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Discovering The Joy Of Gardening Kept Me Going During The Stressful Lockdown Period

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As a BA final year student, my exams were to be held in March, and I was fully prepared to do my best and score well. But it was declared that the exams are being postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. I was not worried about it as I was sure that it would not be spreading too much.

Rather, I was happy because it was a chance for me to study harder. I was preparing myself to lean towards every topic that I’d ignored due to time shortage. Every day was a fresh start with extra enthusiasm and the hope that everything will become normal, and we all would be living our normal lives like always.

Everything was going well, but gradually, the calendar indicated the end of the month and my patience too. I was losing the zest to cope up with the situation. The increasing of Covid-19 cases was so distressing. It started to affect my mental stability—suddenly, every effort seemed to be  futile. I stopped concentrating on my studies and was spending most of my days doing nothing. Days passed, weeks passed, and my productivity was drowning in the sea of idleness. My creativity was decaying, and nothing seemed good.

What I was worried about what was next… Exams were not supposed to be held, and there was no necessity to brood over the notes to produce good answers. I was devastated. I felt lost. Life seemed useless.

But one day, I was going through my social media feed and saw some posts about gardening and plantations. I discovered different methods of planting—using plastic bottles, pots and earthen pots. I ignored it the first time, but then, when I started thinking about it, I couldn’t stop. The first task I did the very next morning was collecting of waste plastic pots. I filled them with soil, but since plant shops were closed, I had nothing to plant.

But nothing is impossible when you decide to do something. When you search for opportunities, you definitely discover one. And my discovery led me to the Aloe Vera plant that was left neglected outside my home. I tried to pick one from there carefully and planted it in my pot. The happiness that I gained from it was incomparable to any other thing. It was a priceless sensation.

There was no looking back. There was a neglected money plant tub at my home as well. I picked a branch from it and put it into a jar filled with water. Since then, there’s been no stopping for me.

Picture 1: Money Plant.
Picture 2 : Money plant in earthen pot and Aloe Vera in abandoned plastic coffee mug.

Planting gave me a lot of satisfaction. I was feeling productive. And the best thing was it helped me connect with nature. When the Aloe Vera plant sprouted its first leaf, there was nothing more precious to me. Every time the Money Plant was growing a bit, I felt I was growing along with it. I was getting rid of my anxieties.

Now when the lockdown is over, I have gifted more than 20 plants to myself. Some of them are flowering plants, some are not, but the happiness they give is the same.

Picture 3: Mini rose.
Picture 4: Aparajita.

They give me the utmost happiness, and I feel fulfilled with joy. Watering them every day has become a habit to me. I do not feel idle anymore. As a student, it is very important to be productive and continue your studies; it is important to keep your mind fresh enough to let the knowledge get in. And the freshness providers are my plants.

They taught me to bloom in all the situations, be it sunny, rainy or cloudy. They taught me to  adapt to every situation. They are now a part of my life. The pandemic has given me a new life, which I’m sharing with my plants, and I’m enjoying it.

Nature never betrays you, if you invest your love in it, it will return that love to you with interest.  You cannot have a bad day if you have plants with you. You will be getting up in the morning with the hope of a new flower’s bloom or sprouting of a new leaf. You can enjoy the colourful bliss they offer you.

You would understand the value of that one leaf that is going to shed after getting yellowed. You know it’s natural, but still, you cannot take the grief of losing a leaf that was a part of your plant. Your emotions are nurtured by them. A strong feeling of satisfaction is there in nature’s lap. Just be a part of it, and you would never get disappointed.

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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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