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How I am Coping With The Shock And Disappointment Of This Pandemic

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ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

Day 181 / Unknown 

It is now Day 181 of the pandemic. I have been reminiscing the memories of the first three months of this year. I’ve been remembering the New Year’s Eve Party; the company, the toasts, the declaration of resolutions – the optimism.

I  remember a time of group studies and extra-curriculars. I  decided to reorganise my book cabinet today, and I found the list of activities I had planned for the summer. And while the list was made only earlier this year, I look at it as if it’s a  memory from a long-forgotten time.

I read all the well-detailed plans my friends and I had laid out – the different dates in which we would spend time in different parts of the city; learning to drive; having movie nights and sleepovers. It reminds me of a time before social isolation. 

The term social isolation now strikes fear and performs the same function as shackles do. While the term started out as a  description for voluntary confinement and solitude, in today’s time, it is imposed by a microscopic piece of biology on the entirety of the human race.

This virus is the biggest curveball of not only my life but also that of my grandmother’s. As a  third-generation literature student, my initial response to the pandemic was, it’s just more time for me to curl up with a  book. Just 6 months later, I see how naive I was.  

A Picture of the author.

Technology may have brought us all closer but the stress the pandemic brought, has divided us. I came across a story on Instagram the other day by the New York Times. It said that we may leave 2020 with fewer friends than we started out with.  And I could see the truth in it.

To my constant shock and disappointment, my friend group went from seven to four in the span of half a year. I learn new coping mechanisms. I have learnt to adjust to a new time table, to new ways of communicating, to new ways of learning. As I see “glass-half-empty” attitudes being passed from person to person, I try to stabilize myself during this tempest.

The words of Aaron Burr from the Hamilton musical, “I am the one thing in life I can control” keeps ringing in my ears. Losing friends while juggling what seems an insurmountable workload takes its toll on me.

With every passing day, I sleep later and wake up earlier. With exams around the corner, the stress of performing well increases especially with the possibility that these may be used as a cumulative for the board exams.  

My family tries to teach me patience during this unforeseen time. I have learnt to spend more time with them. I now spend more time talking about the day to my Nani.  My mother and I learn to make plans during a pandemic and discuss safe ways of executing them.

Gone are the days where we could plan parties and book shopping dates. Now we spend time watching a movie and ordering take out. I spend my time alternating between studying and conversing with my friends and family.  

It’s been hard to keep in touch with friends when most families including mine complain about the rise in screen time. It becomes harder when we know what they are saying is right and out of the care and consideration they have for us.

Yet, the lack of socializing during this outbreak takes a further toll. It increases the distance between us. It demands more effort from both sides. It tests our patience. My friends and I have inculcated the habit of listening to tracks from the Hamilton musical to help us get through these tumultuous times. We learn to work and help each other for studies.

The pandemic, while it has stolen a lot from me, kept me from my plans for my last year in the school that I have been in for  14 years; distanced me from a few; brought me closer to a  few.

It has led me to make new friends all across the globe and India. It has sharpened a few boundaries and erased a few. It is with trepidation and nervousness that I approach the end of this year. I’m apprehensive of making plans for fear of being heartbroken again.

I don’t know if I should adapt to taking everything as it comes or to analyse the different possibilities and prepare for them accordingly. As I look back on the 180 days I have spent cooped up at home, it feels like I  have adapted to breathing underwater. It feels like I have evolved and my body has developed gills.

The pandemic has pushed my limits, widened my horizons and made me stronger. I only wonder now, how many more days do I have to continue to adjust and evolve. How many more days will this tempest of a pandemic continue testing us? 

2nd of October, 2020 

Haniya

The author is a student of the Young Researchers for Social Impact (YRSI) Program conducted by Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC). YRSI identifies promising high schoolers and builds their capacity as critical thinkers and problem solvers to produce thought-provoking solutions to pressing issues that affect our societies today. This article was written as part of the June 2020 edition of the program. The views expressed in this study are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of YLAC as an organisation.
This post is a part of COVID Diaries, a special series under the #ReimagineTogether campaign. Tell us how this lockdown and pandemic has affected you! Join the conversation by adding a post here. here.
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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.

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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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