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Poem: I Am There For You

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I heard the world laugh at me.

When I would sit at one corner of my dusted home of dark,

they would pull me away, and ask me to sit beneath

the fake lights they had created. I would always tell them

that it’s not the light that I seek, but a companion

that I yearn for – a person, who’d listen to me –

who’d tell me that it’s okay – that someday,

somewhere, maybe not in some parallel universe

but in the same set of galaxies that we exist in now,

I shall be happy too – and they’d laugh when

I say this. I’d ask them why this seems so

Strange to them, and they’d always tell me,

‘It exists just in your head.’

mental health
Representational Image

Over years of having lived in this world

(Or I am sorry, of having just survived),

I have learnt that it’s not the voice that

We lack sometimes, but the words,

And not the words, often, but the voice,

And if I choose to tell about myself,

I’ve been bereft of both. No, no, no-

I am not mute or deaf, and I am not even dead;

Maybe, all that I know is to feel, to sense,

To perceive, the pain that I undergo;

Maybe, it’s me who doesn’t know,

How to elucidate it in words:

The plight you go through when

You look at the flowers in your garden

And try to adore them, but all that you

Can think of is them being laid in your

Graveyard; when you wish for the winds

To carry away your sadness but all that

They do is to leave a bit more of pain

As they touch your soul and pass by;

When you feel there’s certain lump in

your throat while you cry and that you

wish to swallow it but cannot, no matter

how much water you consume, because

maybe that’s the only way you feel

the mental ache physically as well;

when you are crying within the crowd

of humans and no one wants to notice

it, for all that they want you, is to smile

when the tears dry and forget the wounds

when they heal, but they’d never teach you how.

sunflower field
Representational Image

Pain doesn’t need words.

Pain doesn’t need voice.

All that it needs is a bit of love –

A bit of compassion, care and concern.

There’d be people who’d tell you

That depression is not real – that it’s

Just a theory infecting your brain –

Don’t believe what they say, my friend;

Think of yourself as a wilted flower:

You aren’t dead. You just need a bit

more of nutrients, water and love,

to bloom again, to smile, again.

 

I know how it feels to be locked up

Inside home for days, to be enclosed

In the periphery not just of your house

But your thoughts as well;

I understand how

You feel when the pain springs up –

how you want

To run away from the chaos

this world presents to you right now –

even if that pain strikes you a bit,

remember my friend, you don’t have to quit.

Breathe – breathe again, until your

Heartbeat calms down and tells you

To live your life livelily again;

Share – share your thoughts with the

People who care, for I know that they’d

Not judge you even if you are depressed;

Pause – pause for a while, and realize

That life’s not a race and it’s absolutely

Okay to move at your own pace.

Remind – remind yourself, that all of it

Would be over soon: the pain, the anxiety,

The fear you have right now – all of it would

End soon.

 

I know it’d never be easy, to fight,

To survive, in this war against

Mental illness; but I also know that

It’d never be impossible;

There would be obstacles that you’d

Stumble upon, and however

Difficult it maybe, my friend,

Remember I’d be always there for you.

I’d remind you how you are not

Supposed to be judged for being depressed;

I’d remind you how this sadness

Is not your personality trait but

A momentary condition you’d get over with;

I’d remind you how you deserve

Happiness from the whole of universe

I promise, my friend, I’d remind you

That life is what you have,

And that’s what makes you powerful.

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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.

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        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
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