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My School Had A Session With PARI And Here’s What We Learnt

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Rural India is full of diversities. In terms of languages, occupations, arts and crafts, culture, literature, legend, transportation, many other uncountable stories are still a mystery. But the rapid rural transformation is a danger to this diversity. If all the mysteries mentioned above remain a puzzle, then with the demise of souls, a whole culture and civilisation will vanish.

The connections and links are becoming more of a blur with that unique world. If it remains so, the coming generation will know only a little about this uniqueness. Though, it’s a necessity to preserve this diversity. It’s the call of the hour to maintain this greatest gift of nature forever.

PARI is doing so. The “People’s Archive of Rural India” is trying to generate, report and collect stories from the countryside. It is also creating a database of already published stories, reports, videos and audios from as many sources as possible. All of PARI’s content is a story of the “everyday lives of everyday people”. The best part is everything is available free of cost for everyone on its website.

Image provided by the author.

It’s really elating for me to be a part of one of the PARI’s sessions. On 10 August, 2021, learners of the Nanakmatta Public School had a session with PARI. Preeti David, Vishakha Grorge and Riya Behl were our mentors in this workshop on PARI’s Education. We had a wonderful one and half hours talk on basic ideas behind PARI, its relevance and how we could be a part of it.

Before attending the session, we looked at its website and YouTube channel. The idea was somehow familiar to me. Going through the video’s of P Sainath, a pioneering member of PARI, gave an elaborate idea about what it exactly was. It brought too many ideas to my mind. While attending the session with PARI’s members, things clarified and it enlightened a path for our exploration.

Preeti Ma’am informed us, “Journalists are unevenly distributed all over in the field. Generally, the mainstream media captures the few stories. For example, the report says 67% of the media coverage is of the National capital. This doesn’t mean that the other parts don’t have things to discover. But the reality is they don’t have voices.” 

PARI is the voice of those millions that deserve to be heard. It is cherished with the unique stories of those, many of whom are still puzzled.

On our way to know more about PARI, we looked at some of the stories from PARI’s archive. The stories were on data on migration, of the only girl from a community to pass high school and continue further studies and the story of the only old man in a village. These stories were covered by the students for PARI.

women smiling
Representative Image. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Along with this, Preeti and Vishakha Ma’am informed us, “We have near about 750 languages till now documented in India with about 86 scripts. Some languages are only spoken by few people.”

Not only do we have different languages but also many unique jobs. If we get to know a person, we will be aware of two or three jobs and languages as people do different jobs for their livelihood and learn many languages.

Taking it further, they introduced us to “Faces”. Inspired by an event, PARI also started a collection called “Faces”. In this, the pictures of different faces are collected.

Millions of Indians are subject to casual ethnic violence very simply because of how they look. Also, if we look at popular culture, we will find that it is assumed that each one of us is fair-skinned and light-eyed, but it is not so simple. That’s why “Faces” at PARI was started because every Indian face is unique in itself.

In the words of PARI, “There is no such thing as one Indian face. It is a project simple in its vision but ambitious in its mission.”

After knowing these innovative ideas, the learners had many questions. All three mentors spent time on our questions. Also, they tried to answer to the best of their abilities.

Al the questions were on how PARI looks in classrooms, the ethics and norms in such projects, different ways of documentation in PARI and the basic motive.

With an ecstatic experience and flooding of ideas, we came to the completion of the session. Hopefully, PARI will be in our classrooms and stories from our surroundings will be in PARI soon.

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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, 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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