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An Open Letter To My Maa

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Dear Maa,

Phoolon ka taron ka sabka kehna hai

 Ek hazaaron mein meri ‘maa’ hai.”

This is how much I love you maa. If I can change a song for you, I can change the entire world if you once tell me to do that. My love for you is something I can never be able to put into words. It directly blossoms on the floor of my heart and the nectar nestles on the top of my mouth. I have no idea how to start this letter and how to end. I can’t tell how much my thoughts ponder here and there and my heart skips a beat when I hold the pen in the name of you. All my words get stirred where your image gets transparent in my soul.

Representational image.

Right from the beginning, when I was a toddler, didn’t know how to speak and could barely understand my surroundings, you were there to lift me in your lap and you did everything that can’t be expressed through my words or writings. There was a time when papa was extremely sick, dealing with extreme mental health problems, I have seen you crying for nights, shattered like a broken piece of glass and still didn’t forget to attend your job.

Our relatives have always backstabbed us, bad-mouthed us and left no ways untried to see us dwell in the abyss of extreme turmoil. Only you were there to shield us from any storm or struggles and forwarded your arm to burden it with loads of responsibilities.

As I am writing this letter, I can’t stop my eyes shedding tears remembering the hardships that strangulated you from inside and you, being the unsung warrior fought them with your valiant heart.

Strength and patience are the two most important things I have learnt from your guidance.

Life has never been a cakewalk for both of us. In my adolescence, when insecurity choked me like a demon, when I was drowning in the abyss of low self-esteem, when a round of bullies, taunts, and mockeries clawed me to the paths of self-harm and when I was losing myself in a directionless ocean, you pulled me out of everything.

You taught me to fight, to never lose self-confidence, to keep resilience for the good time and to face struggles as a cup of tea. I am always indebted to you for whatever you have sacrificed for the sake of me. I am sorry maa for distrusting you for my own wrong choice. You forbade me to fall in love with the wrong guy and I disobeyed you on the spur of the moment. I got hurt and knew you were right. and even you were always right about me, about the good and bad, and about everything.

Do you remember maa, how much I loved your handmade food when I was home? You made noodles, ‘luchi’, ‘aloor dum’, ‘cholar dal’, ‘rosogolla’, ‘pantua’, briyani, fried rice and I savoured them like a hungry lion. When I was away home, the thing I missed the most was your food. It’s not you who did the magical cooking, it was your love that you mixed with the spices and made them heavenly. I found later that maa’s foods give the satisfaction that none of the fast foods can offer. It will take a decade or maybe a century or more to forget the taste of them from the tip of my tongue. The foods still beckon me to taste them and you still illuminate my mind like a diamond.

There is not a single day when I don’t celebrate your endless love, your positive aura, your amazingness and your unique persona. I wish I could be able to resonate with the vibes you release. But no, you are you. You can never be replaced, maa! I wish one day I would be able to make your head high with pride so that you can loudly acknowledge me as your daughter. Hope, that one day is not so far. I can never repay you in my entire life and till my seven births.

I wish to remain like a small child in your safe shelter. Do not forget to take your medicines regularly or else, I shall make you eat them forcefully. Till the next time I write another letter to you, please cherish every moment you have and smile quite often. Your smile means the world to me. Love you maa!

Yours entirely,

Sonai.

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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.

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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.”

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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
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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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