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Disabilities May Divide Us, But Our Talent Unites Us

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Can a girl on the Autism spectrum bag a Bollywood film?
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Between meritocracy and minority, exists the invisible Atypical world. As Maya Angelou once said “I believe that every person is born with talent,” we believe that too. We have been used as characters in blockbuster motion pictures leaving the audience in emotional flux, but then again, no one came looking for us outside the theatre. That’s the story of the people in our small Atypical world. This world belongs to the invisible and the ignored or left to pity.

I remember reading on someone’s T-Shirt, “The Future is Inclusive,” and I smirked. It was for the people who had a future, we struggle in the present. Let’s meet some of my friends who are changing the narrative to a truly inclusive future with their talent. Excited to meet them?

Ananya Halarnkar

Do you watch Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC)? Ananya was there! She performed with her other bandmates. Ananya is part of a six-pack band 2 set up by Yash Raj Films. Here is a photo for you.

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Ananya is pursuing a BA in psychology from Bhavan’s College and wants to take up music as a career.

Ananya started receiving training in classical music at an early age from Ajivasan Music School from where she has completed her Sangeet Visharad training with distinction. She is training in Gandharva music and planning to appear for their examination. Our friend is pursuing a BA in psychology from Bhavan’s College and wants to take up music as a career. Her latest feat was a chorus in the movie Raazi.

Hire her here for performing in your marriage, Anniversary, corporate event, or a surprise get together.

Usaid Shaikh

He is 21 and versatile. You might be amazed to know; he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder very early and since then, he used art and sketches as means of communication. We all believe in the power of practice and Usaid seems to have redefined it. Growing up, he picked up singing, drumming, dancing, tried his hands on animation and piano.

He aspires to become a filmmaker. We say this with confidence that he will become one after watching his first short film True Happiness which was screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF). Usaid has won numerous awards for his exceptional talents and skills. I know you would like to watch his work too, so here is the link.

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We all believe in the power of practice and Usaid seems to have redefined it.

He joins the Atypical Family with proficient graphic designing, Photoshop, video editing, 2d and 3d animation skills. He has work experience of 2 years as a freelance graphic designer. He has designed T-shirts, mugs, tea coasters, fridge magnets, book marks, logos, labels, product graphics, event flyers, cover page and back cover, and has worked on projects of graphics and video editing.

Hire him here for designing your logo or T-shirts, and he will rock the show.

Pooja Bodas

Pooja was born in 1988 in Mumbai and when she was six months old, it was confirmed that Pooja cannot hear any sound that is below 95 DB. After completing her graduation in Fine Arts, she is all set to make her mark as an artist. Pooja’s artwork has been in exhibitions and has been appreciated by art lovers across countries. She joins the Atypical family with her canvas and brushes. Her excellence in art has been celebrated by us in our atypical art gallery.

Buy her memorable paintings to decorate your house here.

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Pooja’s artwork has been in exhibitions and has been appreciated by art lovers across countries.

Sometimes a question racks my brain — are we not deserving enough? And then I turn to my television to hear the great politicians of the world making us the protagonists of their next election campaign, or a brand claiming to make us the next ambassador. To be honest, we are scattered, that reminds me of Engels and Marx — “Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch!”, the popularized translation of the sentence reads “Workers of the World, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!” I feel for us, it’s time to unite as we have nothing to lose but our talents to showcase. Our friend Usaid, a graphic designer, Ananya, a singer and Pooja, an artist from different regions of the country have already come together. They are helping us build Atypical Advantage and we here we stand united.

Atypical Advantage is Planet’s first Talent platform for people with disabilities. Explore our website to Hire Talent for an event, shop items made by people with disabilities, dazzle yourself with the Art collection, sign up for mentorship, read Humans of Atypical stories, subscribe to our weekly newsletter, volunteer with us or feel free to contribute here.

Until next time,
Your Atypical Buddy

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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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