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Innovation in the Times of COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world like no other event in contemporary history. The virus that originated from the Wuhan city in China has impacted almost all countries alike with the death toll increasing day by day. In the absence of a vaccine to fight this pandemic and prevent its spread, the only weapon different countries of the world had was to impose a lockdown. Lockdown means people, movement, and economy have to be shut at one go.

The lockdown has turned out to be extremely disastrous for millions of people who lost their savings, jobs, and incomes with no sight of respite. Shops are shut, markets are closed and production in factories has come to a halt. Even where they are being opened, people are afraid to go out and wearing a mask, using sanitizer and maintaining social distancing has been made mandatory by the government.

Economists around the world have been brainstorming to find out ways to gear up the economy so that people do not starve and governments get revenue. However, given the circumstances, the task is easier said than done.  The silver lining amid this glooming scenario is the innovative minds of people everywhere to get things done.

Image used for representation purposes only/ Image Source: Unsplash

Technology And Innovation As A Saviour 

It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to say that India is a land of innovations and we are very good at ‘jugaad’. We know how to get easy and simple solutions for even complex problems. Our mothers have been putting into practice the modern jargon of ‘reduce, recycle, and reuse’ for many years in our home. To me, this is an idea that gave birth to cheap technologies, medicines, and vaccines, which have saved and improved the lives of those living on the margins.

Indian entrepreneurs are working hard to make post-COVID economy come back on the track. The biggest challenge, however, is to make people confident enough to come out to buy goods from the market as not everything is available online (especially in small-towns) and also local shops need some kind of technological support to make their living in these times. 

One of the difficulties that we face as customers are about getting our daily essentials like milk, eggs, bread medicines, etc as there are no shops where one could get all that is required at once. And therefore, one has to constantly hop shops in the hope to get the products needed. This becomes frightening as there are strong chances of getting in contact with the virus while spending a good amount of time in the market.

To solve this problem, a Noida based young entrepreneur Abhishek Singh has come up with a unique solution in the form of “The Saviors”, a free mobile app specially designed to help the common man as well as shopkeepers to cope up in the tough times of COVID-19. Inspired by Prime Minister Modi’s vision of Indians becoming Aatmnirbhar (self-dependent) and ‘Vocal for Local’, this completely Indian innovation has been the talk to town for its uniqueness of being neither an e-commerce website nor merely a search engine, but a hybrid of the two.

The interesting part of this app is that it connects the local shops with their customers, for example, the active grocery Store, pharma Store, and any other active stores in one’s locality. So as a customer, one can see what all shops have been operating in his/her area and can enquire about his requirements to his nearest stores. The owners respond with the availability of the products and confirm the order.

Either the order is delivered directly to the home, and if the option for home delivery is not available, they assign a token number and a time slot, and the customer can pick up their order from the store. This way it becomes easier to maintain social distancing, avoid overcrowding, save a lot of time and energy, and everyone is saved from inconvenience as both owner and consumer needs are met with ease in a stipulated time-frame. Such Indian innovations can bring about the radical remodelling of the Indian market.

Small shops, especially in small towns that are not able to have to tie up with giants like Groffers and Big Basket, can utilize this low-cost technology that doesn’t take away their margin of profit, while providing them customers at the same time. Therefore, a person becomes Aatmnirbhar, small shops get customers, and a local product is utilized. It is time for other such Indian innovations to come up in all other fields like video conferencing, telemedicine apps so that we don’t have to be dependent upon other countries for our basic needs.

The government needs to encourage the young entrepreneurs of this country by proving them with adequate funds, loans, and assurance to buy their products so that the demographic dividend of this country fully harnesses its talent and risk-taking ability. 

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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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