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SOS Calls, Crowdfunding, Solidarity: What Politicians Couldn’t, Social Media Did

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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.

The past few days of my life have been the most devastating. I don’t expect or wish to see anything worse than this. All of us thought that 2021 would be the year of new beginnings and that we had learnt from our mistakes. I thought we had escaped the tough times, but the universe had something even worse in store for us. The uncertainty and anxiety is back, we are back to square one. Only it is worse than it was last year.

Every day I wake up to the news of a friend or relative crying out for critical help. My whole day goes in calling helpline numbers, amplifying calls for help and writing messages like, “Please don’t panic, they will get better soon.” This is a slap on all our ignorant faces. Our privileged minds think, “The situation isn’t that bad anymore,” if only we bother to check the ground reality of how people are dying in queues, waiting for a bed in the hospital or in front of an oxygen distributor.

We didn’t care about it until someone close to us got infected by it or until the situation was this bad for us to notice. Every day is a battle to get that oxygen cylinder, plasma or bed in a hospital. Every day is a battle to remain optimistic, a battle to lift each other up and continue with our lives.

India Faces Oxygen Crisis As Covid-19 Cases Mount
People are dying in queues, waiting for a bed in the hospital or in front of an oxygen distributor. (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

It’s so difficult to get up from my bed in the morning. The moment I open my eyes, thoughts like “What bad news am I waking up to today?” pop up in my head. Everything just feels so unimportant right now.

My eyes opened only a few weeks ago when a friend needed six doses of Remdesivir injection for her father. We did everything we could in our capacity to find them — from dialling more than 20 numbers to putting up stories on social media and reaching out to influencers. Our conscience did not allow us to just sit and wait for some miracle to happen.

The next day, I got a text again from another friend, saying, “I need an oxygen cylinder for my mother.” We dialled more than 15 numbers, amplified the requirement, but no one picked our call. Again, we felt helpless. Mind you, I am just the “helper” here and I felt helpless. I can’t imagine what the person for whom I was doing all this must be going through. If I was angry and in pain at the moment, it was not even 1% of what one would feel if one were to see if we got out of that privileged bubble of ours.

I see my 17-18-year-old friends begging for their parents’ lives and running around to find the prescribed drugs. Our healthcare system is collapsing, politicians are too busy focusing on elections instead of the lives of people.  I am a part of an online group where leads and Covid-19 resources are forwarded and trust me, every minute there is someone crying out for help.

On one side, hospitals and states are running out of beds, and on the other, there are politicians attending massive rallies and being part of large festivities without wearing masks. We had one year to prepare but they failed us again. When they themselves get infected by the virus, they make one call and get a bed in the best hospitals in India, while we call more than 30 numbers and no one even picks up. This often makes me think if surviving in this country is also reserved for the ‘VIPs’. Any suggestion from the opposition is taken as a threat to their ego. How else will the current government prove that all they want to guard is their power and ego?

I hope that we now understand that politicians and actors are not Gods, so let’s stop treating them like one. If the Indian media had the guts to hold them accountable and question them, had the government cared more about the citizens than exporting vaccines, we wouldn’t have been in this situation.

There are a few angels out there helping people, providing food or amplifying requirements, but celebrities with large numbers of followers have trouble doing the same. How ironic that these politicians forget the power of public in the world’s largest democracy. All I can ask everyone is to keep helping each other, be it verifying leads or just talking to a friend who is going through a tough time. And to all the politicians, I want to say, “Keep your big headedness aside and help us, it won’t take long for us to write your names in black words in history. Don’t forget our power, in three years, you might be as helpless as we are now.”

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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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