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5 Lessons The Global Pandemic Teaches India

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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.

India is always said to be a nation that is known for its spirit to fight back and learn from the past. It is because of this spirit that we managed to gain Independence from the colonial powers. In the past 72 years, the nation has seen war, flood, drought, earthquake, terrorist attacks and has very bravely managed to normalize things and continue India’s road to development.

Once again, the nation is fighting a battle with an enemy that has killed more than 72,000 people in the USA, around 30,000 in the UK, and in total 2,57,301 human population to date across the globe. The enemy this time is a deadly virus “Covid19” also known as coronavirus that traces its origin from China. Unlike the countries which are presently witnessing a heavy death toll due to their late actions and undermining the virus that has been declared a pandemic by WHO, India imposed a nationwide lockdown on 22nd of March and with its extension has now reached to Lockdown3.0.

lockdown extended for two weeks

The Sad State Of Health Infrastructure In India

We can’t deny that the strict call to action by the Indian government has managed to restrict the death toll in India to 1,694 to date, however, the challenge ahead is a lot more alarming then what it seems to be.

Lockdown3.0 in which the nation has been divided into 3 zones particularly Red, Orange, and Green, wherein the Orange and Green zones have been given relaxations in the lockdown. The decision of opening liquor shops in all the zones for the revenue by many state governments points out to the end of state resource and need to generate income. States have admitted that due to the lockdown they are facing a crisis in funds to manage their states.

It is a harsh reality for us to admit that India, unlike the USA and European nations, cannot keep the lockdown for too long as it will lead to the hampering of the economy. Ours is a country with a large number of unskilled population, people migrate from one state to another for better opportunities to sustain themselves.

India’s budget on health care is a mere 2.6% of its total GDP, which accounts for one of the lowest expenditures by a nation on its healthcare. Every year, the nation accounts for 15% of total maternal death worldwide, and several people die due to seasonal diseases in many states. The doctor to patient ratio in India is 1:1457, which is the poorest in the world, and on top of it, a disease like a coronavirus highlights the miserable health infrastructure of the nation, which is reflected by the number of test’s done per day till now.

The Five Lessons That This Pandemic Teaches India

migrant labourers

Even after 5 months of the disease hitting India, the target of achieving a 1lakhs test per day still seems to be a far fledged one.

The first lesson this deadly virus teaches India is that its high time that the elected government should change their priorities and focus on improving the Indian health infrastructure. A good amount of budget should be invested in providing feasible healthcare facilities to all the sections of society. Amenities like ventilators should be on the stock to fight any such pandemic in the future ahead. The most crucial investment a nation can do is by investing in its human resource by strengthening the health care amenities.

The second lesson this global pandemic teaches India is, that the Indian government which has for years neglected few states and just made them a source of cheap labour for states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi, and other favourites of the Delhi crown.

This attitude needs to be changed, stories of labourers walking from the metropolitan cities to their villages on foot covering a distance of as long as 2000 kilometres were the talk of town amidst this pandemic. It’s high time that the state governments need to realize their responsibilities and work on stopping this inter-state migration by opening up job opportunities in their home states too.

One thing that will have a long-lasting impact on this pandemic is India’s economy. Zero work for more than 50 days has taken an economy that aimed at being a 5 trillion economy by 2024 two years back. The dependence of the Indian production sector on the raw materials as well as cheap finished products from its neighbouring country China has hampered the economy as well. Small scale industries which before the lockdown was facing a crisis, after the lockdown is now on its verge. The announcement of a special package by the central government is an attempt to add some energy towards the depleting growth rate.

The third and crucial lesson this global disease teaches India is that Indian economy should emphasize being self-reliant and self-sufficient. The lack of trust in China worldwide due to coronavirus allows India to invite companies around the globe to make India the manufacturing hub. It will not only provide enormous job opportunities to people but at the same time will boost the economy too. Home industries should be given all the liberty and resources as they will be the main factor in strengthening the economy too.

Human beings for years have used the natural resources and nature with utmost cruelty. In the race to human development, one thing which has been affected the most is mother Earth. In the wake of development, we converted thick dense forests into populated residential colonies, for setting up factories we have changed the course of rivers, to meet our need for electricity we have built dams on rivers controlling their flow and many other things. In the name of cleaning our rivers, the government has wasted billions of rupees, yet the result has remained the same.

Therefore, the fourth and most crucial lesson this pandemic teaches India along with the rest of the world is that restricting nature is the biggest crime humanity can do. Nature has the power to regenerate itself, and the happiest example of this is that out of 26 locations were river Ganga water has been tested, at 16 locations the water has been declared fit for drinking. People need to learn from this and make sure that once the routine starts at getting normal, we should try to keep our environment, our rivers the way they are now rather than making rivers drain again and the environment polluted.

The final learning this global crisis teaches, not just to India but to humanity around the globe, is the chapter of trust, faith, kindness, and helpfulness. Lakhs of people have died and we humans who claim to be the smartest couldn’t save them. The pandemic gives a hard-hitting realization to mankind than all the wars we fight to win territories, to rule people are of no use because when nature hits, it hits so hard that even the most powerful nation couldn’t save its people from death.

Hence, peace, faith and kindness should be the motto of mankind. Countries around the globe should help each other, be a part of each other’s growth and development. War, terrorism, and the race to be a nuclear power is of no use if people itself are no more. Thus the mantra of mankind should be,

May all become happy, all be healthy and free from illness. May all see what is auspicious and may no one suffer in any way.

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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.

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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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