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What It Means To Be A Woman In Delhi

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By Aditi Mishra:

I live in Delhi. The city has everything to offer a common man and is indeed amongst one of the most happening cities of our country. Yes Delhi has everything, but how safe is it for me as a girl – is the most critical question for most of us.

While travelling in a bus I am welcomed by all staring and leering of boys and men. They have this wondrous ability to gaze constantly even if you notice them and give back a raging look. The worst part is it’s not only the young men who participate in this activity but the league is joined by the older men, ones with family, kids and even ones accompanying their girlfriends.

For metro, I am extremely thankful to it for introducing the women’s coach. It has hugely reduced the embarrassment of lewd remarks which were regular. It also saves me during the rush hours’ when having physical proximity is the easiest and is zesty moment for the opposite sex.

I take an auto for college but the auto driver refuses to switch on the meter and grins continuously giving various reasons from facing traffic jams to not getting sawari while returning. I finally successfully persuade one of them to go by meter. During this journey too I find the driver glancing through the rear glass, I can do nothing but avoid, and if it becomes irritating then snap him and command him to pay attention on the road. On hearing this too the big grin doesn’t disappear from his face.

Further walking on the road and heading towards home, the roadside romeos treat their eyes and as if they see a delicious dish and make every attempt to get close enough. And when you look around for the police, you usually get a cold look from them as well.

In the evening I come across several cars parked with men inside them boozing, smoking or playing loud music. They are the worst to face as they are usually out of their senses. I somehow make way back to my colony. All of a sudden I feel someone coming towards me from behind. I slowly take a look back and get disgusted from the familiar face I see. It’s the stalker following me for the past several months.

I make haste in taking my steps and so does he. I never understood the problem of this insane guy, even after polite refusal to his offer of so-called ‘friendship’, he still keeps pestering me and have an eye on me always.

My friends warn me of dire consequences if I do not report against him to the police. But I do not want to join the endless list in which Radhika Tanwar was recently added and become the victim of a stalker’s grudge. She had complained in the police and still met the dreadful fate. Will the police be around me round the clock to protect me or should I restrain myself in the house due to his fears? All these questions remain unanswered.

This seems to be part of my life everyday. I risk myself every time I step out of my house. The referral of ‘I’ is not for an individual; it is the story of all the women and represents the supposedly better and fairer sex.

In this modern time, women demand equal status in all fields. Same lines are being repeated – women are excelling in all spheres be it politics, business, sports or any other activity. Our leaders are women, from Delhi to Bengal and from Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu. Our president too is a women and even the central government is believed to function under the orders of the most influential woman. Yet all this progress leads nowhere if a woman is not safe especially ones residing in the heart of the country which is New Delhi.

Serious law reform is the need of the hour and it’s high time for the citizens to get the wake up call. What are your views? Do post your comments in the comments section below.

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  1. Deepak311086

    It is real and inconvenient truth of our society not even in delhi this problem has spread deep inside the mentality. If some one dont want to stare then he is considered as a backward and sincere. And as shown in cinema it is good to be bad. So this cinema and media is the root problem as I think. They must be regulated and encouraged to be reformed. Some where these men got appreciation on performing these activities. This should be changed

  2. Karthik

    Perhaps, you can consider joining a basic 1 month martial art / self defence class. Fear and insecurity will be replaced by confidence, because your words are no longer your only weapon. At any cost, don’t rely on society and police. Assume nobody will help you even in broad daylight in a crowded area, because everybody nowadays is self centred. If you do indeed get help, it’s a bonus, but don’t bet on it. And about the stalker, do complain to cops after you get trained and follow it up with RTI.

  3. meghavarshini krishnaswamy

    I agree with Kartik, these offenders feed off our fear. As someone who has been learning karate for 3 years, I have understood that the only was to win is to fight back, not always physically(karate can rarely be used in a bus os a crowded location) but by letting these men know that they won’t succeed. Men who leer are challenging women’s right to walk on the streets, use public transport and in short, use the public space. We have to assert our right to equality. I have rarely come across eve-teasers who harass strong-willed, confident women. It is the scared, almost passive ones who get bullied. The next time you feel a body too close to yours, push it away or bring an object(maybe a bag) between your body and his. Attack their balls(literally and metaphorically). Challenge your stalker when surrounded by people and enjoy the feeling of emancipation as he cowers, mumbles inaudiable nonsense and disappears. Radhika’s murder strikes fear in women’s hearts. We have to learn to let go of this fear, for if its in your fate to get raped tomorrow, passivity is’t going to help.

     Words may not be your weapon. But a high-decibel horn will come in handy(they look like spray cans, except they emit high pitched, intolerably loud sounds) Make yourself heard and blow their ears off. Oh, and as far as auto wallah are concerned, the Principle of Reversibility(if you cant see him, he can’t see you) is an excellent way to ensure that the driver can’t see the passenger.

    I suppose these measures seem limited in ensuring safety. But it is also true that one action will not only instill confidence but give other women the inspiration to act. Delhi is becoming safer because more women are coming out into the open. Maybe walking alone isn’t safe enough yet, so get a buddy or two. It is we citizens who can change mindsets, not just the assailant’s fear of the authorities. 

    The women in power are mere symbols, their presence doesn’t mean anything. Don’t hesitate to pick up a stone or a stick the next time you see a stalker- The fear of getting hurt will be more than enough to encounter him. 

  4. Deeksha Dubey

    I can really empathise with you as I have been also facing such things in the recent past. It is really disgusting and iritating . The tragedy is one can not do much on on one’s own part. Men need to reform themselves. That is the only solution.

  5. reeti singh

    true!
    i find delhi boys ok, it is the middle aged “uncle” janta who create maximum nuisance and easily get way with it!

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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.

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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)’.

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.

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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.”

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.

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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.

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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
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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