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Had We Ignored These Warning Calls By Nature That Led Up To The Pandemic?

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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.

“There are enough resources for everyone’s need but not for anybody’s greed” – Mahatma Gandhi An earthquake of magnitude 9.0 struck the Pacific Ocean off the northeast coast of the Tohoku region of Japan’s Honshu Island on 11th March 2011, and was later named the ‘The Great East Japan Earthquake’. It triggered a massive tsunami that flooded more than 200 square miles of coastal land. An estimated 20,000 people were dead and around 5, 00,000 were forced to evacuate.

Quite similarly, an earthquake in India, well known as ‘The Bhuj Earthquake‘, occurred on 26th January, 2001, India’s 52nd Republic Day. It measured a 7.7 on the Richter scale, killing more than 20,000 people, including a few in Pakistan. The Indian Heat Wave 2002 and European Heat Wave 2003 occurred in their respective regions in different years, killing over 1,000 and 70,000 people respectively.

The 2002–2004 SARS Outbreak (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) caused by SARS-Coronavirus, was first identified in Foshan, in the Guangdong Province of Southern China, in November 2002, affecting over 8,000 people from 29 different countries and resulting in at least 774 deaths.

Extremely Severe Cyclonic storm ‘Nargis’ was a drastically destructive and deadly tropical cyclone that caused the worst natural disaster in the history of Myanmar during the early 2008 May. Nargis developed on 27th April, 2008, in the central area of Bay of Bengal, resulting in a death toll of over 130,000 people.

Post the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, Typhoon Bopha was the strongest tropical cyclone on record to ever affect the southern Filipino island of Mindanao, during the early December of 2012, killing around 2,000 people. About a year later, Typhoon Haiyan harmed the Philippines as well as Vietnam and China, killing over 6,000 people.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a contagious, sometimes fatal, respiratory illness that was first reported in 2012 as a MERS-CoV case in Saudi Arabia, eventually affecting countries including South Korea and Kenya among others. Since then, there have been over 2,500 reported cases of MERS-CoV and over 800 associated deaths globally.

In 2014, Western Africa was hit by the epidemic ‘Zaire Ebolavirus. It started with cases of EVD in the forested rural region of south-eastern Guinea, as reported by the WHO on 23rd March, 2014 with over 2,000 cases reported. This was not the first outbreak of the disease, as Ebola has been infecting people from time to time, especially in African countries. Currently, the Democratic Republic of Zaire Congo is facing this epidemic since 2018.

In April 2015, Asia was yet again hit by an earthquake in Nepal, known as the ‘Gorkha Earthquake’ killing about 9,000 people and injuring over 22,000. It measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale, and was the worst disaster in Nepal since the Nepal-Bihar earthquake in 1934.

Intense Tropical Cyclone ‘Idai’ is one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to have hit Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, leading to a humanitarian crisis in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, leaving more than 1,300 people dead and many more missing. Numerous national disasters including the Kedarnath Tragedy, Kashmir, Kerala and Chennai floods where faced by India and similarly in other countries as well.

Finally came the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2019, having originated in a Chinese wet market in Wuhan. Till date, the world records about 12.5 million confirmed cases, with 6.8 million recovered and 560,000 deaths (as of 12th July, 2020) and more cases expected. Could this be due to the previous ‘known calls that we failed to answer’ and instead, kept repeating the atrocities on the environment?

These calls were like warning signals for the misuse of our natural resources and taking nature for granted due to our greed and over-modernisation. This kind of situation was sure to happen one day or another, and it happened in the form of COVID-19. We have seen family diseases including SARS and MERS, yet, we could not protect ourselves from the novel coronavirus.

Today, when we look at nature, when the whole world is in a standstill situation of a lockdown, we find that the most satisfied on our planet is our ‘Mother Earth’ — no pollution from vehicular and factory activities, no mining or extraction activities, no polluting elements in the rivers, and wildlife in their habitat enjoying life with no disturbance from mankind.

Today, we are using nature only for our basic requirement, and not for our greed. The situation can be explained through a certain preaching in our Holy books — in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9, Shloka 08, Lord Krishna says “O Arjuna, I create all beings again and again according to their karma, I have the power to kill them”, in the Bible, Isaiah 54:16 says, “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc.

Whenever we abuse nature and don’t listen to its warning, God will take their most vengeful look and come to Earth in the form of a pandemic or disaster, where no one will be left unaffected — be it the poor or the rich, regardless of their religious beliefs and personal affiliations. Let us pray to the All-Mighty in this mayhem and take a pledge to never mis-utilise or take nature for granted.

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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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