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Scientific Research Is Driven By Corporate Interest, Not Curiosity

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Yes, you heard it right. Scientific discoveries happening in modern times don’t take place on the will of some mad, unfriendly scientist, or I should put it this way: what a scientist really wants to research about, they are not allowed to do so. But before citing me the example of the International Space Station, Artificial Intelligence and many others, think of it in this way: have you heard about any great scientific study being undertaken or published in the media, both offline as well as online?

The studies that one usually encounters is in the daily newspaper, and they have a close relationship with the business section of the paper. One of the common researches you might have comes across are that of the health benefits of caffeine. These usually get published when a company launches a new coffee variant and wants the reader to be reminded of how a cup of coffee in the morning boosts productivity and is only the best thing that you can do for yourself.

But the reality is different. Most of these articles are misleading as excess consumption of caffeine is known to cause miscarriages, low birth weight, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeats and increase in anxiety disorders. It is no secret that coffee has the one of the highest concentration known to any cherries.

Scientific discoveries happening in modern times don’t take place on the will of some mad, unfriendly scientist, they are based on what corporates are willing to fund.

But my personal favourite example I’ll use to prove this point is from one of the most famous books, ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind’ , written by none other than Yuval Noah Harari. I suggest everyone to read this book and to look at history from an alternative perspective. The idea to write this article was mainly drawn from this book, but this article is not a review of the book. So coming back to the point, in the later part of the book, Harrari uses the example of a cleaver to describe something about how corporates work. He uses the example of cows.

Let’s say two scientists seek funding for a research. One wants to research on the mental and psychological state of cows and her calves when they get separated after birth, while the other scientist wants to research on the hormone or medication that can help increase milk production. Clearly, and obviously from the point of view of corporates, the second option is more viable and promising to invest in.

The main issue for this kind of attitude or method of working is that it hampers the natural growth of science. Many scientific discoveries may not have any monetary value, but they help in improving our lifestyle as the first research on the mental health of cows may tell us how the cow feels, and not separating the calves from their mother might just help improve milk quality as cows would now be happier and less stressed.

Coming back to current times, the rapid development of the Covid-19 vaccines around us was majorly fuelled by the daily increasing death toll. The monetary benefits this opportunity possessed for the company that first develops a vaccine will not stop coming in anytime soon. In the second wave, various countries are showing multiple strains of the virus. Many scientists have shown concern towards the possible tendency of an immune escape.

There are also the beaten tracks, but the research undertaken by government organisations is not for monetary benefit, but for national pride and strategic importance. But there is yet another paradigm that should also be taken care of. The development of nuclear weapons and space research indicate major accomplishments and becomes moment in human history that are cherished forever.

However, fields such as space and defence are big and bring great international repute, but many other important fields get shadowed by them. This fact can’t be understood better any other time than today. Anyone would have rarely heard about an immunologist or epidemiologist before the Covid-19 pandemic broke. These fields are highly specialised and not many like to pursue them, again due to being less popular in comparison to space and defence.

Again, I want to request India to respect its scientists. When the Bharat Biotech vaccine, Covaxin, was cleared by the government for mass vaccination, what all was said about its efficacy and efficiency. But as soon as famous immunologist and adviser to the President of the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, reacted positively to the vaccine and its effectiveness on the Indian strain and 617 other variants, everyone started talking well about it. Had we valued our scientists, we would not have required the validation of the West or the United States. And a word of advice in the end: listen to what doctors and scientists say, and not what gets forwarded to you on Whatsapp or social media.

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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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