This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Is It Love Or Just An Abusive Relationship? Recognize Violence And Speak Out #Interview

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Pooja Malhotra:

Commutiny — the Youth collective has been facilitating an online and offline campaign exploring the realities of how dominant gender norms create restrictive situations in our lives. Called MustBol, the campaign is a call to young people to examine violence in their lives and speak out against it. To recognize it, to talk about it and to address it.

Soumya Tejas, an active volunteer and member of the core group which co-leads MustBol, feels that the campaign has been successfully exploring and leveraging the power of social media for social change. Though it came as a shock to people around her, Soumya quit her job as a software engineer at HCL to join MustBol. Defying all norms, she has set a new stage for herself and MustBol has been the wind below her wings. She shares that she loves being a part of this collaborative and co creative space and has recently shot a short film titled ‘In The name of Love’. In a tête-à-tête with Pooja Malhotra, Soumya Tejas talks about her journey, her views and concerns, her experiences and her latest film.

must bol

PM: What is it that inspired you to be a part of the ‘Must Bol’ campaign?

ST: It was the harm our society and its values had been doing to my friends which stirred me the most. I always wanted to do something but never understood how. Then I came across the MustBol Campaign and realized that it was looking for volunteers. I simply jumped into it…didn’t even give it second thoughts before applying…and since then, there has been no looking back!

PM: Please share in detail about your journey as a MustBol volunteer.

ST: I was working as a Software Engineer when I first dropped in for a meet-up for MustBol volunteering. I have always been pretty ‘anti-system’. I hadn’t realized how I became a part of what I was against and left my passion somewhere behind.
I chose to drop my job, be a part of this journey, and simultaneously explore life and what I want to do with it.

It became a circle of great trust and self-exploration for me, especially with activities like ‘Identity mapping‘ and ‘Get Real’ at the initial stages. More than being able to open up, it was the genuine intention to deeply look into personal/individual experiences these people had had, that really attached me to this campaign. We were a group of around 30 people, 33 including our facilitators, who jot-down a list of agreements like – being non-judgmental, understanding, trusting confidentiality – for all the conversations, we would have under the MustBol umbrella.

It was beautiful to see how I was talking about things that I had earlier started hiding/stop-from-expressing to the circle that has been closest to me – my friends.
More than talking about others’ and their issues, it became a journey on talking about ‘ourselves’ and how ‘I connect to issues’.
After spending a good amount of time in exploring aspects like – power, sexuality, love relationships, we sat down and zeroed in on the issues that we want to talk about to people in our MustBol journey…issues that we could really connect with.
I had a personal connection with all the themes that we chose for our campaign. These were –
– Violence in Intimate Relationships
– Bystander intervention in sexual harassment at public places
– Communication with parents around issues of GBV (Gender-Based Violence).

PM: So how did the idea of ‘Film making’ come up?

ST: I was actively involved in the campaign and at the same time, I was also in contact with one of my friends, who was feeling a lot of pressure from her partner to exchange photographs that she did not want to. I could relate to her helplessness as well as feel the lack of places where people could talk about such things and take a stand around issues of violence/harassment in intimate relationships.
There was a need to break the taboo – where women could easily talk about their desires, their problems, and also take leadership in tackling the same. I felt that a lot of people will be able to connect to this.

And so we also started exploring ‘Film-making‘ at Must Bol. It came across to me as a very powerful tool with which we can communicate with and reach out to the public. My first film titled ‘In the name of Love’ revolves around this pressure faced by women in intimate relationships to exchange their nude photographs/videos. I, along with six other team members, made this short film wherein we wanted to convey that when you force your partner to do something that they are uncomfortable with, it is ‘violence’. I think it is very important to talk about that thin line which separates love from violence. While all this happened, film-making also clicked to me as something I felt very passionate about; adding to the content I felt while campaigning with MustBol.

PM: What else are you doing to spread the message further?

ST: Must Bol has been going to different colleges to talk about violence in intimate relationships and one of the most common question that has come out is – “How do you understand whether it is love or it has become abuse?“…. A question with which probably all of us can connect.

PM: Tell us how all this has affected you as a person.

ST: In the initial days of my college, I was very good with my verbal-communication, public dialogue, and was taking lead with a lot of things. Then I had this series of events in my life and there was a huge depression phase. With it I lost my interest, my self confidence, and that ‘charisma’ to speak out.

At MustBol when I started participating in various ‘on-ground’ activities, wherein I had to go to different places and actually speak to people and also take on active leadership; I took it as an opportunity to fight with myself and be the same person I was then. There have been instances when I did it well, other instances where I failed badly but I think if I keep trying things will eventually get better and better… The battle is still on but I think it would have been very difficult, in fact next to impossible for me to even think of it if MustBol wouldn’t have happened.

PM: How have you lived 5th space?

ST: MustBol has been that 5th space for me where I meet up with other members and can just talk about things, express myself without the sense of being judged.
Though I have been able to live a lot of it in my peer group, where I actually share a judgment-free and understanding bonding with my friends, but one difference which was very important to me was – friends tend to get biased towards you at times, because they have this soft corner for you, but in my 5th space, the views and responses were unbiased. This really helped me grow as I could realize where I was going wrong or needed to rectify myself.
In a campaign where we talk about Gender-Based Violence issues with other people, I think it is very important to first be sorted out with them in our lives. I cannot imagine how I could have done that if I wouldn’t have been living the 5th space at MustBol.
It was beautiful to look inside ourselves collectively, understand the self plus the society in a better manner, and change myself where needed.

PM: Further, how do you think we can create 5th space among family and friends?

ST: I think what we need most importantly is good communication. It all starts there.
Once we start communicating instead of hiding/suppressing how we feel about things like – what bothers me or wish things were the other way, we give the space to the other person to be able to understand and connect with us better.
It also somewhere encourages the other person to share the same with us. This is how I believe we can include a 5th space into our family and friend circles. It encourages trust in a fun, joyful, transformatory way. The culture of the 5th Space attracts young people by encouraging trust and openness and by creating opportunities for young people to take on leadership roles, so they can experiment without fear, make mistakes, and learn in the presence of experienced facilitators and supportive peers.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ridhi Murari

    It is definitely an eye opener and its really nice learning about others’ experiences. Gives hope in the darkest of times.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Katha

By India Development Review (IDR)

By Prabhanu Kumar Das

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below