This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Priyanka Shawarma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Is It Hyprocritical For Celebrities To Start Covid Fund-Raisers?

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

In the last couple of days, my feed is inundated with posts questioning the moral legitimacy of celebrity orchestrated campaigns. “Instead of asking for donations, it would be better if you guys can show some kindness and donate with an open heart,” says retired IAS officer Surya Pratap.

Another post doing the rounds echoes: ‘I have 1000 Mars bars in my fridge and my mate has 1. I pressured him into giving his to a homeless person. This is how celeb charity appeals work’ (ouch). A part of me in awe of the mighty income and resources of the people at concern nodded firmly, almost enviously. The other part is making me write this. Before beginning our discussion it’s important to lay certain variables bare. If media reports flashing the net worth of various celebrities, business tycoons and cricketers are to be believed, we have our answer right there.

Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli's Covid-19 fundraiser generates ₹3.8 crore in a  day, ₹2 crore came from couple | Bollywood - Hindustan Times
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Only if we possessed our very own regional Viral Bhayani, as committed and obsessed with our MLA’s and MP’s OOTD(Outfit of the day for my plain folks. I see you!), OOTD’s worth, annual salary and brand endorsements, bungalows and vehicles, this list of haves could’ve been more khadesque and vocal for local… Anyway, moving on to our have-nots, who require no introduction and description! May we know them, never raise them and never ever aspire to be them(middle-class parent’s Gayatri mantra). The last but the most significant question central to our discussion here is: who are the ones claiming to be our generous Robinhood Pandey$, tweeting and granting the dubiousness of celebrity-charity drives?

In 2016 during the Demonetization it was the middle class who was the most ecstatic and enthusiastic, almost tripping upon this opportunity to witness the blueberry-black money gang suffer. The Josh was unprecedentedly high amongst the people even while they stood in the scorching heat. I came across an interesting story, characterizing the middle class’s response to wealth and affluence in India in two ways: First they say-is denial and dismissal. For instance- their response to a woman decked in a diamond necklace would be: ‘Must be American dialogue, this must be real. Second is pure contempt i.e. – What is insufficient about this? These sentiments are in full swing throughout the aspirational class. The only novelty is that these Sharma uncles and his offspring now enjoy uninterrupted access to the Internet and a smartphone.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas sets up fundraiser to help country in COVID-19  crisis: 'India is bleeding' | Celebrities News – India TV
Representational image only.

The question which emerges is: how can we, the aspirational class- direct, shame and disgrace our blueberries for not spending their own hard-earned money the way we deem worthy? Last weeks have seen millions of Indians trapped in infected gas Chambers, being purged anonymously and collectively for reasons beyond the scope of this essay. Can we coerce that 1% of our population controlling the majority of our resources to forfeit our rightful yet ambiguous share(I’m still weak in logistics and mathematics of that)? Even when it has been almost impossible for the aspirational class themselves to surrender to their own daughters their uncomplicated rightful inheritance?

The middle class donning pristine-popish-humanist robes, righteous enough to command the blueberries to consciously forfeit their money is a bit unsettling. These people are responsible for our entertainment whether through content or through cricket, that’s it. You can demand why some boy$$ are obscenely overpaid for playing bat and ball while MNREGA employees/daily wage labourers/research scholars/ other sportspersons are grossly underpaid but this is for some other time. You can demand why some businessmen control most of the world’s resources(analyzing Melinda gates divorce alimony really doesn’t count. Also, that’s sexist. It’s okay, one step at a time).

But for that you’ll have to question capitalism, believe in equality and equity and learn to not be casteist (Remember, the first step, the toddler step?). Getting angry, gassy bowels with a reservation diet wouldn’t do either. You’ll additionally be required to not dismiss people who believe in striving for the same as ‘communists’.

I understand these qualifications are mind-numbingly challenging for the middle class. Honestly speaking, who wouldn’t like to be them-the blueberries, to have as much bank balance as these? If I had the resources, I would’ve flown to London with my whole family, in a chartered plane and tried my best to escape the devastation and cremation and then raised a fundraiser virtually. I would’ve been gleefully positive with my Irish whisky and a copy of ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’ instead of a warm lemon –  Kada, an almost non-functional taste bud and a copy of positive RT PCR.

But, here I am in the midst of a traumatized nation, desperately warding off my parents’ anxious nerves, concealing disturbing visuals and information for their mental well being; responding to the calls of friends, the family who are equally overwhelmed by the deaths of their near/dear ones and therefore more willing to release these horrors with theatrical precision and detail. Additionally, surviving the clinical-maniacal phase 1 trial of our Atma Nirbhar indigenous Whatsapp laboratory-like inhaling smoke, administering lemon drops to my nose(do not recommend this) etc. has been a rare limited rendition of positivity unlimited!

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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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