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The Disaster Caused By Cyclone Amphan In The Pandemic

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Two months into the Covid-19 lockdown, while everyone in the nation was struggling to cope with the consequences, Odisha and West Bengal were hit by the most powerful and devastating storm in 283 years, slaughtering over 90 people and making 500,000 destitute. As if it were not enough for a massive health crisis in the form of a pandemic to evaluate the will of its people, the catastrophic event of Cyclone Amphan’s scale left everyone devastated and in hopelessness.

Relief work and recovery are made even more complicated in what is referred to as a cascading catastrophe. On 20 May, Cyclone Amphan made landfall and created unparalleled havoc. That evening, the city of Kolkata encountered four non-stop hours of strong winds (90-130 kph). Elderly residents said that in their living memories, they had never seen anything like this.

The Destruction Of Cyclone Amphan

Cyclone Amphan was the most devastating cyclone to have ever formed in the Bay of Bengal, landing in the Sundarbans on May 20, then Kolkata and its outlying neighborhoods, tearing in before moving on to Bangladesh with wind speeds of 185 km ph. Excessive floods, power failures, roofs lifted and tossed by shrieking winds, uprooted thousands of trees and waterlogged houses, streets, and fields. The horrific damage was discovered the next morning: Kolkata, India’s oldest town in the east, was destroyed beyond recognition.

Communications were interrupted in the state and the hardest-hit areas were not even available. Though five lakh vulnerable individuals were evacuated in rural areas in the storm line, the death toll still hit double digits during the duration of social distancing, a difficult operation in itself.

Nearly all the standing crops were damaged. After two months of Covid-19 related lockdowns, this comes as a double whammy when farmers have been unable to get decent prices for their crops due to transportation disruptions. The worst affected area was the Sundarbans, where hundreds of villages were flooded and many buildings were flattened.

What Apne Aap Is Trying To Do

The state’s economy is going to take a big blow. The rural population is especially vulnerable. Because of Covid-19, agricultural revenue and remittance income had already collapsed, and now widespread destruction of standing crops makes farmers even more vulnerable. The rural poor will face hunger and malnutrition unless immediate, climate-resilient action is taken.

There’s such a degree of devastation that we need synergy. We need a relationship between private and government programs and civil society. To step in and play an active role, we need the Diaspora. And that is where we fell short. World media attention, so far at least, has been minimal.

The disaster has hardly been mentioned by major platforms. As a result, individuals are not conscious of the size of destruction. Apne Aap is one of the organizations that have come forward to support people in need and has been working diligently since then. Internationally, Apne Aap women have always believed in our grassroots and always believed in bottom-up growth. If we can think about the most disadvantaged people now, only then can the True change that we want to see in the world take place.

The lockdown of Covid19 and Cyclone Amphan drove families to severe hardship. They had reached rock bottom with no cash and no food. As Apne Aap recognized Mumtaz’s video begging for assistance, they tried to give them the hope that they would proceed. To continue to fight for integrity. About survival. A lesson for all of us is the strength that families have shown through these times. 1 million meals today is the beginning of this transition. A journey that is not only about a number but to help in the recovery of Mumtaz and those like her, for whom it can get no worse.

Apne Aap has also attempted to rehabilitate them with 1MillionMeal and help them build homes so that they can at least have a house and a roof over their heads. They have undertaken the task of transforming the lives of those affected by cyclone Amphan and covid19 lockdown with this thought in mind.

They vowed to fund and reconstruct at least a hundred homes in Bengal for disadvantaged women and children in the Calcutta and Bengal Redlight Areas. They gave tarpaulin packs to encourage families to build a temporary roof over their heads to shelter them before we get more assistance.

In the face of the double blow to Bengal, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Cyclone Amphan’s devastation, let’s stand together and do everything in our power to help those affected get back on their feet. Please come forward and donate as much or as little as you can online. The smiles on several faces can be brought back by a little support from you. You can donate using the following link.

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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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