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Dear Diary. All I Want Is For COVID-19 To Go Away, And Not Come Again Another Day!

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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.
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.

If I have to talk about my experiences during the lockdown, then, as a person with blindness, my experiences were a mix of a lot of emotions and insights. On the one hand, my experience with the lockdown has been truly positive and worth-remembering, while on the other hand, it has been too dramatic. So, let’s proceed with this journey.

The idea of moving from physical devices to digital ones appealed a lot as it allowed me to stop being ‘technoplegic’. Moreover, spare time also provided me with a wonderful opportunity to overcome my shyness, thereby permitting me to make a lot of new friends!

This lockdown also helped me, as an individual, to understand a lot about persons with disabilities, and the importance of accessibility for living a fruitful life. This was thanks to many NGOs that work on disability, who organised a lot of webinars to educate everyone about such important aspects.

Life became more interesting during this lockdown when this time provided me with an opportunity to enter a ‘mentoring’ relationship with my friends currently studying in grade IX, who are really fun-loving and interesting people. It was a 3-month-long virtual program, which was voluntarily organised by four of us, to break the challenges associated with classroom-learning. It was also to lead and grow as individuals by studying several subjects together such as social science, English, values, and more.

The program resulted in a lifelong bond between all four of us! This relationship taught me the importance of staying happy as the atmosphere was as inclusive as it could be! These 3 friends accepted me for who I am, irrespective of my challenges and shortcomings. We could fill the so-called ‘social gap’, leading to the initiation of the process of destigmatization for me as a person with blindness and for others who chose to be friends with me in person.

However, there have been times when I have felt isolated and anxious due to decreased physical activities from my end. This is partly because, during this lockdown, we all had to stay at home while all the gyms and the health centres were closed. Whether you deny it or not, it is a fact that when we aren’t seeing, then, at some point of time, we often feel empty and void from within, thereby indicating that something is missing. However, as I reflect back, I realise that it was just an intrusive thought that conquered my mind during this lockdown.

Moreover, adding to this are my feelings of frustration, which lead to increased aggressive behaviour at home. During these heart-breaking moments, my family and friends proved to be a great support system for me. My parents always made me realise that I’m not alone, that they are always there for me, no matter what.

This is not the end of the story, dear diary, this was my experience. This is just a glimpse of it. Everyone has different things to share and the experiences of different people are subjective. So to understand this I talked to one of my friends from the Deaf community. I interviewed Saudamini Pethe who is an empowered woman and Deaf Activist.

She told me that, her experiences during this lockdown have been both positive and negative. She stated that “Thinking about the positives, the most remarkable factor is that the concept of Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) has been successfully initiated in India. Unlike earlier, where mostly the interpreter had to be physically present at the venue and had to do the interpreting for the deaf client, now, most of the interpreters are doing online interpreting. Especially in webinars and in online classes.”

While having a conversation on the aspect of social interactions, Saudamini stated, “During this lockdown, I realised that one should definitely maintain a strong social network.”

However, diary, every coin has two sides. While Saudamini has undergone some positive experiences during this lockdown, there are some negative experiences too. This has been the case with each and every individual during this lockdown.

Image of a child looking into a phone screen, trying to use educational software, with school books in the background.
Representational image.

During a conversation about her negative experiences, Saudamini stated, “Thinking about the aspect of social interactions, I would like to state that this lockdown has made it challenging for persons with deafness to engage in vibrant social interactions as sign language is just one component of social interactions, but it is not the entire thing.

Added to this is the importance of facial expressions and lip-reading. Since masks have covered the faces. So now it’s quite challenging to engage in vibrant social interactions.

For a person with deafness, video-calling is the only medium left for communication during this lockdown. Further added to these are some other challenges related to the unavailability of Indian Sign Language (ISL) interpreters during many online webinars and in most of the online classes. My online classes were not accessible. I am paying for an interpreter and hence can access online classes. But still, many students are unable to get proper access to the ISL interpreters. I can just say that online interpreting has started as a possibility unlike earlier, but there is no proper footing in India as of now.

How can these challenges be resolved? The need of the hour is to identify our own strengths and limitations as persons with disabilities to advocate for rights of persons with disabilities and most importantly, if the entire community realises that we are all united from within, and we all are a family, then this can actually be a game-changer.

Once our disabled community realizes that regardless of disability we need to work together in a cross-disability approach, quite a few of the barriers would be remedied since for everyone family is the topmost priority and we try our level best to ensure their happiness.

Finally, if we collectively focus on individual battles of persons with different disabilities, then together there will be no challenge left, thereby ensuring better implementation of all the laws and policies at the state/national level.

These were some of our experiences during this Corona lockdown as a person with a disability and this is how I feel.

Written with a mix of emotions,
Sanya Gandhi

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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
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