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Will Complacency Be A Bigger Killer Than The Coronavirus In India?

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

*Trigger Warning: COVID*

If there is one thing that “defines” the Indian attitude toward everything we face, it is the “sab changa si” and the “chalta hai” laidback way of looking at things.

There have been numerous jokes, widely circulating on WhatsApp since forever, made on this mantra — when your lights go out, you peek to see whether your neighbour’s lights have gone out too. If yes, then you do nothing. It’s just the way it is. The apocalypse could come, and we’d check to see if the roof of our neighbour’s house has blown off, and if yes, we’d settle in to continue watching our serials and social media videos.

However, one instance where this attitude may be the death knell for us all is when it comes to the Coronavirus.

crowd at bus stand
Representative Image. Source: flickr

While international scientists are already speculating on the possible effect of the new Delta Plus variant, with many countries, including the U.K., further delaying a complete lifting of lockdown despite more than 70% of its population having received at least one dose of the vaccine, India and the Indian government seems to be blissfully ignorant of the calamity looming.

We can blame this government all we want, and they certainly have given us several reasons to do so, but the onus is on us to do what we can ourselves. There is enough government bashing going on, and they deserve every single bit of it — fall in healthcare investment, corruption, bullying the healthcare sector and its hardworking workforce — the list of faults is endless.

The public is furious, and rightly so. But people that have lost someone close in this pandemic know full well that blaming the government did not save their loved ones, and it won’t save anyone else either.

The least we can do is learn our lesson and listen to what John F. Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

What Can We Do?

It has been heartening to see how NGOs and the common person galvanised forces during the peak of the second wave. Social media and WhatsApp was finally being put to good use instead of the usual trolling and spreading of misinformation. People came together to arrange help, be it in the form of plasma donations or passing information on healthcare facility availability by city.

Now, it is time to use that same passion again to remind people to still be cautious. The only reason the number of infections was down last month is that there was a strict lockdown. Now, with things slowly opening up, we’ve thrown caution to the wind, yet again.

We seem to have the memory of a goldfish. The devastating second wave meant everyone lost at least one person close or known to them to this menacing disease, and yet, the minute things open up, we go back to normal.

No masks. No social distancing. No precautions of any kind.

It’s Time To Speak Up

Banquet Halls Converted Into Covid Care Centre In Delhi
Representative Image. (Photo by Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

We need to ensure that our loved ones are not only extra cautious when venturing out but also that they rush to get themselves vaccinated. It is sheer arrogance and apathy that there are countries that would do anything to have vaccines delivered to them, and then there’s India, where people don’t want to get the vaccine because they saw a “doctor” on WhatsApp say that the vaccine will cause infertility.

So now, more than ever, speak up. Pick an argument with the uncle in your family WhatsApp group who posts willful misinformation regarding the vaccine. Send a DM to someone you see posting on social media brazen pics of dining without masks or social distancing. Go out of your way to get your family vaccinated at the earliest.

We Indians are taught to respect elders and never answer back or question them. But it is time to speak up, if only to save them from themselves. These may seem like silly and obvious things to do, be it wearing a mask or social distancing, but after seeing everyone venturing out and having a good time again, we could easily fall into the trap of believing that saying “Go Corona Go” somehow worked and we are free of this virus.

The entire world is terrified of a potential third wave, with all world leaders citing the devastating toll the second wave had on India as an example. If only India took notice of this warning as well, a lot more of us would be alive today.

Featured Image via PxHere
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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)’.

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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.”

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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.

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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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