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I am Joining The #PeaceDayChallenge” Movement: Are You?

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The International Peace Day, observed around the globe on September 21 each year, is about friendship, compassion, and hope. All these values are the heart and soul of what the Nathan Ebanks Foundation stands for. This year more than any other in our modern history, we are being called into account to practice, promote and lobby for peace within our homes, our community, and the world at large.

We invite you to join us in the 2020 peace day challenge. Under the theme “Shaping Peace Together” our board and management, our partners and our volunteers are committing to rising above our differences and contributing to building a culture of peace.

While we want peace for all, irrespective of culture, race, or religion, we wish to shine the spotlight on the too often marginalised and excluded community, children and adults with disabilities and special needs. Some development has taken place for the inclusion of people with disabilities for sure, but COVID-19 made us realise that there is still a far way for us to go in making our society fully inclusive for this population.

We continue to stand for the inclusivity, access and accommodation for children (and adults with disabilities) in communities across the world.

The Nathan Ebanks Foundation, a nonprofit organization tucked away in the beautiful isle of Jamaica has been doing its part through various national and community initiatives to contribute to the solutions and bring about systemic change for children with disabilities. Our Founder, Christine Staple Ebanks has written several books and publications aimed at carrying the authentic voices and experiences of children with disabilities and their families. Her newest book and first children’s book, I’m Just Like You But Different: A Story About Living with Cerebral Palsy is an inspiring example of engendering peace.

The book shares the experience of my son Nathan when he was in kindergarten and was being excluded by his peers. Nathan has no friends as the other children would not play with him because he looked different. He has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He is non-verbal and cannot walk. He has a caregiver who went to school with him and fed him his meals and pushed his wheelchair. In the eyes of other five-year-olds, he was a baby.”

Christine wrote the story to share this problem of exclusivity which no one considered or gave much importance to, up till now. She used construction paper to create a book and read the story to his classmates. There was an immediate shift in the other children’s attitude towards Nathan. Through the book, they came to understand why he was different. They learned that Nathan and other children with disabilities were just like them in many ways, and needed friends just like them.

They learned how to play with him. They accepted him into their circle wholeheartedly, and it was the best school year for Nathan up to that point.

For Peace Day 2020, we are taking up the #MyPeaceDayChallenge and will read a book on disability and inclusion. We will be reading the book ‘I’m Just Like You But Different: A Story About Living with Cerebral Palsy’ on social media on the day. The book beautifully portrays friendship, hope, compassion and love, some of the themes for the Peace Day movement. The book was brilliantly designed and illustrated by Future by Design Studio (@redesigningtomorrow) in a way that captures the heart and spirit of this powerful story of inclusion and hope.

Erin Mercer, speech, and language pathologist, through skilful developmental and editorial recommendations brought out the themes of friendships, support, and belonging, which helped to make the book interactive for young readers. All in all, this beautiful children’s book is a powerful advocacy tool for children (and adults) living with CP everywhere and sends the message that every child with CP (and other special needs) matters.

Every child has the right to belong and have meaningful friendships, no matter their abilities or disabilities. The book is available in e-book and print formats on Amazon worldwide.

We identify with the meaning of peace with love, hope, acceptance, respect and friendships, that go beyond physical or spiritual differences. That is why we must understand as a community, that we should promote friendships in which people with disabilities are not scorned or excluded or abused or looked down on. Instead, they are honoured and supported. It means looking at the person for who he or she is, rather than just for his disability.

Such a mindset needs to be developed in the early years in children so that they can grow up to be accepting and inclusive adults who exhibit the right kind of sensitivity towards this.

We invite you to join our YouTube, Instagram and Facebook channels @raisingspecialneeds featured and join with us over this next week (leading up to Peace Day) through the eyes of young children, we give a fresh perspective on peace and why it matters that we teach this important spirit to our children.

On International Peace Day (September 21), a video will be shared on our YouTube channel with tips on how to talk to young children about peace, friendship and compassion through the pages of ‘I’m Just Like You But Different: A Story About Cerebral Palsy’.

This activity will be done by Erin Mercer, speech and language pathologist and editor for the book.

We hope that you will join us for International Peace Day in “Shaping Peace Together”.

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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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