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International Nurses Day: The Life Of A Nurse In The Pandemic

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

(Hi dear readers, by the medium of this story, I wish to bring to light all the hardships and challenges faced by female health workers and sensitize everyone about the same.)

A very hard-working, multi-talented, super smart, and dedicated nursing officer, Ms. Laxmi Ashrawat is currently working in a government hospital in Jaipur. She is known for her exceptional work and honesty at the workplace. Before taking the story ahead, let me tell you all, she is also one of my kindest and helpful neighbors. Knowing her closely is no less than a delight to me.

A nurse helping a coronavirus patient
Representational image.

Nurses and healthcare workers have had to work tirelessly during the pandemic.

Her Dreams

A girl from a middle-class Indian family whose dreams were never really valued but her self-motivation and dedication were enough to make her reach such a respected public service.

After her nursing training in Ajmer, she came back to Jaipur in 2011.

She had very few resources at home but indeed her dreams were high. Soon after she came back to the city, she wanted to join some coaching to prepare for government exams. But it never happened because of a financial crisis in the family. She worked in a private hospital for a few years, earned money, and bought herself all the books that were required. While talking with her, I got to know how difficult it was to pursue self-study besides all the work at the workplace and house chores.

Her family has always remained very patriarchal in nature. Just like every other family in India, she as a girl was expected to do all the household chores and manage her own tasks herself simultaneously. People used to make fun of her studious nature and demotivated her with every means possible.

But few people tried giving their support from time to time when needed. With her intelligence, consistent hard work, and little support from her family, she managed to crack the exam and made it to her dream job in 2016. The story does not end here. This is just the beginning of a self-made nursing officer.

The Outbreak Of The Pandemic

With the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19),  many countries called for a lockdown. While all the industries, offices, educational institutions, and other departmental works were ceased for months. The medical department has been continuously working day and night for us. With PPE kits covering them head to toe, health care workers are dedicating extra hours of duty to save the lives of people globally.

Not only in the present context, but they have always proved that they are no less than God for the entire human community.

Ms Laxmi was the first to wear the PPE kit in her department. Her experience was filled with pride and pain both at the same time. Do you know why? It was her second day of periods (menstruation) when she was asked to wear the kit. There was barely any supply of kits and other necessary tools in the very beginning. Hence, all the health workers were made to wear it for 10-12 hours. They were even restricted to use toilets. Bleeding all day and not being able to pee or change pads were never discussed in public talks.

Due to restrictions and guidelines, no public transport was there in use. She told me about how she used to drive to far distances to pick her friend who worked with her. She shared the experiences of a lot of her staff members who had to stay away from their families here in Jaipur for work and all the difficulties they faced. Being a localite, she served as a big helping hand to many of her friends during the lockdown. All these stories brought tears to my eyes and I believe this is the kind of sisterhood we all need in this world.

Ms. Laxmi believes that her job needs 24/7 attention and a great deal of passion. All because of deliveries of newborn babies. To keep the newborns and their mothers safe, all of the health care workers were asked to sanitize themselves again and again.

All the health workers were greatly challenged in their personal and professional lives. On one hand, they were asked to sanitize themselves for a safer surrounding at the workplace and on the other hand to keep their families safe at home by maintaining proper social distance. Most of them have experienced a hard quarantine time too.

Image provided by the author.

Her Life In Quarantine

Quarantine. Oh, god! The word is distressing in itself. Ms Laxmi shared her feelings while being away from home in her quarantine days. Tough days and two-week-long isolation after that. She told me how horrific everything was for her. Nothing could make her feel happy and satisfied but her selfless and dedicated service. Meanwhile, we were getting to read about a lot of depressing Covid quarantine stories from all over the globe.

This became one of the major reasons for mental illness and depression for people in great numbers including the health workers. The health care workers who are also mothers of very small children had to stay away from them for several days. All the isolation resulted in great emotional trauma. While a lot of common people were enjoying games and trying new dishes at home, these warriors were struggling to spend a few times happily with their loved ones

Ms Laxmi is one of the youngest, most honest, determined, and intelligent nursing staff members at her workplace. All her seniors in the workplace admire her. She has been awarded the best worker appreciation award for her dedicated service.

Besides that, she has also been a very kind, generous, and helpful human being to the people in need. Being a part of the medical department, she treats all the people with equal care and a lot of generosity.

While the patriarchal society in our country challenges the strength and capabilities of women in various sectors. Ms Laxmi and many other female health workers like her have proved that women are not subject to any sort of weakness. Their stories of survival, strength, and love continue to inspire the globe.

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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, 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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