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Bekhauf Azadi: Ensuring Freedom Without Fear For Women

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By Reeti Mahobe:

This issue has been talked about, discussed and written over umpteen number of times particularly since ‘that’ violent incident of December 16, 2012. There still remains a question of how safe are our women and what really has to be done to ensure that? Amongst all those depressing news that has been coming around, we have something we need to cheer about, the journalist who had fallen prey to those criminals has said ‘her life hasn’t ended, she would continue to do reporting.’

bekhauf-azadi

This is a bold and warmly welcome step in a society which, to a large extent, doesn’t let go off any chance to ostracize and stigmatize the already victimized persons. Well, it has now been understood by those closely following all that has been said by notable speakers and writers that ‘rape’ is not just an outright expression of sexual urges but an expression of power and the will to dominate over those who they consider to be vulnerable, be it women belonging to the dalit community, a woman assistant, the one caught in an isolated dim light place etc. Some say its because ours is a society where boys and girls still don’t interact freely with each other and that doesn’t allow them to understand and respect each other. That’s a correct thing to say to an extent but if you see it closely, any gender based violence ultimately comes under the dynamics of ‘power’ play.

We have had that fabulous Verma Commission Report. We now have an amended criminal law with rigorous punishment and recognition of other forms of exploitation. We lack in the coordination between various agencies and also within society to spread the message clearly. We have maximum number of police personnel for VIP security. We need to have working CCTV cameras in police stations to monitor the attitude of police towards women. We need better street lighting. All offices must provide their women employees with a proper cab service. We need faster disposal of cases with higher conviction rates. We need to refrain from commodifying women every now and then. We need an education system that doesn’t simply strive to make our children and youth only employable but also to make them more socially responsible.

We seriously need to cover the stories from remote places too, they matter much more than just megalopolis. We need counselors at the police stations and courts and till the case goes on, availing their services for just few minutes would only be tokenism rather than serving the real purpose. Yes, of course we need to educate our boys better, to make them learn to respect women as women not just as sisters or mothers. We need to grow up as a more informed and mature society. It’s not just about women’s rights but more importantly about human rights. It’s time that we now begin acting and turn ideas into reality.

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  1. Manan Grover

    Finally an article that highlights the possible solutions for protecting women, and not just endlessly rant about their condition and the injustice being inflicted on them. We have debated and discussed enough on the pathetic state of safety of women. What we now require is solutions and implementation of those quickly.

  2. K.B.Srivastava

    Shilpa Shetty, heroin has suggested that ladies should have a knife with them for their safety, but I think that all ladies should ;have a pistol with bullets containing anaesthesia to get the culprits unconscious so that he can not rape. Government is requested to provide such pistol to all girls free of cost for their defence against rapists. At least there is a quest6ion of babies, they should not be left alone anywhere for rapists, but should be looked after by their Grand mothers/fathers/Nanas and Nanis etc. Due to poverty some mothers work for brick kiln and some of them go to wash utensils in other houses and they leave their children alone at home for rapists. There should be a crèche in each mohallas in which their children should be admitted and a lady constables should be deputed to look after their children. All States of India should create an extra post of female home minister and female DGPs under whom a large number of female constables should be posted to ensure protection of women and babies. In villages poor families have no toilets in their houses so they go to the field for toilets and they are raped and some of them are murdered there. Enough amounts are sanctioned by the government for welfare of society, but government employees embezzle the same and they get nothing.Therefore Government should transfer money each month in their accounts directly (DBT) sanctioned for social welfare by State Governments each year so that amounts sanctioned for social welfare or for flood affected families are not embezzled by the government employees. If poor families get money they can make toilets in their houses and their ladies will not have to go into the bushes, sugarcane crops and arhar crops for toilets.

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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.

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
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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