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A Letter To The World From A Study Desk In New Delhi

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

*Trigger Warning: Covid Deaths*

From India, the land of cultures, traditions, morals and hope

Distressing images and videos are being published in all the international dailies and online media outlets. What we are experiencing on the ground is something we cannot explain through the use of all the modern technologies available.

This pain we are dealing with can only be shared by humans when they see, watch, touch, sense and visualise any catastrophic disasters together. We feel obliged with the overflowing gratitude for all the citizens of the world who have seen us in this calamity and have not forgotten to remember us in their prayers.

secularism
Representative Image.

In India, being a follower of Hinduism, we preach more than 330 million deities, Muhammadans believe in one God, the holy and almighty Allah, Sikhs believe in one God, the holy and almighty Waheguru, Christians believe in one God, the holy and almighty Christ, Parsis believe in one God, the holy and almighty Ahura Mazda and on it goes.

Even after many setbacks to our secular principles at the top of our leadership in recent years, most Indians on the ground have unfailingly upheld the secular principles enshrined in our constitution in the spirit and letter.

Our situation is critical. It’s true that the crisis we are in has been trying our capabilities in the most brutal manner. We Indians have many enormous tasks ahead of us to get back where we once were. It may seem today that recklessness of a couple of months may now cost us many years and inexplicable grief-filled agony.

We read about the Wars of the last century that left many people mentally handicapped because of the traumas they suffered and this feels no different. The effects of the virus may wear off in months to come, but the images and videos of burning pyres and dug out graves that made a place in our souls will be harder to wash out if at all there ever comes a day when it becomes washable.

Using social media for covid resources
Representative Image.

India and Indians exasperatedly toil on social media and physically on the ground for seeking some kind of relief for their loved ones and even their foes. At the altars of humanity, at the crossroads of civility, friendship and enmity have joined hands to work towards ending this catastrophe.

We distinctly remember that last year, the whole world was worried about the pandemic taking India in its grip. The world had been preparing several plans to tackle the expected spread in India, but later on, when India started to emerge from the pandemic scarred but not fatally wounded, the whole world rejoiced in the celebration.

The year 2020 made us realise that we all may be divided by geographical barriers, economic boundaries, social and political mindsets, but what united us all was the pain all of India felt when it heard of more than 5,00,000 Americans, 3,00,000 Brazilians, 1.00,000 French Citizens, 1,00,000 Russians, 1,00,000 Brits, 1,00,000 Italians, etc. all over the world had lost their lives and left us early to rest by the side of their ancestors.

In the same manner, to see the whole world now watching India in awe and sharing our grief by mourning our losses have once again proved that even if we may not have yet unlocked the door to the fourth dimension, but the key to unlocking it must remain hidden in the plethora of emotion that we not only feel but are able to communicate without having to communicate at all.

As Rabindranath Tagore, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and Composer of Indian National Anthem, once wrote, “Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”

Today all Indians, despite the unimaginable and inexplicable terror of this unending pandemic that is spreading and consuming lives faster than wildfires, find a sense of brittle faith and a reason to seek hope when the news reached us that the entire world had stepped in to help in the efforts to combat this vicious second wave of Covid-19 in India. 

This land of close to 1.4 billion people have not only found some sort of relief, but they have found a dream to clutch onto, that we Indians shall overcome these perilous times.

In depression, a person who is alone is more prone to succumb to negative activities harming themselves and those who find around. The world has shown by stepping up that it has not left India alone, just as India has never left any country in the world to feel secluded no matter the hostilities that remained in the past.

In the times of our Former Prime Minister Late Smt Indira Gandhi, she held this position firmly. Her vision for India was singular, the nation propelled by peace, spreading peace and encouraging others to spread peace. She was famous for her one message to the entire world that the India she visioned did not have a few countries as its best friends but who had all the countries as its good friends.

She did not take pleasure to pick one side or another. Instead, the India she dreamt about was supposed to help the world become one big family without any sides.

History is done for good and with the future yet to come, the present must be focussed on without having any delusions. India and Indians shall never forget the prayers and resources that are being made available for us all over the world. For that and much more, we are extremely grateful to the world and every person individually.

For the peace in the world, to help humanity become a greater force and share each other’s grief, we shall all thank our respective Gods. For the loved ones that have departed, we shall pray together alike and to spread happiness around the globe we all shall together strive.

With love and overflowing gratitude,

An Indian at a study desk in New Delhi

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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
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