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“I’m Completely Drenched. Can I Deliver Your Parcel Tomorrow?,” A Delivery Guy During Yaas

I’m a copywriter and lately, I’ve been writing a little too many articles about how every industry has made its business imperative, ‘Put people first’, their words, not mine.

While I do understand how they are going big on improving customer experience, are they really making any effort (however small) to put people over profit?

For the last three days, most of Kolkata was submerged under knee-deep water. Around late afternoon, I received a phone call. There was some scheduled delivery and the man on the other end said, “I’ve been working since morning and I’m completely drenched. Can I please deliver your parcel tomorrow?”

I, for one, instantly agreed and there might be many others who would do, too. What baffles me is something else: why are these delivery companies putting their employees at risk? What book of corporate professionalism and work ethics makes it mandatory for the workforce to turn up on days when we, as a state, are battling against an extreme situation or a crisis?

Amid the days of the cyclone in Kolkata, I received a phone call: “I’ve been working since morning and I’m completely drenched. Can I please deliver your parcel tomorrow?”

The answer is a simple one: the gap between the have and the have-nots. For people who can barely make ends meet, losing even a day’s salary is a calamity larger than any impending cyclone or for that matter, their lives.

A single message, ‘Your parcel is delayed because of the weather’ could have been sufficient even for the most disappointed individual (Mind you, this wasn’t delivery of essentials in a pandemic – hence, the concern to have it delivered ‘on time’ does not hold water).

With every other street of Kolkata submerged, these delivery professionals had to wade through knee-deep water to get to their delivery location. Why are we not talking about the hazards this poses to their lives? As most of us were cocooned in the safety of our homes, sitting on our couches, there were people going on their day jobs — of not saving lives and getting honoured for it —to earn a day’s salary to put food on the plate.

I’m a copywriter and I understand the business imperative of selling – but at what cost?

It wasn’t too long ago when a global pizza chain came under intense scrutiny for their post that hero-worshipped a delivery executive who was forced to deliver pizza in knee-deep water. Following the backlash, the pizza chain took down the picture of their delivery executive. But this points to a bigger problem at heart.

If companies are all about putting people first, why do they intentionally forget to put their own people first?

As Cyclone Yaas ravaged through parts of Bengal and residents from coastal areas were evacuated to safety, why did renowned news channels from the state coerced their correspondents and camera staff to live-report from areas that were expected to feel the brunt of the storm?

Social media erupted in enrage and these news channels came under fire for risking the lives of their correspondents. But how much of it is really going to change? Risking the lives of essential workers is a phenomenon that happens one too often, especially in India – and the second wave of Covid-19 stands as an ugly reminder.

The number of doctors and frontline workers we have lost to the virus is unprecedented. Official figures don’t reflect personal agony, and hardly do we speak about the plight and death of sanitation workers and mortuary workers due to Covid-19. Though that might be a topic for another discussion, to what extent have we normalised human apathy and insensitivity that it does not bother corporations to risk the lives of their employees even on days we are battling against a natural calamity or a pandemic?

As for my parcel, I received it before my clock hit 10am the next morning – and I was surprised at how these people do it. At the risk of sounding extremely patronising, I’ve nothing but respect for that man.

However, let’s not normalise this under the garb of professionalism, work ethics or other standards of capitalism. At the heart of every corporation, every company and every community lies its people. I don’t know how we will bring about a change in our or the companies’ mentality, but I suggest we come together and bring the change.

I’m a copywriter and I know for a fact, companies keep executing transformation and reinventing their core processes every now and then (whenever their market tells them to). We’re the market, so let us keep this conversation going, let us not stop till we have found our answers.

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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.

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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.

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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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