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“For Middle Class Families, Tackling The Pandemic Is More Important Than Ram Mandir”

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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.

Ayodhya welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, August 5, for the foundation stone laying ceremony of Ram Mandir.

After decades of dispute on the Ayodhya matter, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in November 2019, gave the 2.77 acres of disputed land to a trust that would construct the temple. A grand celebration was organized as UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditya had promised that this momentous occasion has come after 500 years. The grand celebration exhibited that there is no pandemic for VIPs. And, they are back to normalcy.

While our economy is crumbling, people are dying due to hunger, dying by suicides due to joblessness, border-tension is not resolving, the ceremony reflects the priorities of our government and of course our Hindus first and Indian citizens later. The unlockdown 3.0 guidelines state that “social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions and other large congregations will not be permitted”.

Narendra Modi at Ayodhya on August 5.

Then, why did our PM violate the protocol of COVID-19 pandemic? There were at least 1461 accidents over the course of nationwide lockdown from March 25th to May 31st- in which at least 750 people were killed including 198 migrant workers. There were 1390 who got injured, according to data. When the lockdown was imposed, people were not allowed to move to their villages, their homes. Some news channels and media houses also reported the cases where people were beaten by the police for coming out of their homes to get essentials.

Lockdown was necessary at that time to tackle the unprecedented situation. The government imposed the lockdown to prepare itself and to increase the number of hospitals, beds, ventilators, PPE kits and other equipment. However, the cases started escalating at a very high rate after the unlockdown 1.0 was announced. Some ministers gave the bizarre methods of escaping Coronavirus.

Additionally, some ministers are still giving statements that India is in a stable condition because of timely lockdown compared to other developed countries despite being the second most populated country. The fact is that this is not the right time to compare countries in terms of cases. Lockdown was the need of the hour. It must not be ignored that hundreds of people lost their lives in unfortunate accidents during the lockdown.

Thousands and lakhs of people became jobless and homeless. Lakhs of children will never go back to school. Thousands of child marriages took place during the lockdown. Thousands of children will become child labourers post-pandemic.

It’s high time for the government to acknowledge that our country needs better hospitals, efficient doctors and nurses instead of mandirs. We need better health infrastructure instead of mandirs turning into tourist spots.

Talking about Ram Mandir, we must not forget that August 5 was also an important day for Kashmir -the first anniversary of the scrapping of Article 370. Even after one long year, Kashmir is still deprived of full-fledged internet services. Many politicians are still under detention or house arrest. Kashmir presently has access only to 2G internet services which create immense problems for people. Tourism has been shut for over a year now, earlier because of Aug 5 decisions and now because of the pandemic. The situation has not changed after one year as it was promised while scrapping Article 370.

Let’s come to Rajasthan Politics. Rajasthan Government is in crisis for nearly a month now because of the tussle between CM Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. The rift between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot is for the seat of ‘Chief-Minister’. There are major conflicts between members of the party. The blame-game is on and no political leader is sparing a chance to attack each other. Sachin Pilot was unhappy with the decision of top command choosing Ashok Gehlot over him after 2018 assembly elections.

The 42-year-old has worked hard for the party. It was natural for Pilot to feel dejected when Gehlot became the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. Some people in the party are now calling Sachin Pilot over-ambitious. However, the ongoing conflict of the Rajasthan Government has clearly exposed their real face. It has shown the key agenda of our leaders. They want the seat, power and money. The government is fighting when the cases in Rajasthan have crossed the 50K mark.

They don’t care even a bit about the public. COVID-19 peak has just begun in India as per WHO. The job crisis is also at its peak. Some cases of police brutality are also being reported. Despite all this, our government is way more concerned about the construction of Ram Mandir. Had government shown this pace to chart out an effective plan of lockdown and economy, we could have saved thousands of lives, homes and jobs.

Or, I should say our government is doing its best for India because according to me, our country is divided into two- India and Bharat. I am a part of Bharat. Bharat is suffering badly. My family is suffering because of the complete lockdown going on in my town. And, my father is the sole bread-winner of my family. My parents are worried about expenses.

I am worried about my career because there will a massive unemployment post the pandemic. For middle-class-families like mine, tackling the COVID-19 pandemic is more important than Ram Mandir. Reviving India economy is more important than Ram Mandir. Yeah! When Bharat suffers, nobody cares! When India suffers, the government cares!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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