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The Dalai Lama’s Autobiography: An Attempt To Describe The Personal And Political

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The book Freedom in Exile is the autobiography of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The book includes his entire life journey until 1990 directly from the horse’s mouth. The book gives insights into His Holiness’ perspectives. He has also given some details of China’s occupation over Tibet from 1949 onwards. How the progression of life can turn into exile of the Dalai Lama is an exceptional theme of this book.

‘Holder of the White Lotus’ is the first chapter of the book and includes His Holiness’s birth and initial years of his study and spiritual upbringing by other Guru (Lama) in the monasteries around Lhasa, far away from his native place. As a five-year-old child, he was away from his mother every four months. The white lotus is equivalent to peace in the Indian context too, and is a bright way to start reading this book. It tells a lot about the culture of Tibet and how it is different from his motherland.

The fundamental precept of ‘Buddhism — the Law of Cause and Effect’ has also been discussed in the book. This is the relationship between karma and rebirth of an individual. ‘The Lion Throne’, the second chapter in the book, gives specific details of his personal life. It mentions His name, Lhamo Thondup, which later became Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso.

dalai lama autobiography
‘Holder of the White Lotus’ is the first chapter of the book and includes His Holiness’s birth and initial years of his study and spiritual upbringing by other Guru (Lama) in the monasteries around Lhasa.

Each chapter in this book has a special effect on every living being’s life. The book talks about Seventeen Point Peace Agreement that happened between Tibet and China. Nehru had supported China and His Holiness had to agree, as his young spirituality wasn’t supported by any of the parties. Aged 55, Dalai Lama proposed a Five-Point Agreement, where he proposed a friendly relation and asked for the security of environment (in terms of nuclear weapons) was also refused by PLA (People’s Liberation Army).

Reviewing the book as reverential as this is a petty task, but the truth should be known to the world in the light of Tibet’s Freedom Fight. The focus has to be given to the man who sacrificed his life for his people, who are actually on the threat of extinction. His Holiness has given insights into his life as an ordinary man who has suffered a lot, yet come out like a phoenix. People know him around the world for his work and sacrifices, but the book only talks about His Holiness’s life as a person who suffered a lot in the crisis.

The position he holds has the importance of many lives, as millions of Tibetans around the world seek his leadership. So, to include those peoples’ perspective is considerable. The suffering is one path of Buddhism, but those who suffer must get attention. So, people should know what exactly caused the suffering (in case of Tibetans, China’s Extradition). While sharing a press incident, His Holiness described that the Chinese media referred to him as ‘Wolf in the Monk’s Robes’, which is as disrespectful as it gets.

His Holiness represents Tibetans around the world and his autobiography must include them; this is the only shortcoming in his book. The book, overall, gives perspective and spiritual life lessons. His Holiness has elaborated every situation in the face of positivity as one where he quotes a conversation of himself with Mao, where Mao had said, “Your attitude is good, you know. Religion is poison. Firstly, it reduces the population, because monks and nuns must stay celibate, and secondly, it neglects material progress.” Dalai Lama very politely replied to this, “So, you are the destroyer of Dharma after all.” 

Prominent media platforms have given the best lines from the book. The Daily Mail has reviewed the book as “an extraordinary story”. The New York Times says, “Remarkable…moving…often amusing” and the Spectator, “A touching book that arouses great sympathy for its extraordinary author.”

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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 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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