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Here’s What Can Kickstart Your Revolution For A Better Tomorrow!

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By Rhythm Gupta

According to a survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in 2012, only 32% of rural Indian households had their own toilets, and less than half of Indian households had a toilet at home. Shockingly, of the estimated billion people in the world who defecate in the open, more than half reside in India. Can you imagine that you’re a citizen of the country where there are more households with a mobile phone than with a toilet? This abysmal state of sanitation of our country, particularly of rural India, is hair-raising.

Poor sanitation impairs health. This leads to high rates of malnutrition and productivity losses. Children are affected more than adults, as diseases run rife in their bodies; inhibit their ability to absorb nutrients, thereby stunting their growth. According to the UNICEF, water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections are among the top causes of child deaths in India. As a matter of fact, according to the World Bank, India’s sanitation deficit leads to losses worth roughly 6% of its gross domestic product (GDP) due to a rise in the disease burden in the country.

Representational image.

When I came across all these alarming statistics during my research, a series of questions flooded my mind — “What is it about India? Why are we in such a pathetic condition? Why are our children dying, and why is the Government mum about it? Why is this issue not being prioritized by our Government? Why don’t we have effective yet sensitive health-related policies and leadership in place? And if it is, why is there such little progress? After all, we must have chosen a leader that really cared about the nation and its citizens, and wished to bring about a change as soon as possible.”

Interestingly, it is not very difficult to gauge through some texts, that this unhygienic environment today, is due to India’s historic neglect of public health services. The absence of good-quality and genuine public health services in our densely populated country has resulted in an extraordinarily high disease burden.

Even health economist, Dean Spears argues, “A large part of India’s malnutrition burden is owing to the unhygienic environment in which children grow up. Poor sanitation and high population density act as a double whammy on Indian children half of whom grow up stunted.”

It is not a coincidence that states with the poorest levels of sanitation and highest levels of population density such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh also have the highest levels of child malnutrition in the country. Unsafe water or lack of clean water, and poor hygiene practices such as improper hand-washing, are not only the causes of the continued high incidence of diarrhoeal diseases but a significant contributing factor in under-five mortality.

Inadequate sanitation meaning lack of toilets further exacerbates the problem. A lot of these factors have also been the underlying reasons for the spread of the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic in the country, making us the third hardest-hit country in the world.

With so much information clogged in my mind, I was confused as to how I could educate people about it as an individual until I came across The Tale of Makkhilal.

The Tale of Makkhilal, authored by Geeta Dharmarajan, and illustrated by Charbak Dipta, educates its young readers about the consequences of poor hygiene and choosing the wrong leader, in the form of a poem.

It is the perfect motivator for children to start a revolution towards anything that can positively transform the world.

While we, as children never got the chance to read such vividly illustrated books about the most basic yet most important topics of the hour, children of India in 2020, can become sensitized individuals today and empathetic leaders tomorrow, conquering every adverse situation in the world.

The most compelling aspect of this book is how Geeta Dharmarajan perfectly intertwined the morals of the right leadership and the identification of the right role model, with the, unfortunately, “not-so-burning” topic of proper sanitation and cleanliness.

While India is bettering with time, we still have a LONG way to go. To harness the country’s resources, knowledge and manpower efficiently, solid action needs to be taken, a clear strategy needs to be devised, and the “leaders” of our country need to be woken up and reminded of the mother who has lost multiple children because of a curable disease like diarrhoea.

An illustration from the book

My first step in the revolution of a healthier future was to read The Tale of Makkhilal, what is your first step going to be?

About the author: Rhythm Gupta is a volunteer at Katha. A B.Sc. Economics and Finance student at Ashoka University, she is fond of all forms of art and literature. She also likes travelling and understanding different cultures.

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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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