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How Different Organisations Came Forward To Help People During Lockdown

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Looking at human history, we have witnessed repeating tragic events where countless lives were destroyed by natural disasters, famines, war, etc. These are the harsh realities that point at the fragility of human existence. Only social responsibility will help flatten the COVID-19 curve and give hope to people facing natural catastrophes like the Amphan cyclone and other similar occurrences.

The isolation, lockdown, and suppressed economic activity are hurting families across the world. The situation is adversely affecting the most marginalized and disadvantaged children and communities. Families in rural India and urban slums are struggling to get food, basic hygiene products, clean water and health care.

Apart from keeping its employees safe, India Inc. is pitching and helping the country and citizens fight the pandemic. Some are making masks and sanitisers, while some are contributing funds and distributing food and other essentials. Even people living in various residential societies are collecting dry food items from within their respective societies and distributing in nearby slums.

Ketul Acharya, COO, Learnet Skills Ltd., said, “As part of our social responsibility, we are striving to help the communities around our offices and projects across India. Protective face masks have become the symbol of being ‘Corona safe’ and a basic necessity for everyone to survive. Considering the need of the hour, Learnet Institute of Skills stand on the frontlines to support local administrations during this pandemic.

We are also imparting the required skills and techniques to produce high-quality masks. This effort has enabled them to earn a livelihood, as envisaged by Aatma Nirbhar Bharat mission by Indian Government. We have produced more than 40,000 masks and distributed them to healthcare workers, police, local hospitals and communities members.”

He added, “We are also proud to share that some of our Learnet Skills trainees in the healthcare sector who were trained under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) are working in the COVID affected areas and serving people in need.”

Representational image.

Talking about the role of a social development organisation amid such turbulent times, Sudarshan Suchi, Secretary-General, SOS Children’s Villages of India said, “This is the time to show consolidated efforts to address the scale of COVID 19 and fight it together. We have been working to protect abandoned children and support vulnerable families around our villages. SOS India works with families and communities to help them build their capacities so that children are well cared for, and families stay together.” 

Suchi further said, “Ironically, it took a pandemic like COVID-19 to bring a sharp focus on the importance of social policies to protect the most vulnerable individuals and families. In these pressing moments, it is the time to support each other for the well-being of all the individuals. This extraordinary time has showcased how inclusive interventions could eventually help strengthen the societies and nations, which SOS India has always been focusing upon.”

Many small and big companies have united to help citizens and migrants combat the virus, which is gradually spreading across the country. A few social developmental organisations are helping in a massive way.

Hemkunt Foundation, an NGO, which has served over 2,50,000 meals during the lockdown period, so far, continues with its social duty, driven by the mission ‘Sarbat da bhala: blessings for all.’ The NGO handed out over 45 tonnes of fruits and vegetables to urban poor people to celebrate Ramadan as they needed to follow the tradition of breaking Roza.

It claims to have distributed over 10,000 litres of milk to pregnant women, young children, old and differently-abled people in the past one month and collected and circulated over 8,50,000 chapatis to people living in slums in the last 40 days, in Delhi and Gurgaon.

The Civil Defense and Gurgaon administration directed Hemkunt Foundation to feed over 12000 migrant workers, including women and children at Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Gurgaon where they were provided shelter by the Gurgaon administration till now. The Hemkunt team also served ORS drinks and biscuits to thousands of migrant workers waiting outside to go back to their hometown.

Talking about the migrants’ situation during the current crisis, Irinder Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman, Hemkunt Foundation, said, “The current exodus of urban poor migrants is a failure of governance and insensitivity of decades in ignoring needs of poor in modern India. It has exposed the preparedness of bureaucracy in crises like this pandemic, lack of protocols among various stakeholders and lack of public-funded healthcare infrastructure in place. 

As far as migrants walking barefoot to their destinations is concerned, there were three options with the states. To begin with, they could have continued the interstate bus services and trains for 15 days since day one of lockdown. Alternatively, they could have arranged basic food and hygiene supplies for the vulnerable communities wherever they were/are irrespective of whatever documents they have.

Finally, and most importantly, they could have had made preparations to conduct as many tests possible to segregate infected people. Central and state government took many steps. However, failed to fulfill the bare minimum needs for urban poor migrants.” 

Social Empowerment And Economic Development Society (SEEDS), a not for profit organization is working towards alleviating the distress in rural areas by providing immediate food, giving out masks for their safety and sanitation while also taking steps for economic restoration for these vulnerable communities.

“In addition to the distribution of dry ration and hygiene kits to more than 470 families, we are creating awareness and educating on maintaining hygiene and sanitation through school students and youth groups. Alumni of SEEDS Self Employed Tailoring trainings and Women production unit in SEEDS have stitched more than 20000 masks which were distributed to frontline workers, community members as well as other government departments” said, Suresh Ghattamaneni, CEO, SEEDS.

Further, he added, “We have been working on mapping “Essential Rural Services” and “Skilled and Unskilled labor” in the project area to implement wage employment and Entrepreneurship initiatives for youth. As a long term measure, we have developed “One Hectare Model” of Intensive Integrated Farming which helps local youth to be farm entrepreneurs boosting the local economy promoting sustainable development models to deal with migration.” 

Different NGOs are working in different capacities. However, all are facing diminishing fund problems and appealing to individual and corporates for donations.

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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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