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Celebrating One Year Of The ‘1 Million Meals’ Campaign

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Although Covid-19 has been difficult for everyone, it has been especially devastating for sex-trafficking survivors and their children, many of whom were already struggling to make ends meet. They had lost half of their earnings during the lockdown. Their children had to return from school, and families of children aged 4-11 were confined to small rooms with no privacy. More than 85% said that they didn’t have enough food, income or even fresh air, and their housing was in jeopardy.

Sex workers have suffered greatly as a result of the government’s enforced lockdown. They struggled to survive and provide for their families
and children. They were just getting by on their meagre savings. Their work had been fully shut down. Even once the lockdown was lifted, their unfortunate situation seemed to continue. Their children still didn’t have a school to go to and they barely had enough food to feed their families. Survivors of sex trafficking have had a particularly difficult time during the lockdown and they were in a desperate need for food as well as basic sanitation.

These women and children have also been physically and sexually exploited as a result of their involvement in sex trafficking. Their bodies bear witness to the trauma of their ordeals. They had to lived in disgusting circumstances. Hunger and lack of sanitation have only contributed to their misery.

Ruchira Gupta, who is the founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, introduced 1 Million Meals in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to ensure that deprived families get food and dry ration. A distress call was received by Gupta from a 12-year-old living in a red-light area in Delhi, “Didi kuch kijiye, hum log bhooke hai, humhe khana nahin mil raha hai (Sister, do something, we don’t have any food at all and we’re starving).”

Gupta was galvanised into action by this distress call. She immediately asked a friend to arrange for the delivery of 500 fast meals. This movement subsequently spread to different cities including Delhi, Bihar and Kolkata. People in the red light areas of these cities
were served food packets.

Project 1 Million Meals aims to serve one million meals and hygiene packs to sex trafficking survivors. The project will cover women and children of red light areas of Delhi, Kolkata and Bihar. The project is currently providing food ration and basic hygiene facilities such as soap, mask, basic medicine and sanitary pad. Till the third week of March 2021, around 44,24,400 meals had been distributed to families across red light areas.

Covid-19, according to Gupta, has been especially harmful to sex trafficking survivors and their children. They’ve lost their source of revenue. Many of them were confined to their rooms, 11 people sleeping in a single room with no windows. Their children’s future seemed gloomy and uncertain without access to education.

Gupta’s immediate focus point was food, and in just a matter of days, she launched 1 Million Meals, which has now become a metaphor for millions of meals distributed to these marginalised families over the past one year.

Dry rations – a bag of rice, onions, dal, potatoes, spices, soap, cooking oil, masks and other products – accompanied cooked meals. Volunteers would take ration food for 50 families in one go and 200 people would line up. The organisation then began planning to deliver truckloads of these packets. The delivery of the food was fraught with difficulties. Gupta would be on her phone and laptop from dawn to dusk, checking if trucks have reached the state boundaries, ensuring that loading, unloading and packing was done on time so that the perishable food in these packets is delivered before it gets spoilt.

While food security was already a problem, disaster was struck again in West Bengal with Cyclone Amphan. So, in addition to food, 1 Million Meals also started bringing tarpaulins and other necessities to help people get through the crisis. The programme served five million meals in just 100 days. The journey continues as the number of cases of coronavirus rise and complexity persists.

“After food, we must consider employment and education. Since we should consider the future of these people, 1 Million Meals will remain a metaphor. I now need one million people to amplify these voices,” says Gupta.

Click the link for more information and to donate for the good cause.

Written by: Ahmedabad University Students

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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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