‘Keep Calm and Get Tested’ Campaign

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The YWCA of India has been conducting a ‘Keep Calm and Get Tested’ Campaign in an effort to raise awareness about HIV / AIDS. A video study here, shows the current knowledge from the public about what is HIV and why there is a need to get tested.

Here are a few facts to guide you on what is one of the world’s major health concerns particularly in nations were the stigma is the strongest.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus – in simple terms – this is a virus that infects the body’s immune system thus decreasing the natural ability to ward off infections and other diseases.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – in simple terms – this means that the person is in the most advanced stages of the HIV infection and it is defined as thus when they suffer from more than 20 opportunistic infections and related cancers.

HIV is TRANSMITTED by:

  • unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person
  • Transfusions of contaminated blood or blog products or transplantation of contaminated tissue
  • The sharing of contaminated injecting equipment and solutions (needles/syringes) or tattooing equipment
  • Through the use of contaminated surgical equipment and other sharp instruments
  • The transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding

The spread of HIV from person to person is called HIV transmission. The spread of HIV from an HIV-infected woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

HIV is NOT TRANSMITTED by: 

  • Shaking hands or hugging a person infected with HIV

  • It is not transmitted through contact with objects such as dishes, toilet seats or doorknobs used by a person infected with HIV

  • It is also not spread through the air or through mosquito, tick and/or other insect bites

How to PREVENT HIV transmission: 

  • Practice safe sex – use condoms
  • Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections (including HIV)
  • Avoid injecting drugs (or use sterile needles / syringes)
  • Ensure that any blood or blood products you require are tested for HIV
  • If you have HIV, start treatment immediately to prevent transmission to your partner or child

SYMPTOMS for HIV / AIDS

After getting infected, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache or rash have been known to show up. These may come and go for a month or two after getting infected. (these varies across patients).

At the earliest stages, HIV multiplies but very slowly. Severe cases can include chronic diarrhoea, rapid weight loss and signs of opportunistic infections (infections and infection related cancers that occur frequently because of the body’s weakened immune system), however this takes a few years before they show up.

Without treatment, HIV can advance to AIDS. The time it takes for HIV to advance to AIDS varies, but it can take 10 years or more.

HIV transmission is possible at any stage of HIV infection—even if an HIV-infected person has no symptoms of HIV.

What is the TREATMENT for HIV?

Combination ART which stands for Antiretroviral Therapy treatment prevents the HIV infection from multiplying in the body. In simple words – its a combination of medicines that stops the infection from growing and allows the body’s immune cells to prolong the HIV infected person’s life, reducing the chances for spreading the infection.

Recent advances in access to ART, HIV-positive people now live longer and healthier lives. In addition, it has been confirmed that ART prevents onward transmission of HIV. Progress has also been made in preventing and eliminating mother-to-child transmission and keeping mothers alive. In 2015, almost 8 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV, or 1.1 million women, received antiretrovirals (ARVs).

While this is mostly good news, the bad news is that

there is no cure for HIV / AIDS.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Look into more information on HIV / AIDS from WHO or any other NGO near you that has access to this information. The YWCA of India has been following this campaign closely and has been trying to spread as much information about this as possible. So get tested regularly. Donate blood when you can, but make sure sterile equipment is used. Spread all the information you have as much as you can. Most importantly, don’t get mired in the stigma surrounding getting tested, your health and others is more important than your pride.

KEEP CALM and GET TESTED. Have you done it yet? 

Here’s Where the Ocean’s Trash Comes From

Sightings of junk-filled waters are common—and not only in Southeast Asia, says marine biologist Nicholas Mallos, who runs the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program. “Accumulations like this are unfortunately the norm,” he says, particularly in developing parts of the world where there are “rising middle-class populations along coastlines, and spending and consumption have increased, but waste management has not.”

China and the Philippines top the worst offenders’ list.

Source: Here’s Where the Ocean’s Trash Comes From

Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys?

‘Good News’ in India is celebrated with such enthusiasm that the happy couple are surrounded by so many well wishers from family to friends. The next step in this, ‘Good News’ saga is to buy everything under the sun for the new baby in the family. However, that sends us down another road of what gender is the baby going to be? For generations we have been informed that blue is for boys and pink for girls. It’s tradition really, and we do not mess with tradition.

How did this tradition actually set in though?

This leads us back to the world history of how this gender specific colour formed. From the early 1800s white was the norm for babies to toddlers. White dresses to be specific. It was easier to lift to clean dirty diapers {cloth diapers in those days} and far far easier to bleach when those dirty diapers exploded.

The fashion changed to different shades later when colours were introduced, however, it was still dresses – because of the ease of changing diapers. In fact, around 1918, in the US a statement was made about how, ‘Pink was a strong colour and hence for boys and blue was a softer, fragile colour, hence it was for girls.’ There doesn’t seem to be much backing for this story though and has hence been dubbed as an urban legend.

Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

What did get recorded as fact, was a graphical representation on a map in the US of what colours departmental stores used for boys and girls, in the Time magazine in 1927. Even then, pink was subscribed for boys and blue for girls.

When did this trend change? 

The shift to pink for girls and blue for boys happened just right after World War II, during a time when mass marketing was just starting. Gender specific became the norm, because it was easier to market it as thus. In a time when the fear of the wars had bled into everyone’s psyche, society inadvertently built a structure of what was normal and what wasn’t. Marketing managed to weave a ploy around this.

What cemented the notion though was France, the leader in fashion. Traditional French fashion had girls in pink and boys in blue, however, the rest of Europe had the opposite. Early 20th century, tradition and marketing built the notion that gender specific colours were pink and blue and that has stuck since then.

Gender specific for the win

Mass producing for the baby industries became easier and they raked in more money because of this. They sold a concept that just wasn’t true. Science has found that while men and women do register on different regions of the colour spectrum, it has not found that they identify to pink or blue respectively.

How about here in India?

In the Indian context, the gender specific notion is a fairly new phenomena, considering the vast economic growth of this developing nation. Buying gender specific colours before the baby is born is also a tricky concept considering our laws are against finding out the sex of the baby – due to our female infanticide rates. However, we have been buying into the trend of how babies need to be dressed in one specific colour and not. Our shopping malls and baby centred shops have very specific colours for a boy and a girl. Another aspect that could be perpetuating this notion could be our culture as well, where girls have to be in glittery frills and boys in sober pants.

In Conclusion . . . 

Traditionally, girls are dressed in brighter, fun shades, while boys have sober, darker shades. Boys get dirtier, girls do not. Boys run around, girls do not. Girls only identify being a princess, boys love dragons. Stereotypical norms have been set in place, have been for centuries and messing with it as expected creates friction. Whatever the current scenario, it is interesting to mull over the fact that neutral dresses were the norm and pink was subscribed for boys than girls.

 

 

What is Social Justice? by John Rajkumar

Social Justice is not something I was aware of, not until my wife asked me to help her with a blog post. So I did what anyone with access to the internet would do, I Googled it.

The first bit I searched for was the definition of what Social Justice is, and here is what I found first.

The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.

The definition indicates that social justice looks to form a new society. A society where all citizens are equal and have equal opportunity. As an idealist, this does sound a worthy goal to me. However this definition is very basic. Tells me the what and not the how. So how will a society with Social Justice work? Perhaps before I try to define Social Justice I need to know its history and roots.

How did Social Justice start?

With help from Wikipedia I learnt, Social Justice has its roots in the 1840s, the term was used more towards the end of the Industrial Revolution. The key aspect at this point was POVERTY. The goal was to ensure resources were distributed evenly. Since then Social Justice has evolved to include other imbalances in society, such as, Equal rights – irrespective of gender, caste, colour, religion, etc. Essentially in a society there should be no reason to discriminate against an individual and prevent him from benefiting for the work he is trying to put in. At the same time there should be empowerment and upliftment of the underprivileged.

Are we aware of it? 

Understanding this I realise, this has been a topic we discuss often. Perhaps not under the term Social Justice and not completely under it’s definition. Most democratic countries have been a part of this. They have passed laws preventing discrimination. Laws have also been passed to provide welfare to the poor. This is entrenched in the Indian constitution as well. The chapter on Fundamental Rights has article 15, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, religion, race or caste. Article 17 abolishes untouchability. The People world over contribute to this as well. We pay taxes, we stand up for ourselves or for members of our society, either online or on the streets. Voices were raised in light of violence against women. This has been an ongoing conversation for decades – where voices have been raised. Some voices have been heard and some not yet.

True, but it is a long road. . . 

In my mind, the road is long and a lot more progress to be made. As an Indian, I see debates raging on various topics that affect the progress of Social Justice. We see citizens from underprivileged backgrounds, marginalised castes as well as women rising above their disadvantages and excelling. They have done this on their own will power, or with assistance from the Government or NGOs. However, we still see abject poverty, caste and gender-based discrimination. There are debates raging on how we should prioritise our citizens or on the methods we should employ to achieve Social Justice. This is normal I would presume in a functioning democracy. However, I do go back to realising, this is a long and difficult road.

How do we contribute? 

So, what is it that we can do to move Social Justice along the right path? I obviously don’t have the answer. I believe one important element in this is – the NGO. In a functioning democracy the primary custodian of this, is the Government. However, a Government has priorities that cover aspects other than Social Justice. Governments are not unknown to make mistakes as well. Here is where an NGO should stand as a pillar towards this goal. NGOs work at the grass roots, identify social and economic issues, work for the have nots and fight for their upliftment.

Contrary to what we read on the news, this world is seeing one of the most peaceful times. Perhaps now is the time for us to look outward, look at our fellow brothers and sisters, understand their trials and burdens and ask ourselves, what can I do?

 

John Rajkumar

One Billion Rising and What it means for YOU!

WHAT IS ONE BILLION RISING [OBR]

Based on horrifying statistics, we have realised that 1 in 3 women are beaten or raped and that is about one billion women/girls among our 7 billion population in this world. Women and girls is an inclusive term here though, it signifies that the weaker are oppressed and hurt.

February 14th every year has now been championed as a day for Revolutionary love, being as Valentine’s day focuses primarily on love. That’s what the One Billion Rising movement hopes to carry through their movement as well. LOVE. RESPECT and a chance for an EQUAL PLATFORM.

 

HOW DID IT START?

2013 was the first year of the OBR movement where people rose to express their outrage against injustices that women suffer. It spread through hundreds of countries, involving the local communities shining a light on the injustices faced by the survivours. This movement gave a voice to them and their oppression. It included a RISE through dance, talks, walks, strikes and dialogues to say that we shall stand together and shall not be silenced and we shall strive to create an environment where violence is resisted and believed to be unthinkable.

This movement included the struggle against sexual and physical violence, which has grown now to include economic violence and violence of poverty, racial violence, gender violence, violence caused by environmental disasters and violence impacting women in the events of wars, capitalised greed and much more.

The 2014 movement focused on One Billion Rise against Justice, while the 2015 to 2016 movement was focused on Revolution. That theme is carrying on to 2017 as well with a focus on ‘RISING IN SOLIDARITY AGAINST THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN.’

 

RISE! DISRUPT! CONNECT!

RISE! Women are at their most vulnerable to abuse – at home, in the workplace and economically. Women are abused in multiple layers of our society. One is through our patriarchal structures in society, while another is through the economic exploitation in the need for survival. This is quite prevalent among the marginalised communities – like our indigenous women, domestic workers and women from the lower socio-economic strata.

DISRUPT! OBR believes in a world of equality, freedom, peace and dignity. This belief carries through our YWCA movement as well and it strikes an intense chord with us. Through walks, dances and other creative resistances – a force is built with hope and will that is strong enough to ask for a dialogue and create a need for the Government to pay close attention to a demand of the people.

CONNECT! No movement, or in this case Revolution, can be without support or solidarity. No system change, no challenge to a patriarchal thinking process can be done alone. It needs support and lots of it. Solidarity with a movement, with a cause that will affect each and every one of us and those suffering at the hands of these injustices can help move our hopes and dreams for a equal world forward.

 

HOW TO BE PART OF THE MOVEMENT?

There are global coordinators from the OBR movement and there are two based in India. They are Abha Bhaiya and Kamla Basin from the Sangat South Asian Feminist Network. They organise events that support the OBR campaigns. You can contact them for more information, follow the links through their names to find out more.

From one of the previous campaigns, a group called New Light Girls performed the Anthem of the OBR called, Break the Chain. This anthem can and is still used till today and any new variations of it are encouraged by this campaign.

Follow the OBR blog for more information about the events taking place around the world and know how you can help. The Indian movement has been categorised here. And here is a list of all the events taking place tomorrow around the world.  In India, there are two events taking place, one in Delhi and another in Kolkatta with subsequent events taking place around 22 states throughout February.

 

 

 

YWCA OF INDIA DAY – THE STORY

YWCA of India currently has been a constant between all the YWCAs in India, that it is inconceivable to believe that it did not exist before the YWCAs in our country! India had about a 109 YWCA branches before it was finally decided that perhaps we need a YWCA for the country.

Here’s your crash course on the history of the YWCA of India.

THE IDEA THAT SPARKED IT ALL:

December 1896, Acting President of the YWCA of Calcutta, Ms. Alice M. Bethune realised that unity was required for the needs of the country. Hence invitations went high and low to the 109 branches in the country requesting their presence for a conference for prayer and planning towards this goal. Ms. Minnie L. Collins was the General Secretary of YWCA of Calcutta and Bengal.
Incidentally, the Biennial Convention for the YMCA was taking place, with a representative from the London YMCA, Mr. James Stokes Esp.

WHAT HAPPENED THEN?

Since the YMCA Convention and YWCA Conference were happening at the same day. The first session was held at the YWCA’s Home 31, Free School Street, Calcutta with Ms. D. McConnaughy Esq., the National Secretary of YMCA India chosen as the Chairman, and Ms. A. G. Hill from YWCA of Madras chosen as the Secretary of the Conference.
This was monumental, because with the guidance and reassurance of Mr. Stokes (who had worked with YMCA and YWCA in London) explained that the World Committees were hoping that National Associations be formed everywhere to ease in carrying out the mission that was the YMCA and YWCA effort.

WHAT CAME TO BE?

December 1856, saw the formation of the YWCA of India Association, under the guidance of Mr. Stokes suggesting for a simple union between the 109 branches of YWCAs in India.

Thus, YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon was formed on December 1896.

 

WHAT DID THAT MEAN?

With the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association in place, it meant that the National Association would work on the same principle as the World YWCA. The National headquarters were to be in Calcutta.

And most important, February 1st every year was to be marked as the inauguration of the National Association and would be a special day of praise and prayer.

 

WHAT CAME UNDER THE ASSOCIATION?

The National Association now had 68 English branches [with Calcutta, Bombay and Madras having several branches within their cities). 2 Vernacular branches, 27 Hindusthani branches, 6 Malayalam branches and 5 Tamil branches were also under the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association banner.

 

FEW YEARS LATER. . . 

National Headquarters is no longer the same, as well as the National Association India, Burma and Ceylon. The headquarters moved a few times after that, from Calcutta to Bombay, Madras to New Delhi – meaning the Association had many strong influences from all these regions before it became settled in New Delhi.

YWCA of India, as it finally came to be known was settled in New Delhi in the year 1958.

 

WHAT HISTORY SHOWS US TODAY?

The common goal of the YMCA and the YWCA was the same and always will be. We needed a common denominator that coordinated at the World stage and we had the guidance and support from the 109 branches in India as well as the YMCA to establish that.

Calcutta had the vision and foresight to bring us all together and Bombay and Madras supported the movement continuously. It must have been sad seeing the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association become the YWCA of India Association alone, along with the shifting of HQ 4 times. However, it is to be noted, that HQ shifted 4 times, thus engaging every corner of the country’s YWCA branches. February 1st, requires us to take a step back, realise we all have the same goal and praise this movement that has steamrolled into the 22nd century. 120 years of the Association now, still younger than most of the YWCA branches in the country, but still the glue that binds us all together.