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The COVID-19 Pandemic: 100 Days, 10 Lessons

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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.

On December 31 2019, when the world was gearing up to enter the new decade, there was an uninvited guest ready to enter into our lives. There emerged SARS Coronavirus 2. Rest, as they say, will go down in history. As the fateful day that changed the world completes 100 days, here are the 10 lessons that it offers for us.

1. Hail the Nation-state.

As COVID-19 started spreading across the world, it is the nation-states that have been at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic and took up the responsibility of their citizens. Despite their limitations and inefficiencies, nation-states have emerged as cohesive units and responded quite well to the crisis. Amid the chaos and crisis, nation-states have shown that they are the primary and most effective institutions of organizing the human race. The 3-minute silence in China where the whole nation came together to mourn COVID-19 victims and Indians celebrating COVID-19 warriors is testimony to the legitimacy nation-states command.

2. The Internet has become sine qua non.

The Internet has long stopped being a tool for entertainment or privilege of some. Now, it is the primary tool to connect with the world, that shut itself down. It has become an essential tool for communication, connecting government to people, in providing access to food, medicine, education, emotional stability in times of physical isolation. Virtually we have shifted the world onto mobile phones and laptops.

3. Science is God.

COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire, already having infected over a million and killed 100 thousand. Yet, we are not talking about a doomsday scenario. We are pretty hopeful, in fact, we are confident about finding a cure for this. This confidence is not misplaced or based on myths, rather it is the firm faith in Science. There is faith in the scientific capability of human being, with which we have defeated Small Pox, Polio. Sooner or later, we will defeat COVID-19.

4. Capitalism drives us, sustains us.

We have blamed everything on capitalism. Polluted air, forest fires, dying rivers, rising inequalities. It is time to recognize what good Capitalism has done for us. The development in last 200 years, the delicate balance in the world, enormous food production that sustains us, the supply of medicine, the internet, the research for cure – all these would not have happened if there was no driving force called profit. True, we have reasons to hate Capitalism, but we owe a lot to it.

5. West is not the best, after all.

Asian countries like South Korea, Japan, Singapore, India are outperforming the West (United States and Europe) in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. This, despite China being geographically very close to them, and with comparatively less robust health infrastructure. West dominated institutions like the UN, WHO, UN Security Council, European Union failed to even make their presence felt, leave alone leading in the time of crisis. It’s time to come out of Westoxification and embrace what the East has to offer to the world.

6. Gods, where are they?

Doctors, police, bankers, officers, civil servants, ground-level workers, delivery guys – all are working 16 hours a day making sacrifices. People across nations, religions, are making donations for vulnerable. These acts are done out of compassion and love for fellow human beings, not for the fear of God. On the other hand, all the Gods, whom people worship, whom they see as savior, whom they call almighty, for whom people kill each other- are nowhere to be found. With religious places shutdown, religious worship ceased to be center around which life revolves. More importantly, how many religious institutions have come forward for the sake of humanity in times of crisis? This offers a necessary reality check.

The purpose of creating God and religion was to unite people, to spread the message of love for humanity. On the contrary, they have become source of hatred and disunity, even in time of crisis like this. Moreover, the objectives of unity and compassion can be met without God, as we are seeing now. So, perhaps, it is wise enough to set aside the idea of artificial, imaginary God and religion, which have long outlived their utility. Instead of spreading hatred and killing, we can embrace fellow human beings just as they are and learn to love all, without boundaries.

7. What matters in the end.

All this time, we were in a race. Race for wealth, fame, power, promotions, costly gadgets, fashion brands. When the breaking point came, we realized all these don’t matter. In fact, they never mattered as much as we thought they mattered. All these were giving us an illusion of happiness. Man lived millions of years happily without them. Happiness is not somewhere outside to be chased, it is within us, within the small things that we fail to appreciate.

8. We are ignorant of our ignorance.

Two months ago, we were talking about the disruption of 5G technology, age of artificial intelligence, man landing on Mars, gene editing. In less than a month, an unknown virus has brought the world to a standstill. The economic forecasts, the scientific plans, the futuristic predictions –  all failed to even imagine this big disruption. All our bets on the future are based on our arrogance and illusion that we own our future. We don’t.

9. Local governments matter.

While the planning is done and decisions are taken at the top, fight against COVID-19 needs action at the local level. Monitoring at village level, spreading awareness, delivery of services, avoiding panic – all these require locally empowered, trained people. Without these, the battle would have been only half won.

10. China has arrived on the world stage.

China’s economic rise, its control over global supply chains, coupled with USA’s inability to contain the spread of COVID-19 and failure to set an example of leadership, will further embolden China’s position at the world stage. USA’s allegations over WHO as being “China Centric” are not completely baseless. If not anything, it makes clear one thing. The age of Pax Americana is over and we are living in the post-American world.

You must be to comment.
  1. Bhanupriya Kumar

    A very insightful article on CONVID – 19. A wonderful read !

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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