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During Times Like This, Remember To Be Kind To Each Other

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A new year is reserved for new possibilities. A perception of the times ahead; a hope for things to get better than the bygone year. A crude understanding of one as an individual and how one can modify oneself, solely based on the same circumstances in a mortal created fresher time. The emotions are profoundly high during this time and you are at the peak of your self-awareness. In order to compensate this feeling, you are drawn on making resolutions, which in all fairness have little to no effect. As time gets to its mundane self, nonetheless, it has to be done, otherwise, how are we to survive with all our insecurities lurking around? Like any new decade, the usual milestone celebration and all the expectations for the coming year were traditionally apparent.

2020 started like any other, with the regretful amount of alcohol flowed by a little more the next day, just to balance things out. While the entire country’s foundations were being tested, so were mine. I was surprised by how ironic life can get and how painful it can taste.  I had never seen it coming and I took it on the chin. I had my days, I got blocked out of ten-year relation, which to be fair, I had also contributed towards the outcome. It was a rough break emotionally, something that was so alien that made me question my integrity and my outlook on life. These were some of the hardest months I had spent under the blanket, also some of the most profound moments ever. The more I mourned about it the more it made me realise how selfish and self-centred it made me feel. I snapped out of it and got back on the saddle, but that did not take long.

I crashed on my mountain bike, dislocating my left shoulder. It was my first day out on a bike, after completely recovering from a serious injury that I received from a mountain biking related activity in September. To add insult to the injury, it was a beautiful bike that I had got from Italy, which I wouldn’t be able to touch for another 2 to 3 months.  The pain from the crash was more bearable than the emotional trauma. I was once again the victim of my fate and pitifully under the weather. But within a few days, it only enriched my understanding of how the time is getting testy and may be one of many more to come. It isn’t the easiest, but also not the hardest. You tend to laugh the loudest for the silliest things and you get used to it.

A hard process that I am still undergoing but certainly in the progress of coming out of it much stronger. As I selfishly felt sorry about my self, I couldn’t help but think of the real suffering that was plagued all over the world and my friend who was going through much worse.

I just needed a big distraction to get out of it and no sooner it was everywhere.  New Delhi was on the brink of going the Gujarat way, but fortunately or unfortunately there was something more pressing that finally made its way towards India.
COVID 19, the Coronavirus that was declared as a global pandemic and the media made sure that everyone was scared enough to pay attention to it.

Ladakh was no different, it was one of the first states to report a positive case of the virus and left everyone on the edge.
There were two confirmed cases reported, who had contracted the disease during their pilgrimage to Iran and people from my immediate family were getting a little unpleasant and disturbing in the matter. It had sparked newfound hate towards them and had potential ingredients of evolving into a communal catastrophe, which was a very sad and insignificant thing to even bother about, especially during times like this.

COVID-19 is just the start of something that could potentially wipe out half of the global population and as history would suggest, a similar pandemic has managed to be one of the deadliest that humanity has ever seen. It is in these times that the human spirit should shine the brightest, it is in times like these that the ordinary should become extraordinary because it is a test of times, where humanity should rise above everything. Everything sounds a cliche now unless it becomes a reality and this is a reality which is better left untouched.

It is important for everyone to prepare for the worst and work towards making it better. It is critical to be cautious and well informed of this virus. A little consideration for others would go a long way. I know it is easier said than done, but this is the moment where we are being tested on a humanitarian level. I have learned from my personal experience, you only get a few chances in life where you can thrive upon and we have got just one. Let us be kind to each other.

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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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