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This Mental Health Day, Let’s Pledge To Eradicate The Devil In Disguise, Bullying

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Just like none of the fingers on our hand are the same, so is the case with children. None of them are the same. Everyone is special in their own way — some introvert, some extrovert, some tall, some fat. But all of them are unique, unique in their own tunes. To nurture each one in their own soup and soul is the best way to respect diversity among people.

This respect should begin from home, and then carried forward to school, college, playground, social gatherings, extracurricular classes, and to each and every sphere where souls mingle. But sadly, one much-ignored aspect of a child’s life that we often forget is bullying. Bullying is very much a part of life for many, more so for those who aren’t outspoken, extrovert, not the appropriate height or weight, or not cheerful all-rounders.

But that doesn’t mean that they are good for nothing. Instead of bullying these people and laughing at them, the focus should be on encouraging them to mould themselves, just like clay, into their passion and imagination. They need to be reminded that they are special, just like all the other kids. But we often see them being asked to live according to others’ expectation of them. In this case, they end up losing their uniqueness, and the world loses its diversity and heterogeneity.

Bullying comes in many forms — kids are often bullied by their tuition teachers, school teachers, peers, and in some cases, even their parents. This starts from a kinder age and can continue up till your coffin lids are nailed. They are ridiculed for being fat, or too thin, or too dumb. They are ridiculed for their accent, looks, for how they pronounce some words and so on. In most cases, this bullying comes from their own peers, who, too, are kids, but the most unacceptable thing is when the person being bullied is laughed at and the person who bullies is regarded as smart and charming.

Bullying might take place in front of teachers, guardians, or their own parents. Instead of rebuking those who bully, we see teachers, and even their guardians, thinking as it is some child’s play and snide over their kids’ action. No, this is not done. Bullying can never be a child’s play. It is not just an innocent joke. Maybe the kid who bullies does it innocently, but aren’t we mature enough to say that this is wrong? Is it okay to accept whatever a child does, by the virtue of them being a child, even when it comes at the cost of hurting the self-esteem of another kid, for no fault of theirs?

Imagine a scene where you are feeling low and people around you start mocking you. How would you feel? Yes, at such tender age, when a child gets such a feeling and doesn’t know what they are going through, they might end up feeling worse, not knowing how to express themselves. Their self-esteem is brought down to zero and so is their confidence, which then takes years to rebuild. And then, teachers or parents would say that they are not confident enough. How would they be? Did we give them the scope to feel confident or did we just snatch their confidence from them by not taking bullying seriously?

Sometimes, they might become aggressive, like in the case of Stockholm syndrome, and might end up increasing their mental agony to thousand folds. They might not know how they are feeling or how to express themselves. They might try to avoid places where they usually get bullied, and ultimately, lock themselves inside closed walls. And then, we’d call them unsocial. If injustice had a name, it ought to be this.

Their own special interests are lost, their sense of self is lost, they start feeling inferior to others. Their efforts might get diverted to make themselves like those who bully him so that they don’t get bullied again. They try to look good and stand tall, but in vain. And in the meantime, their dreams and abilities might suffer the worst nightmare. Many a times, guardians of the bully might not even recognise that the fault lies in their child, and not the other way around.

Their parents rejoice over the fact that their child is extrovert and smart, but forget that this doesn’t give them the licence to bully others. Their silence is not innocent but criminal, because who knows, their child might end up one day becoming a ragging kingpin in college, at workplace, or in the locality, tormenting people across ages for years. And the bullied child’s parents, too, instead of safeguarding their child, might think that the fault lies in their humble and tender lad. They seem to believe in the nonsensical logic that what the majority of the population says is right. No, it’s not.

Firstly, bullies are not a majority, but they influence the majority by their outspoken innocence, but devilous maneuver. And secondly, even if they are in a majority, that doesn’t make them the torchbearers of righteousness. To be introvert is no sin. But the silence of the world reinforces the idea of worthlessness in that poor soul, and to the extent that they aren’t able to gather themselves up.

Bullied kids, in many cases, give themselves into writing, scribbling or painting. They don’t even want the world to know about this lest they get bullied again. Scribbling or writing helps them to vent their emotions out, which they don’t know how to do or whom to express in front of, without getting judged for it.

Well, while this may be the case for the majority, the minority could even get themselves lost in the world of addiction and criminal activities because to them, these worlds promise them a world of self-respect and living alone, which our so-called white-collared world has denied them.

“A wounded rabbit lost its way, sitting and shouting in pain, while the world of hyenas looked upon her and had gales of laugh.”

This is how a bullied kid sees the world. As we say no to ragging, let’s also pledge for a bully-free world, starting from our kids at home. And till then, protect your child from bullying others or getting bullied, and make them feel better. Who knows, many a Galileo, Socrates or Plato are waiting to come.

Let’s pledge this on Mental Health Day this year .Even if we can’t relieve anyone’s mental agony, don’t become the cause of it either.

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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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