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In Case You Already Don’t, It Is High Time You Treat Domestic Labour With Dignity!

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Though “Lockdown” was declared as the Collins Dictionary’s word for the year 2020, the terms “productivity” and “skills” are the ones that have lately been extensively used anywhere and everywhere.

These terms have been used to such a degree that teenagers and college-going students instinctively began enrolling themselves into online skill-based courses such as learning the art of resume building, developing an excellent command over Microsoft Excel, acing at Business Communication, Graphic Designing, Ethical Hacking, Web Development, etc. Well, most of them apparently register just for the sake of acquiring certifications, not paying any heed to their areas of interests, oblivious to the fact if it is their cup of tea.

How Has The Covid-19 Pandemic Skill Development In India?

With the blow of the COVID-19 pandemic to the world and thereby the soaring levels of unemployment, skill development undoubtedly became one of the most important criteria in order to remain employable in a highly uncertain and dynamic environment of the post covid era. But that mustn’t propagate the idea that those who are skilled are way more valuable or superior than those who are unskilled or semi-skilled. The need of the hour is to introduce the idea ofdignity of labour’ among the young blood of our nation from the very beginning of their lives. 

The parents of today’s young minds belong to generation X, which was born at a time when most of the Indian households earned a very low income, owing to very little urbanization and industrialization. The Indian economy was still trying to come on track in the 1960s-70s. India was tackling multitudinous economic problems and social issues in the post-independence era. 

Back In Those Days, A Man’s Best Friends Were His Own Two Hands

The constant companion and helper one could have 24/7, was no else except oneself. The concept of hiring domestic helpers was not prevalent, barring a few percent of households who could afford to put them on the payroll for carrying out the daily activities of washing dishes, brooming, sweeping, dusting, etc.

Why some men don't do household chores | Opinion – Gulf News
Representational image only.

The Lives Of Gen X And Z Are So Starkly Different!

Laying the table thrice a day, watering plants and pulling out weeds, taking care of one’s pet and its needs, making one’s own bed right after waking up, keeping one’s wardrobe/closet organized and tidy, sharing responsibilities when there are guests home, lending a helping hand to one’s mother and grandmother in their daily chores, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in the washrooms, dusting once a week the different items off in one’s room ranging from ceiling fans to study table, washing one’s dishes after every meal, getting to the terrace and rendering it devoid of litter and tons of other such activities were actively carried out by our parents in their early years of life as teenagers. 

But this is in striking contrast to the activities which the teenagers of the 21st century are indulged in, especially the ones who belong to that social and economic stratum where everything is offered or rather spoon-fed on a platter.

These tech-savvy adolescents, barring those teens whose parents have made sure that their children are not bereft of moral principles, ethical values, and etiquettes, are actually dwelling in a world of illusion. They have little idea about the opportunity cost that has been incurred in providing them with the quality of life that they are leading today by virtue of their parent’s struggles and the pivotal role played by the society as a whole.

The Unsung Heroes Of Our Community

Today, the house helpers, butlers, gardeners, cleaners, sweepers, chauffeurs, watchmen, laundress, caregivers, nannies, baby sitters, valets, security guards, and so forth and so on, are those uncelebrated heroes of our community without whom the upper middle class and elite section of society cannot undertake successful endeavours smoothly and steadily so as to chase materialistic things in life. 

Tejpal Domestic Help in India | Maid Services
Unsung heroes of our community. Represenation image only.

It is indeed beyond the realms of our imagination to think about the circumstances under which they are compelled to take up such errands in order to fulfill the role of sole breadwinners of their households. The innumerable tasks and duties that they discharge require them to develop it as a skill by constantly striving hard to give their best shot at their workplace. They carry out their work diligently and try their best to serve their masters.

So, in the process of nurturing kids and sowing the seeds of broad-mindedness in their heads, it is crucial on the parts of teachers and parents to ensure that their hearts develop the sensitivity to understand that no work is beneath their dignity and must respect every individual, irrespective of their occupation. 

Results Are Reaped By Integrated Efforts

Whenever a student from any school or institution passes any examination with the brightest flying colours, the feat of success attained is not only an outcome of the student’s hard work, his/her parents’ investment in time, money, and efforts, but also a result of uninterrupted service rendered by all the heroic members of our community ranging from the auto/cab driver who took him/her to tuition classes, the house helpers, street cleaners to school bus conductors, security guards of the residency in charge of ensuring safety where one lives, etc. 

Please Remember That No Work Is Too Big Or Small!

Generation X parents were born at a time when they had to scrub their gritty clothes themselves with the help of a brush and detergent. They wrung them out by trying to squeeze every inch of water from the drenched cleaned cloth by virtue of simultaneous twisting movement of both their hands. Then they were let to sway in the air over the cloth drying wire in the sunlight during the day. 

Today, we have fully automatic washing machines at our disposal to complete this “huge task”, though getting them out by ourselves to let them dry is one act that remains constant in middle-class households. The generation Z kids would never have any such episodes in their digitally equipped lives where the soapy smell would dominate their hands, for most of the day, their palms possess the metallic odor of digital gadgets.

It Is High Time We All Introspect!

It is high time that we youngsters keep our apparent body parts aside and reduce screen time in order to spare invaluable time which actually slips away from our hands by having their fingers constantly held by the fetters of their man-made master. It is imperative for them to understand the larger aspects of life which actually go a long way and matter significantly in both professional and personal arenas of life as one moves forward in life. The least we can do for all the unacknowledged workmen and women is revere them and their jobs with a big smile on our faces.

Let us together resolve to bring up a generation where a man or a woman doing hard physical work is as respected as an individual solving complex mathematical equations, possessing the technical skills of operating on a computer system etc.

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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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