression is that in public places, one can never recognise a carrier/infected by their physical symptoms. Therefore, the intention remains to limit the chances of getting in contact with the virus, which could even be sitting on the person next to you. Any person who might be symptomatic or infected has to be kept at bay, especially from the most vulnerable population, including the elderly, pregnant women, young children or those living with chronic illnesses. The WHO identifies this distance as one metre, while the CDC has set the minimal measure of ‘distancing’ as two metres. The MoHFW refers to social distancing as non-pharmaceutical infection prevention and control intervention against the same.

The term ‘social distancing’ is frequently used interchangeably with self-quarantining or isolating, but they are technically very different. It is different from quarantine, which restricts the movement of only those who have been exposed to a contagious environment, in order to confirm the presence or absence of symptoms, while maintaining distance from others as a precautionary step.

In the case of isolation, the infected individuals are kept away from the non-infected ones. The three processes would happen simultaneously, but the point of reference varies. Social distancing, in comparison to quarantine or isolation, is a slow process, and apparently take weeks. Expecting an immediate dramatic effect is definitely a false apprehension. Therefore, the casual attitude of the millennials that COVID-19 won’t affect them is a total myth. In no time, we could reach phase three, and this attitude will bear us consequences. Thus, it is advisable to cover your face and sanitise oneself frequently, for the sake of self and for others.

Considering that under social distancing, extermination of human interactions is off beam, the general practice should be physically distancing oneself, while maintaining a desirable distance with proper measures in place. Physical distancing is supposed to be distinct from emotional detachment as, for a longer duration of self-quarantine, or isolation, and keeping oneself at distance from everyone can have severe consequences on one’s psychological well-being. Absolute isolation has no alternative. The infected elderly have to see off their families from their isolation wards, which could also be their deathbed in some cases, and nothing could be more heart wrenching than to hear the stories about them.

The imposition of fine stands wrong in the path of the socially vulnerable sections, who might have lost their livelihood, their families or homes, during the course of protests over the past few months.

The BBC news channel reported that currently there is no effective vaccine, drug, or therapy available. Thus, social distancing has to be practised for ‘at least half a year’. Globally, social gatherings such as public transportation, university gathering (seminars, conferences, workshops etc.), sports events and others stand cancelled or postponed.

As witnessed, the pandemic situation is giving us a good opportunity to call for our routine habits, use sanitisers, cover our face, not sneeze overtly, and revisit our childhood lessons in physical education class. Currently, a few tactics to deal with this pandemic situation are being passed on from ear to ear, so forth the myths, and hence the panic. One should be very careful in following a proper reference protocol and not fall prey to fabrication.

It is advisable to follow government notifications, rather than social media. The recently observed ‘janta curfew’ on 22nd March 2020 and the nationwide lockdown were brought in a similar light, parallel to prohibitions on large gatherings being practised globally. The imposition of fine stands wrong in the path of the socially vulnerable sections, who might have lost their livelihood, their families or homes, during the course of protests over the past few months. Moreover, this distancing should come from within as a concern, and not as a dutiful restriction or millennial attitude.

On 28th March, the WHO posted a fact check update, asserting that coronavirus is not airborne. Instead, it is spread from an infected to a healthy person if they are in close proximity. Thus, measures need to be taken to cover oneself while sneezing or coughing to avoid any means of spread. This is done through physical distancing, as mentioned above, adhering to social obedience, social respect and showing social solidarity towards those infected from a distance, without losing on emotional support.

Let us join our own hands, practise physical distancing, stand together (at a metre distance) in the struggle, fully equipped, and fight against this pandemic. Social media is flooded with memes on working from home, but let us practise social distancing, amalgamating physical distancing and social solidarity as a respectful reply to those struggling with their lives alone. This generation is witnessing a historical episode, and we should strive to serve for a better future.

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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, 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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