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I Can See Similarities Between Dr Kafeel Khan And Che Guevera

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The National Security Act (NSA) has been enforced on Dr Kafeel Khan, who was jailed in 2017 after 60 children died at a Gorakhpur hospital due to a shortage of oxygen supply. He was acquitted later. The NSA was imposed after he was arrested for giving a speech at Aligarh Muslim University. His speech was about the protests against the CAA and NRC.

In its order, the Aligarh district magistrate said the speech was a “precursor” to the rampant violence and stone-pelting that the campus witnessed on 15 December. Khan was arrested by a UP Special Task Force in Mumbai on 29 January.

The Allahabad High Court set aside the National Security Act charges against Dr Khan terming it illegal and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to forthwith release him from jail.

Dr Kafeel had no intention to turn himself into an activist and was working as a practicing doctor. Then, a tragedy shook the entire nation.

The Indian middle class feels proud about us heading towards being the next “Vishwa Guru” (global leader), but the death of 60 children due to basic needs like oxygen exposes the tall claims.

In August 2017, it had become a major issue for the newly-formed government of Yogi Adityanath who took office five months prior to this incident. The state government suspended Khan, blaming him directly for the tragedy. The entire biased media coverage declared Dr Kafeel solely responsible for the death of the children. All this time, we can assume that he was exposed to the broken system of our nation. Sympathies started pouring in from other social activists in his support. In this course of time, many social activists reached out to him from Aligarh, JNU and Jamia.

When the anti-CAA-NRC protests broke off, Dr Kafeel, who had already experienced the broken system, decided to join the protest site organised by student activists of Jamia and Aligarh. Both universities were the center of the protests, apart from Shaheen Bagh.  These were the same student activists who stood with him during his hard times when he was held responsible for the corruption in the medical sector.

Dr Kafeel can be seen in many viral videos where he is working with poverty-stricken people to give them medical services. By decoding the incidents, we can assume that he is a practicing Doctor, but circumstances and the plight of people turned him into an activist.

In the history of this century, we also know of another doctor who turned into an activist by the force of circumstances and later turned into a revolutionary. In 1952, a semester before Ernesto Rafael was about to complete his medical degree, he and his older friend Alberto Granado, a biochemist, left Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, to travel across South America.

In the middle of their journey, they worked for a leper colony in Peru for three months, just like Dr Kafeel can be seen working with slum inhabitants who are affected by floods in many viral videos. The main purpose was initially fun and adventure for both medical students. They desired to see as much of Latin America as they could, more than 14,000 kms (8,700 mi) in just four and a half months on their motorcycle.

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. Image source: Wikimedia commons

But the entire journey exposed them to the system and the disparity of resources in Latin America. Both the students, in their journey, witness the poverty of the indigenous peasants. But it was when they reached the mountain of Machu Picchu of Peru that the medical student Ernesto Rafael got to see the ruins of civilization.

His musings are then somberly refocused on how an indigenous civilization capable of building such beauty could be destroyed by the creators of the nearby urban elite city of Lima. Lima is the present capital and the most urban city in Peru.

In the case of Dr Kafeel and many other such activists who are fighting against the CAA and NRC, got a similar sense of despair when they witnessed the Jamia University’s library being destroyed by the police. This incident is symbolic to the urban elite city of Lima, which was the reason for the destruction of Machu Picchu or let’s say the Jamia Library.

On his journey, Ernesto Rafael once swam across the river to reach the leper’s colony, which was separated from the other colonies because of a river flowing between them. People living on the other side of the river were unable to get any medical help and services. Ernesto Rafael took the risk even though he had Asthma.

We can see that Dr Kafeel has risked his life and is still vocal about the cause without being bothered about the possibility of getting infected with Coronavirus in jail.

At the end of his journey, Ernesto Rafael celebrated his birthday in the same colony. A medical student with no political ideology was made into an activist due to circumstances. He gave his first political speech on his birthday. This is similar to Dr Kafeel’s speech at Aligarh University because of which he has been put behind bars.

After his journey ended, Ernesto Rafael returned back to a medical university and completed his studies in medicine and joined the uprising against the Batista regime in Cuba.

Ernesto Rafael is well known around the world by the name “Ernesto Che Guevara”, who was later assassinated by the CIA for his revolutionary role.

The above references of the events are taken from the memoir written by “Che”, published by the name Motorcycle Diaries

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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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