In the city of nawabs, Lucknow, live two women who have pulled together what many have only dreamed of doing. Riding their scooter into villages in Dubagga, talking to people they have never known about taboos and things that are hushed in families, they took this step in their stride and came out a better version of themselves.
Twinkle and Priyanka first met when both of them became part of ComMutiny - The Youth Collective's Jabardast Jagrik campaign as volunteers. The Jabardast Jagrik programme supported young people on their journey to becoming Jagriks (Jagruk Nagrik, active, awakened citizens) through co-designing social action projects to bring change in their communities. Twinkle and Priyanka chose to work on Menstrual Health Management with women from marginalised communities. They met and were then presented with the idea of working together, which they embraced.
"I struggle with talking to strangers and have enormous stage fear. Twinkle already knew the community and was someone who could constantly encourage me to push my boundaries. I think she has contributed a lot to my learning," says Priyanka.
Beginning Of The Project
The population of Dubagga mainly consists of Muslims and the Dholakia tribe. The duo began with designing a survey that they thought would help them understand the community, with questions about what menstruation is, why it happens, how people dispose of sanitary pads waste, and the like.
"The biggest learning from the survey was that people here were not just using cloth pads; in fact, they used pads and could articulate why pads were better than scraps of cloth. However, there were strong opinions about it being napaak or impure, and various practices existed around it, such as not touching pickles, not entering the kitchen, etc. It helped us map which were the areas we wanted to work on," says Priyanka.
Workshops Under The Campaign
After that, there was no stopping these two. Despite numerous challenges, they started mobilising young girls from the community, found a space to hold workshops with them, and got on with designing workshops on the female anatomy, what periods are, why they happen, and why they aren't pure or impure. They talked about waste management, taboos around menstruation, and whatever questions the girls had.
"After some weeks of meeting these girls and talking about this, we saw that they were able to talk about periods with so much more ease than they could before. We realise this isn't an enormous achievement, but it means the world for us. Just seeing them explain periods to strangers without feeling embarrassed or ashamed tells us that our work has been successful," they shared excitedly.
As a part of their social action project, they also organised a cloth pad-making workshop with the women, leading to many women using reusable cloth pads and sharing their experiences. Not only this, but they've also ignited entrepreneurial spirit in the women. They shared, "Women came to us with ideas of selling pads to other women outside the village and making a living out of it. We felt so proud! We're now trying to see if we can somehow facilitate collaborations so that this can happen soon."
The success of the Jabardast Jagrik project has inspired them to keep up their ongoing social action journey. With all the vigour they can gather, they're in full swing with preparations to work with a new cohort of young girls who could not join the first batch. "Every time we go to the community now, they reach out to us and ask us where they should gather. We really want to make some changes to our sessions and include more people in it."
Opportunity To Explore
One opportunity like the Jabardast Jagrik programme where they had real agency and an opportunity to explore their potential as change-makers with the support from adults in their community has helped them see how much they're capable of, and they're not willing to let that go! Youth-centric spaces like these are undoubtedly crucial for young people like Twinkle and Priyanka to become their fuller selves bringing about sustainable change in society.
And what is equally important to understand is that the story of young people is not unilateral. Each individual young person has their own opinions, challenges and skills. And empowering spaces for them can only be genuinely impactful if their leadership is inclusive and collaborative. The immense power of support and sisterhood is what one cannot miss when one sees these two, Twinkle and Priyanka, working, thriving and growing together.
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