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To All Those Surviving Through This Lockdown, We Might Want To Consider Ourselves Lucky

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Honestly, how many people would had heard of the term ‘lockdown’ till six months ago? Even if you had, it might have sounded as simple as lock and down. Nothing for us, ordinary people to be concerned with. Now, after more than three months of the lockdown due to the pandemic, the simple word ‘lockdown’ has surely lost its simplicity, eh?

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has surely brought quite a few terms amidst us. Lockdown, social distancing, sanitisation, curfew, migrant workers, quarantine, containment zone, etc. All these words were alien to us a few months ago. It’s really funny to think how this tiny virus has made us realise our worth and made us bend on our knees.

Not only India, but even global superpowers are in the grip of this invisible thing. Never ever did we think that mighty “humans” would be caged in their homes and animals outside would wander without any interference. This pandemic has made us realise that we co-exist with other organisms on this plane — something we had almost forgotten.

empty metro train during lockdown
I sometimes used to wonder whether airports or railway stations would ever take a break. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see my thoughts turn into reality.

 

I sometimes used to wonder whether airports or railway stations would ever take a break. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see my thoughts turn into reality. Whoever is undergoing this period is lucky enough to enjoy such a unique time, which will not arrive in ages, hopefully.

During this ongoing lockdown, I have understood a very peculiar trait of human beings. People are born to eat and are always hungry. While there are people battling with poverty, who are out of resources and only depending on the ration being provided by governments, many are fighting for a bag of  5 kg of rice despite having plenty in their homes.

I am talking about those who are pretending to be poor and keep on availing the government schemes actually meant for people battling with poverty. The government has gone mad shouting at people to maintain social distancing, but some people are so thick-headed that they are not ready to understand that the lockdown is not a ‘local holiday.’

When I tried explaining this to my neighbours, they came back at me, shouting, “If you want to die of corona or hunger, you are most welcome, but we shall die eating!” What if you don’t survive to eat your 5 kg free rice? It’s not about the free rice, it’s about humanity. When everyone is trying to help the poor, I am amazed to find a section of people who are still fighting for government aid despite being financially stable.

Right now, we all want some wise thoughts, the rest is secondary. People are going crazy because with so much time on their hands, they don’t realise where to start, ultimately making the person irritated and throw tantrums!

Initially, I felt like I was a participant of BiggBoss, and kept on performing tasks given to us by Modi Ji (The Big Boss)! The first and second phase of the lockdown were supposed to be the stricter ones. Yet, so many knowledgeable people flouted the government rules and regulations. The plight of the migrant workers surely made us all stand up and take notice.

Before the lockdown, nobody would have cared about these people. It was heartening to see them outpour sympathy and provide help to those in need after their national media coverage.

While calling for Janata Curfew, PM Modi had asked people to show solidarity with the frontine staff working during the lockdown by clappingbanging on their plates or ringing bells at 5 pm on March 22.

Even now, Bollywood actor Sonu Sood is doing the great task of making arrangements for people to go back to their homes, which is immensely commendable. Someone aptly tweeted: “Sonu Sood is my current favourite state government.”

Talking about state governments, the efficiency of some states in tackling the virus has been better than others. The Kerala government’s response as well as the Rajasthan Bhilwara model have been great examples of prompt corona-control response. Hats off to the measures taken by our governments to curb this pandemic.

Coming to my native State of Assam, the initial fast response and rapid setup of multiple quarantine facilities has helped a lot in keeping corona cases in check. It was quite inspiring to see our health minister, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, actively working and personally following up on major developments.

He considers himself lucky to have received this opportunity to serve the nation in this difficult time. Then why can we not consider ourselves lucky and stay at home? Compared to his work, our job is very negligible and simple. We only have to stay at home. Ultimately, the efficiency of the administration in controlling such a contagious disease depends largely on peoples’ action.

One bright spot in these depressing times has been the opportunity to watch our great shows The Ramayana and The Mahabharata on TV, after ages. The saying ‘Old is Gold’ holds absolutely true for these shows, as they have smashed all viewership records and made their actors superstars on social media.

Also, going by the social media trends, this lockdown has made everyone a home chef and a home workout trainer. People are bombarding their social media platforms with pictures from their kitchens or workout space.

However, in the midst of all this, I seriously want to thank all homemakers, mothers and housewives who have been kind of quarantining like this since ages. This lockdown has made us realise a bit about their lives. I don’t think this lockdown has made much difference to their lives. Every day must be the same for them.

We have less number of news channels and websites that can give us real-time toll on corona cases and deaths, instead of frightening us,  thanks to TRPs. Until then, stay safe, stay home.

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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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