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Will Humans Become More Selfish Post-COVID?

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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.

With COVID-19 hopscotching around the world, the phase of graded and colour-coded lockdown has created new borders and inequalities. The existence of two India’s has already turned into a reality and occasional shooing away and lectures of finding a job, that used to be delivered to a derelict on a traffic signal have reduced.

Although the pandemic has zero respect for privilege and has crashed economies and communities, the elite class continues to segregate mankind into well-constructed departments.

As the rich segregate themselves in luxurious apartments and share work-out videos, the poor family of five tries social distancing in one single room.

As we continue to think about the impending economic crisis and ways in which the industries dependent on labourers could start working again, the real implications could be on their families. Representational image.

Amid the nation’s chaotic battle against COVID—19, the government is possessed with the plan to redevelop the three-kilometre long stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate and millions of workers continue to be sanitized with disinfectants used to clean floors.

Words like “basic” and “necessities” no longer have one meaning. We see someone baking a fancy chocolate pastry on the Instagram story and at the same time, we are informed about the death of a twelve-year-old child who walked over hundred of kilometres from her workplace in Telangana to her native village in Chhattisgarh.

The most important question which arises here is whether humans will become more selfish post-COVID? Will a new level of stigmatization and untouchability emerge?

Majority of the migrant workers, which includes the painters, welders and electricians used to work on a contract basis. As we continue to think about the impending economic crisis and ways in which the industries dependent on labourers could start working again, the real implications could be on their families. However, it is not only the loss of wages which is concerning but also the rise of domestic violence and sexual abuse as reported by authentic newspapers.

The lockdown has proved that digital India is still a myth and the suicide of a Dalit student from Kerela on 1st June 2020 is a witness to this. With notifications of online classes and assignments piling up, access to the internet is still a luxury. So will zoom notifications become the school and college bells which used to ring every hour?

The world is embracing for doomsday by cutting the wages and firing employees, which goes on to prove that the epoch of misery is almost there for the downtrodden section of the society.

Every salary cut of an employee from the middle class means a cut of wages for those in the informal sector. The cycle does not stop here, the demand for various basic essentials are reduced. Since every person outside the home is a potential carrier of COVID-19, the man who irons shirts will lose his livelihood and the maid who takes a local train every morning at five, would not even be allowed to step into the workplace.

Earlier untouchability was measured by caste but in a post- COVID world it could be defined by poverty and occupation. It is time to understand that maintaining even the most basic hygiene is a problem in a country like India, where an entire community shares the same washroom and gets water supply only at seven in the morning and evening.

Social distancing will obviously become a strategy for human survival and might get incorporated into the social life, but how will it be implemented in Asia’s largest slum in a post-COVID world?

Untouchability and stigmatization might be witnessed at a horizontal level this time, and instead of segregating people in terms of “social purity” we might segregate them in terms of “biological body.”

As we deal with the huge social problems, tiny problems at the level of individuals might also crop up. Social psychologists believe that individuals might be affected by the constant fear of uncertainty which could lead to the alteration of personalities and the emergence of a new human.

We will face an existential crisis, and getting the common flu or even cough and cold will turn us into suspicious social animals scared of losing their lives. Isolation of the elderly would lead to loneliness and they might suffer from depression and anxiety.

The readymade replacements for a handshake or a hug which are a wave or nod and even a mobile emoticon in some cases would turn into permanent social gestures while meeting and greeting.

Humans will become more apprehensive and the plans for a world tour which is already there, in so many buckets, might get cancelled. Emotionally scarred humans might continue to wash vegetables with detergents and the atheist world might become God-fearing believing that this is an affliction sent as a punishment.

With 388,244 deaths as of June 4, 2020, all over the world and the overwhelming incidence of social distancing being practised, this mammoth is drowning our foresight.

Few scholars believe that a much better human would emerge out of this lockdown but the disharmony and insensitivity which was created as a result of panic buying goes on to prove that mankind is a selfish race.

It is too early to predict human behaviour and even a post-COVID world because instead of showing gratitude to the frontline warriors, we as a community, have discriminated against them and subjected them to emotional turmoil in an already unfavourable condition.

Only a promise or a lecture about “better tomorrow” will not help this time, society needs concrete help in terms of money and food.

As the most technologically advanced community fights this battle at the cost of mental health, loss of life and livelihood, the political vocabulary while defining deprivation might shift from caste to class.

The sweepers, Doms and Dhangars might acquire new strength because hygiene, sanitation and waste disposal has become important. This pandemic is a result of human actions and today we are taking actions only because humans are at risk. Tomorrow when this pandemic ends, global warming and climate change wouldn’t be a big concern because people will not die immediately.

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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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