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Locked But Not Down: How India Dealt With Coronavirus

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

Don’t Break. Just Take A Break

The Beginning Of The Lockdown

Anticipations, assumptions, speculations are what we began the lockdown with. All of us were uncannily perplexed, perceptions diluted and all of it, the cobalt skies turned into an epitome of fair play to gaze at. The social network was booming with pompous selfies, opinions were juxtaposed with information hurriedly validated, social groups jabbering about ‘the lockdown curfew and its impacts’ in tabloids, and nibbling kids not understanding anything still glued to Televisions yet happy on surprising school vacations.

On the other hand, there were logical men and women flanked by religious men and women debating upon how shall this all end into a biblical doomsday, propping subaltern societies on illegal constructions, habitually scratching their private parts and explaining how Corona is a direct translation of some Satanic dream and maybe, much more. The day was the 22nd of March 2020.

However, when tired discussions turned into hostile responsibilities and shoulders were shrugged, like any other nascent democracy; we relied upon our government like we always have, and as assumptive, perhaps governments have some magical wand from some fantastical Hobbit fairy tale. One ‘swoosh’ of that wand and everything shall become as it always was.

The Government And Us

Alas but, government, like any other, is us, made of us and made by us. Little puzzled, the same government pulled down all social hobnobbing, activities, fun, and frolic to minimum habitation of seamless supply of essential goods and, that’s it. The common and unprepared man of India is still discovering the 21 days lockdown period to be an inexplicable agile experience of nationhood (which indeed it is) or maybe some fable to be spoken out to grandchildren years later.

For a third world country, The Indian Government did well to announce lockdown early in a critical phase.

Then comes a phase during the lockdown which makes the individual observe and absorb. It took some time however, it did work. Evolution of new social norms which initially were about jostling to buy vegetables, being brute in hoarding essential groceries on reluctantly opened departmental stores, disavowing curtailment in freedom, reluctance to social empathy, and the wearing face masks as a kindergarten punishment.

Punctuated by the sudden realization of calling upon distant relatives, unaware bike riders on dimpled streets to gauge this ‘new warfare’ against an unknown enemy like Corona, introduction to heavy terms like ‘quarantine’, ‘virus hotspot’ etc., coerced social sealing turned into giving mutual space, self-introspection and self-preservation.

Though the period, very affirmatively, comes as a rehab for some of us too who disowned moral responsibilities for they were too involved with fleeting thoughts of broken relationships, unlikable professions, redundant family issues, etc which eventually made them see a ‘modest bar’ or ‘Tinder’ as a valid respite before.

But then again, the current phase sees there has been fanaticism towards religion too. Blaring Television channels, quotes from scriptures, texts, religious interventionists yelling how to even wash hands, fierce debates blaming one religion or the other for spreading ‘Corona’. However, what we forgot that the virus of Corona is a little clearer though in its probabilities.

Irrespective of anything, it spreads. Politically, there is a myriad of reasons to blame China from being late in shutting down, (the now infamous Wuhan) to accepting those social hugs from Italians on the new year however but, the pandemic established one thing, isolation is a myth. What one remotely does affects the other – gravely.

A special mention goes to the Government of India here as and when it took care of this critical situation. The critics can say whatever they want for they are critics (political or otherwise), still, despite being a third world country we showed agility in understanding and accepting that its only proactive measures which could save lives, considering the paucity of resources, live examples of developed nations like Italy, China and America falling flat on the surface in terms of handling Corona.

The Indian government has been taking drastic steps in making sure that this combat remains merely between Corona and humans – a completely secular approach constitutionally. The maturity by which the authorities are manoeuvring orders, a supply of essential goods, ensuring physically a complete lockdown with zero tolerance has been a matter of curious attention by esteemed international organizations as well.

india lockdown
Representational image.

The Opportunities In Lockdown

Artistes like us, to speak a little metaphorically, are dancing well and dusty book covers are shining again. While those online zoom or Google Hangout sessions, frequent telephonic chats, video calls for healthy gossiping with film and theatre fraternities are rapid on priorities.

However, they have also proved that things are being created, projects are being redrafted, stories are being written, actors are learning, attempts are being made to improve acting pedagogy, authors have become more stimulating and readers have become avid readers. Basically, to speak succinctly, the family of all creative individuals have taken this entire lockdown period very positively and have gone into some kind of an affirmative hibernation in totality with the rules and regulations to follow up.

To sum it all up, we categorically have to understand, that this lockdown period is not a vacation. It has come with responsibilities. It is indeed a time of introspection, diligence, nearness, support, change, and empathy. It is a time to create something new, maybe just an idea, to begin with.

It is a time to reaffirm our social engineering globally that we are humans first and then gender, political, social, professional, or otherwise. The period is an inspiration for defining or proving that we are a qualified society to understand adapts change – a change which is for that utilitarian greater good of all.

Indeed, we are locked but certainly not down.

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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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