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A Day In The Life Of Our Family Amid The Covid-19 Pandemic

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.

“Family, friends and colleagues; fear, fun and fitness. Hands, face masks and space; opportunities, challenges and changes.”

In the year 2020, these words carried a specific meaning and message, playing out in particular ways for men, women and children the world over.

The UK’s first national lockdown was announced on March 23, 2020, restricting people’s movement with a clear message from the government to “stay at home”, go out only for essentials such as food and medical needs and take up one exercise a day. “You should not be meeting with friends — if your friends ask you to meet, you should say No,” the UK Prime Minister had said.

Schools in the UK closed for all children, except those of key workers and children considered vulnerable. For my 16-year-old nephew, it was his last year at high school. He had prepared well for his exams and was looking forward to going to college, armed with good grades. However, two days before, students at his school were told that they will no longer be required to take exams.

“Disappointed as I was about this,” said my nephew, “it was the manner in which we were informed of our school shutting down, that my fellow students and I were most angry about. We were given less than five minutes notice of the shutdown, with no information on when the schools are likely to reopen. So, no signing off our friend’s shirts, no prom night and no time to say goodbye to our classmates.  It was a goodbye without a goodbye.”

With offices shut for all but essential service employees, most of us resorted to working from home. A pleasant welcome in the midst of fear and long-time plea to the company had finally become reality. This meant we could now be at our desk within minutes of waking up and stuck into our tasks instead of being stuck in traffic or crammed trains.

Saving on the time otherwise taken to commute to work, we had extra time on our hands. With the growing uncertainty over when things would get back to normal, this was an opportunity to develop new skills, talent and generally improve our well-being. We made some welcoming adjustment. The kitchen that was earlier used to turn out quick meals due to shortage of time now behaved more like a special home restaurant, churning out exotic dishes and cocktails for the much-relaxed evenings.

Family living rooms took on the role of classrooms, offices and fitness centres. At 5.30pm, children, teenagers and adults (age ranging from 6 to 63), all laid down their yoga mats and logged on to a Zoom meeting room, ready for the family quarantine fitness class to start. With our own qualified family fitness instructor, we were taken through heart rate boosting cardio circuits, exploring a variety of push-ups, lunges and crunches, bringing it all home with coordinated abs, arm and core work in the plank position.

Traditions such as birthdays, Diwali and Christmas had to be done differently — a virtual celebration as digital technology came into its own. Family members, young and old, not normally computer/mobile-savvy, embraced the new technology with gusto. We created our e-family network. We set up video calls, played games and uploaded nostalgic photos of extended family members, ensuring communication was kept alive and fun at all times, albeit virtually.

Most of the time, we followed the set rules, playing our part to curtail the spread of the virus. We washed our hands frequently for 20 seconds, maintained our distance and carried our trusted face masks. Holidays were cancelled, or put-on hold indefinitely, as we placed our passports safely back in the drawers, not knowing when we will use them next.

With the onset of the second wave in September, the impact and uncertainty intensified. Safety of our children, their future and our financial security hung on how well and quickly the vaccine would be developed, schools re-opened and the recovery of the economy as we watched our pension pots dive. We worried about the many more days ahead without being able to see our family and friends. The adjustments challenged our resilience at every level.

Representational image

If the year 2020 for people in the UK began with the feeling of helplessness and frustration over the looming Brexit deal to be signed off before December 31, 2020 — with all its implications on jobs, travel and cost of living — March 2020 was the start of fear in an unprecedented situation. It felt surreal. Concerns over Brexit soon seemed trivial as we stood in long queues for our daily essentials of food and cleaning products. As panic buying set in, supermarkets began to ration toilet rolls, pasta, hand soap and anti-bacterial wipes, as shoppers stripped the shelves in a frenzy. Social media was abuzz with memes and jokes about toilet paper — a temporary relief from the seriousness of the situation.

As the phrase “coronavirus pandemic” echoed across the globe, questions began to emerge as scientists world over began to analyse the virus, its origin and spread. What was it? Where did it come from? How best to kill it off? Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists were out in force. Some claimed that 5G mobile technology was the cause of the symptoms of Covid-19. Others claimed that a “single group of people who secretly control events and rule the world together.” There was also the claim that “dangerous elites are trying to kill off the elderly and to establish a new world order.” Such claims were without any evidence.

With or without these conspiracy theories, the reality is that this pandemic has hit us all hard and there are no immediate signs of it going away. The near year-long period of the lockdown became a test of our character and judgement of our strengths, relationships, actions and values. The fear of infection was a wake-up call for some to not take life for granted.

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is of our mutual dependency and how adaptable and resilient we all are as individual members of our family, community and society, calling on our individual and collective strength to cope with this surreal and unprecedented global experience.

Yeah, 2020, no one likes you, but we made it through. Our wish is that 2021 brings us all new opportunities to pursue our personal and professional goals.

Featured image is representational.
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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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