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Human Civilisation Is Vulnerable: Covid-19 Is Our Wake-up Call To Return To The Basics

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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.

While I am writing this piece, a total of 48,05,210 (as of May 18, 2020) people have been infected by the novel coronavirus worldwide with 3,16,732 succumbing to the disease. In India, the number of infections has surpassed 86,000 with 2752 officially recorded deaths. Sadly enough, this data is very likely inaccurate, even an underestimate, given the fact that the number of tests being conducted is abysmally low and we have no way of tracing hidden infections at the moment.

So, the bottom line is: humanity is facing a disaster of unprecedented scale. Many are calling it the worst global tragedy since the world wars. In New York, the current ‘ground zero’ of the pandemic, some residents are referring to the situation as ‘the biblical hell’. No one seems to know when the virus will subside and things will get back to normal (not so normal in any case).

Nonetheless, as the world wars taught humanity to have greater faith in peace and dialogue than on machine guns and grenades, this pandemic crisis is also not without an important lesson. We must pay heed to this message if we are to save the human race for long.

To me, the best metaphor to understand this humanitarian existential crisis is the unexpected toll on America. The world’s greatest capitalist power failed to anticipate the imminent threat, largely because the leader of this exceptional democracy chose not to give credence to the facts. This is exactly what has happened to all of us collectively. In our blind pursuit of economic and developmental illusions, we have chosen to ignore the very basic fact of the fragility of human existence. Somehow, we have foolishly convinced ourselves that we are invincible.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a warning that we are hanging on a delicate thread. It is our relationship with each other and with nature that holds us together as a species. If we fail to realize that, then this crisis will just be the beginning of an eventual doom that awaits us, sooner than we can think of. This is no alarmist or pessimistic rant, it’s fact – the one thing we have so conveniently set aside in our quest to become the next superpower.

So, What’s The Way Forward From Here?

As nations and as individuals, we have to accept the reality that this new virus is not going anywhere soon. Flattening the curve is just one minor aspect of our fight against Covid-19. Eventually, we will have to learn to live with the virus and its continuing threat. The solution, I think, is not ‘herd immunity’ or even a vaccine for that matter. New viruses will continue to emerge shortly with far-reaching impacts on human health, economy, and society. The best bet we have in our struggle against new diseases and epidemics is to be more cautious and prepared for what could be unfathomable.

Human civilization is vulnerable. It’s only how we deal with nature and with wildlife that will decide how well we can adapt to the changing forces in nature. Unfortunately, it seems we haven’t learned the lesson as yet. News has emerged that the notorious wet markets in Wuhan – the breeding ground for such novel infections – are once again open for business. Deforestation and degradation of natural habitats are not stopping anywhere, and global leaders will very likely return to their denial of climate change once the current crisis is over.

So, in the end, it is up to us, the citizens, to speak out more and stand up for the sake of humanity’s survival. Voices like that of Greta Thunberg will make even more sense in a post-COVID world. If we want to keep living with hope and optimism about man’s destiny on this planet, we must understand how important it is for us to get back to the basics. Health, food, and the environment are issues that should be at the forefront of our regional and global policies.

Education, as always, will remain the best weapon against misinformation and ignorance. Lastly, as citizens of democracies, we must be prepared to make the right choices so that the leaders we bring to power are those who have the necessary foresight to prevent an impending crisis and who value science more than their prejudiced opinions.

To conclude on a bright note, I recall what Ruskin Bond once said, “When all the wars are done, a butterfly will still be beautiful.”

It’s time we work together to cherish that beauty that is nature and to make sure that people like us are left to appreciate it in the future.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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