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Unpacking India’s Pandemic Response: Overview Of Challenges, Successes, Best Practices

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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.

From 31st July to 19th August, we hosted the ‘India’s Pandemic Response’ virtual event to unpack the policy response of the Union and state governments. The aim was to provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges, successes, and best practices of the government’s response. A one-of-a-kind virtual attempt, we organised three webinars, and also released several interactive knowledge offerings.

This blog will help you revisit the event, and explore how India dealt with the pandemic in the last few months.


On Citizen Participation: On 31st July, we brought together several grassroots civil society organisations (CSOs) to discuss the role of CSOs in pandemic times. Senior managers of five organisations working on the frontline were invited as speakers: Ibtada, Pahal, Jan Sahyog Vikas Sansthan, Samarthan, Aajeevika Bureau, and Project Potential. The five speakers spoke about the relief work that their organisations have been doing on-ground, their collaborations with the government and the challenges involved. The attendees in the webinar spanned 39 CSOs and eight states.

You can view the recording here.

On Funding and Finances: On 12th August, we hosted a virtual session — ‘Atmanirbharta in India’s States: Stressed Government Finances and Long-term Implications’ — to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public finances, and its long-term implications. The session was graced by three experts: Arvind Mayaram, Vice Chairman, Rajasthan Economic Transformation Advisory Council, Dr Himani Baxi, Assistant Professor, Ahmedabad University, and Dr D Vijay Kumar, Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Meghalaya.

You can view the recording here.

On the Impact of the Pandemic on School Education and the New Education Policy (NEP): On 18th August, we organised an invite-only digital roundtable with experts who have extensively worked on public school education to discuss the closure of schools, the shift to e-learning platforms, and the NEP.

Knowledge Offerings

For 7 Days at 7 PM from 13 August, we released interactive knowledge offerings each day.

Inside Districts Hub: The Inside Districts series aims to document the oft-overlooked stories of government workers and officials working in the frontlines of rural India. Through this website, you will learn more about the challenges and aspirations of Corona Warriors in India’s five major Indian states.

India’s Fiscal Response to COVID-19: The Atmanirbhar Bharat Package: In May 2020, the Government of India announced the ₹20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat economic package. Using government reported data, this dashboard summarises the funds allocated under various components of the package.

Rural Livelihoods during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Deep Dive on MGNREGS: The factsheet looks at the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which is a flagship scheme of the government to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year (FY) to every rural household that demands work.

Distribution of Foodgrains during the COVID-19 Pandemic: The factsheet discusses the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PM-GKAY), which is a food security welfare scheme announced by the government for free distribution of foodgrains to vulnerable households.

India’s Public Insurance Gamble: In this interview, Dr Jeffrey Hammer, who has extensively worked on the economics of providing public health services in India, spoke about Ayushman Bharat (the Union government’s new insurance programme).  

Rajasthan’s ‘Model’ Response: Towards the end of March 2020, Bhilwara district in Rajasthan witnessed a growing concentration of infections, and was on its way to becoming an epicentre of the virus in the state; however, things changed quickly. This interactive piece explores how Bhilwara came to be a ‘model’ to aspire to.

School Education Finances: An Overview of Eight States: In June 2020, we published a study that provided an in-depth understanding of government school education financing in India. It analysed expenditures across eight States from Fiscal Year (FY) 2014-15 to FY 2017-18. In this factsheet, we capture key insights from the report along with updated information for FY 2020-21.

On the basis of the same study, we also published factsheets in Hindi for Bihar, Himachal PradeshMaharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan.

In order to initiate further conversation on government schemes and other COVID-19 policy responses, we invite you to organise virtual discussions in your organisations/circles on the various policy changes that the country has witnessed in the last few months.  

We would also be happy to guide you or collaborate where relevant with you on these discussions. Share your plan with us at:

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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