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3 Short Films That Make Us Think About Neglected Social Issues

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Cinema is a medium of expression. Even if a movie is not in the 100-crore club, it touches your heart. On the other hand, some high-budget and high-earning films are just for commercial gains. Apart from seeking profits, films should express issues at grassroots, just like in the film Mulk. This is just one example. There are several short films that, I think, have a deep understanding of real issues and are appealing to the audience.

Recently, certain films in the industry were made to generate a political opinion in favour or opposition of a political party or leader. Despite this, there are some short films that pose a question before us and make us ponder. I am sharing my thoughts on three such short films and documentaries.

Period. End Of Sentence. (Hindi)

This documentary is directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and has won an Oscar for the ‘Best Documentary Short Film’. The documentary was fully shot in Hapur district, on the outskirts of Delhi. Period or menstruation is still considered a topic not to be discussed. For some, it’s limited to women. It is a dark area for many men; even if they know about it, they choose not to talk about it. In rural areas, women cannot go to temples during their menstrual cycle and are forced to sit in a corner of the house as if they are impure.

Why do people differentiate blood coming our of the same body, but through different body parts? It is still red. This discrimination relates to untouchability because it is based on the notion of pure and impure. Zehtabchi has rightly captured all these factors in this documentary. She interviewed several women and men of different ages and asked them about periods and sanitary pads. Some girls said, “It’s bad blood,” while some boys said, “It’s a disease.”

It was awkward for many to speak or share their views on this issue.  The documentary also covers the silent Pad-Revolution,which was started in Hapur by a local self-help group. Many women in this group are manufacturing pads with the help of machines inspired by Pad Man Arunachalam Muruganantham. They think most women find it hard to purchase pads from shops, especially when men are around them. To eliminate this awkwardness, the SHG is selling door-to-door pads. The dialogue, Not elephant, not tiger. A girl is a girl, really touched my heart. This is a documentary everyone must watch.

Pistulya (Marathi)

This is a short film directed by Nagraj Popatrao Manjule. The film has won the National Award in the non-feature film category. The film was shot in Karmala Taluka of Solapur district in Maharashtra. Manjule, who gave Saira to the world, made this film to depict the struggle of a poor rural boy to educate himself. In rural areas, there are many who cannot afford to go to school even after the Right to Education came into action. Many children have to work on someone else’s farm to sustain their family.

The character in the film is one such boy, Pistulya, who belongs to a lower caste and desperately wants to go to school to study. His late father always wanted him to get educated, but due to the sudden demise of her husband, Pistulya’s mother is unable to afford uniform and books. She thus takes him with her for begging. His mother asks people of their community to teach him thievery. Manjule has amazingly captured subtle emotions of the child when he resists stealing, and the scene in which Pistulya runs off by stealing a school uniform.

Rural India’s issues are not expressed deliberately or shown to the audience, but Manjule has gracefully depicted the issue of poverty in India. In one such scene, Pistulya is shown standing behind a wired fence, watching school students praying in the ground. I believe this fencing has to break, and all children of India must learn and dream of achieving their goals. The film ends with a quote of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule that says:

“Lack of education leads to lack of wisdom, which leads to lack of morals, which leads to lack of progress, which leads to lack of money, which leads to oppression of the lower classes. See what state of the society one’s lack of education can cause.”

Visual Poetry On The Life Of A Labourer (Hindi) 

Based on a poem by Sabir Haka, this film is a visual poetry on the life of labourers. The film is directed by Tirtha Khakhlary and presented by Yogesh Patil. Khakhlary and Patil have been to National School of Drama in Tripura. Haka is an Iranian poet and a construction worker himself. He has depicted the whole life of a labourer in a few words. Patil thought that this (the pandemic) is the perfect time to create something on them.

The film correlates with the current situation of migrant labourers all over the world, and not just in India. Patil himself has worked as a labourer in his school days to earn for his family. Haka says, “He was a worker, since my mother carried me in her womb while working, and I felt her exhaustion. Her tiredness is still in my body. This touched me so much to make a craft on it.”

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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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