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Renaissance Of Existence: Life In The Pandemic

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What is life?

A question we hear a lot of people asking more often nowadays but always fail to find a permanent answer. Maybe because life is a dynamic process and different for each one of us and hence no one word can describe everything we feel or think about it. But right now we can all mutually agree that life has become stagnant. It was a hustle-bustle until when everything came to a halt which has no foreseeable end. Maybe that’s where the meaning of this stillness is hidden.

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The pandemic has restricted all of us from living life as we knew it.

It has been 4 months since we began the new decade but it also brings hazy memories of the same time last year when things made more sense. When life was all about being busy. Busy at work, busy exploring, busy buying, busy talking. Being busy meant living life and having instant gratifications. But what about today?

There is a multitude of things that the pandemic stops us from doing. It stops some of us from meeting loved ones. It stops us from meeting friends and partners who are the antidote to our sad times or maybe stops us from going to that one place that was your getaway from the small world you had, and a whole lot of other things! But to me, the pandemic has made me aware of my dependencies, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses.

The many things we co-depended on each other consciously or subconsciously. But is the realization of our shortcomings as human beings a good thing? All the lives we have been taught to be engaged with an activity-an activity that yields results say scores in examinations, money, relationships, and so on. The activity of simply thinking with no inputs and outputs was never a thought, let alone an activity.

Human beings are the most adaptable species on planet Earth. If we don’t have anything to do, we find things to do, things to keep ourselves engaged. For if we didn’t, it would threaten our independence and existence. And this never-soon ending pandemic just made me do that-to think with a thought, maybe sometimes.

The power of introspection and reflection is not just for philosophers and neither does it mean those doing it are philosophers in the offing. A man is a product of her/his circumstances and this designs their train of thought. The pandemic has made me think about – the why what, and how of existence. The ‘why’ and ‘what’ can never have a convincible and proven answer but the how can maybe make sense. How we exist simply reveals the nexus of mankind-how we are emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially connected.

The lines of social division and privilege have never been so visible. The power of choice. All have come to the forefront; to mask the reality of life and existence. The poor and rich, the child and the old woman, the young and married all have it differently. Yet we are all connected by an invisible thread of faith, love, and hope whose presence we all felt after the minute virus created havoc all around the world.

Maybe the virus is here to make us realize and remind of our importance and compel us to delve deeper within ourselves to hear the buried thoughts that live within us. Valuing most mundane activities of our lives like buying groceries or bargaining at the market and cherishing the relationships that we are connected with-small things that made us realize our dependencies.

We may have been underproductive most times and have rough days. Finding work and study pointless or even finding the tiniest of chores like washing clothes in the machine a big task. Sometimes feeling guilty about it and at other times nothing. It’s completely fine. The concept of making the best use of time is frankly not a good idea unless it’s a natural thought and done out of curiosity. It’s easy to succumb to the pressure of building skills and being physically active during this time. Feeling apologetic about how much time we save? However, I realized that my body’s maintenance began with the mind and we must listen to our mind and do things as we wish and feel.

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It’s completely fine to not be productive in this pandemic.

It’s difficult, it’s insane frankly. To live in solitude and isolation with no end known. But remember our existence is never wasted, we are here for a purpose. The purpose is to figure the ‘new normal’ as the world calls it. The new normal of conversation, rekindling, and connecting. And above all self-care. If you are a believer in some mighty force that drives this world, maybe it will help you find solace and keep peace in these turbulent times.

And I am sure some of us by now have come to terms with the ‘new normal’ that celebrates its first anniversary now. We all are connected with our anatomy and emotionally and this collective sense helps and motivates us to help and uplift others, to love and pray for each other-the crux of humanity. Maybe busyness is not an indicator of living life always.

The ability to decipher the meaning of life, hope, and existence is what makes us alive and this comes when we help each other and be empathetic since that makes us humane. The pandemic has been a renaissance of the purpose of existence and serves as a reminder of our vulnerabilities as social species.

May the force be with you!

All images used in this article are for representational purposes only

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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 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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