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What The First Week Of Lockdown Has Shown Us

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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.

It has been now more than a week that the entire country is in an unprecedented lockdown. Now and then, there is a post which says, instead, asks us to introspect and do what we always wanted to do. But for obvious reasons and lack of time, it was never done; so do it in this lockdown and utilise this time for good. But all this is mere propaganda to make people engaged and even the bigger reason and result would be the self-blaming and a severe impact on mental health.

Firstly, the lockdown came all of a sudden out of nowhere and the worst affected are the poor who have no house and no food to eat. I agree that this lockdown has brought out compassion and humanity to the forefront, but before people started donating food, the migrants and poor had nothing to eat.

Moreover, we are talking about this for the bigger cities where there are a lot of NGOs. But what about the smaller towns which are outside the coverage of the mainstream media and where there are as such no NGOs working? What would the poor people of those towns eat?

It is rightly said that it is always the women who are affected the worst during anything. In this lockdown, the essential commodities were to be manufactured despite the lockdown and the manufacturing of sanitary pads was stopped; probably because pads are not considered “essential“. It was only when netizens started writing critically on this the notification was issued.

The question is that in the time when erasing the signs of dissent from the walls of Jamia University and the renovation work in Delhi was considered a priority when the coal mines were open (probably essential commodity), wasn’t it required to make menstrual products an essential commodity too or is it that the women are not considered important?

Nextly, in this lockdown, it is a relief for many people that the environment is recovering and the creatures of this ecosystem, of course, other than the humans, are taking a breath. Still, there are vehicles on the roads and people roam around in the evening as if they are on a vacation and the afternoon break is over.

Pathankot, Punjab. The lockdown led to pollution levels dropping. The himalayas that were once shrouded are now clearly visible. Credit: @parasrishi/Twitter

The environment which is healing — creatures coming to the beaches, ducks being spotted in the canals of Venice, Himachal’s Dhauladhar mountain being visible from Jalandhar, ozone layer healing itself and many more instances. Is all this sustainable?

There are even memes stating that Greta Thunberg, the young environment activist, will be very happy at this time and will go to school after this pandemic is over. But what actually will happen after this pandemic is revenge pollution and the murder of the environment. Nations will engage in the race to get their economies recovering, industries will work tirelessly and the environment will be affected like before.

Now comes why we still can’t do what we always wanted to do. All colleges and universities are now engaged in online learning, so it does not seem to be a lockdown. They are engaged in online education and not learning as they are concerned about completing the syllabus.

How can one get so much time to introspect? The books one always wanted to read, the skills one wanted to learn, the tasks one wanted to do is all in the middle, I believe, but they don’t seem to get finished. The students sitting in houses have a constant thing in their brains. Mental health is being impacted severely. Learning is not only about the syllabus.

And our mainstream media is doing wonders. It has shown its capacity and has made the entire pandemic and a crisis into a Hindu-Muslim debate. The wounds of the recent Delhi riots were not completely healed and the media has started to make the gap wider. A whole religion is being blamed for the wrong done by a few. Seriously, the country is getting more and more non-sympathetic because of our media. How can one expect good mental health when there is hatred being spread all the time?

What the Government can do is make the protective gears available to every health care professional and ensure the lockdown is being followed seriously, ensure widespread testing and focus on treatment and, guess what, we are being asked for thalis and candles. The concept is good, to appreciate the efforts of doctors, but the people for whom the thalis were beaten across the country are out there (many) without proper protective gear.

Doctors, Police and the people busy in sanitisation and sanitation are doing their bit. What we need to do is be in our homes and, of course, study online and try to learn something new and cultivate love and not hatred.

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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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