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Dear Covid Vaccine, You’re Either A Miracle Or A Fallback Option For Us

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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.

Author’s note: This article is purely sarcastic. Please vaccinate yourself. Stay safe. Stay sane. I have received both the doses of the vaccine, so perhaps, all this writing is just a serious side-effect.

Dear Covid vaccine,

I pity you. You must have imagined that the urgency with which we went into your research and its outcome would establish you as one of the most important life-saving medications available to mankind. You could not have been more wrong. Some people would admit that it is already a miracle that we have multiple personas of you available within a year of the outbreak. Probably, some nations and their scientists would appreciate it. Well, how has your Indian experience been?

I must admit, you started off with a bang. Indian companies were giving competition to their Western counterparts in research and after that, in production. The irony last year was that we were producing you in bulk, but we simply did not need you. The Indian population was already immune, many said.

The Covid vaccines are in shortage, but only for the common person.

You were turned into a joke, a meme. No one took you seriously. In an era where Indian parents expect their children to score 101%, you were only 80-94% effective across various types. Add to that the complications that arose after receiving your shot — mild fever, malaise, pain in the arm, fatigue. Such serious side-effects. You were like a joker to Indians, not the type who makes you feel better, but the Batman movie type.

Why would the Indian population risk you when they thought they are already immune and victorious against the virus? This is the land of people who cannot contract Covid as long as they wear a mask around their neck to protect their thyroid, or around their ears (When was the last time I saw such a sacred thread hung around the ear?). They can contract the virus while they are working for their daily livelihoods, but never when they are attending political rallies for, the virus is s**t (maybe, of a bovine animal) — scared of politicians themselves.

Some of your competitors in the country are the ones who have been clapping, banging thalis and lighting lamps to ward off the virus. Politicians have been ordering the virus to leave the country by using certain types of ablutions in all forms available (eating, drinking, local applications, bathing, incense). Young people were seen partying in private areas and finally, celebrating all the important (and unimportant) days of one’s life in the Maldives. All of these have been extremely effective as you must have realised.

We had forced corona away and had a surplus of you. Hence, we decided to use you as part of a barter exchange to earn friendship. Abundant volumes were sent to different nations in their bid to control the pandemic. Just like the pandemic, the praise and self-praise were unprecedented.

Well, your opponent, the virus, is free and not a slave of humans. It is, surprisingly, smarter. It followed the innocent people who were assembled together for little merriment, politicians and made its way back to the social domain. Well, slowly, we realised that you are somewhat important, but now, you are suddenly unavailable, albeit only to the common people. The politicians and their families, their extended families, the film industry and the cricket industry have all been receiving vaccine jabs at their whim.

Western countries are now discussing your third booster call in a few months’ time for their populace. It is easy for them to say these things. The effort to run a country of 1.4 billion people is something they cannot comprehend and I sincerely appreciate it. You must surely know how China is faring. Sorry, we won’t look at China because: a) we don’t like them, b) all this is their doing, and c) their reports are never true. They don’t give their people the freedom to not wear masks, go to private parties, visit green zones such as Goa and convert it to a scarlet red zone, and also, the right to choose not to take the vaccine. So, boo China, yay India!

States are facing shortages of hospital beds, vaccines, and even Remdesivir due to inefficient management.

Today, we don’t have enough space to perform the last rites of their loved ones, enough wood to cremate them, enough land to bury them; rivers are being used for the same. Who has the time to think about you when people are running from pillar to post to procure oxygen? Just recently, I saw another gem of India mocking and laughing at people complaining of breathlessness and lack of oxygen.

He called the nostrils two oxygen cylinders, legs as doctors and hands as nurses. I hope all his devotees, which includes our hard(ly) working politicians, follow these suggestions. That might take load off the healthcare system and also planet Earth in general. Seriously, I know yoga helps improve our health, but it is a lifestyle that has to be built up, and right now we do not have enough time to wait for this lifestyle to show effect. The only asana a gasping person might perform is the shav-asana.

Where do you stand currently, dear vaccine, in the political or apolitical discourse of the country? Should we receive you in 4,8, 12, 16 weeks or whenever you are available or if we even survive till that time? We need about 200 crore of your shots to vaccinate 70% of our population. It may take months for that to happen, which means more new variants may emerge by then and make this vaccine ineffective.

So, no offence, but to us, you are just a fall-back option, a cheap (or expensive) gimmick till people realise that yoga can cure all diseases. What’s your use anyway if people still have to use masks and are unable to spit paan or their mycobacterium-riddled sputum wherever they want? You do realise that this is a free country, right? You must be aware of the blame game that goes on in India — the uncaring politicians, reluctant people, biased media and the privileged celebrities.

Sometimes, I wonder if we will ever reach a time when eventually, there will only be three castes: that of politicians, their rally participants and media-persons (this includes all of us who are so hung up on social media). And in which social order? It does not matter, because as I have told you, you are just a joke. Tell me, honestly, has the rabies vaccine ever cured people who are bitten by the mad dogs of religion, caste, politics and media? Do they not go on infecting or killing others?

Important message: Please stay at home and venture out only if absolutely essential. When you venture out, wear masks. Maintain social distance at all times. Wash your hands regularly. Vaccinate yourself. Please.

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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.

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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
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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