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How Shaving My Head Turned Me Into A Desi-Feminist

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By Heenali Patel:

Feminism has experienced something of a roller-coaster ride in the past month. The recent debacle surrounding The Times of India and Deepika Padukone’s ‘voluntary’ cleavage expose has made headlines internationally, not least because it has revealed a chauvinistic underbelly to ‘prestigious’ Indian journalism. Meanwhile, Emma Watson launched a new campaign for women’s rights, HeForShe, at the UN in a well-received speech on gender equality. In its true form, the anonymous trolls of 4chan threatened to publish revenge porn of Watson, for speaking out, resorting to the tried and tested routes of body shaming, violation of consent, and the casual ‘she was asking for it’ attitude.

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It is heartening to see that because of incidents like these, the challenges that women face are finally gaining acknowledgement, not least because the Internet is becoming a platform for women to talk with more freedom and assertion. Feminism is being recognized less for the distorted ‘man-hating’ version propagated by the misinformed, and more for its fundamental message of equality. As journalist Rebecca West famously said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” In other words, feminism is simply the concept that women and men should have equal rights, economic and social opportunities.

Being educated in Britain, the way I have approached feminism has always in part been moulded by white feminist figures like Natasha Walter, Virginia Woolf and Susan Brownmiller. I have spent most of my life in protest against the pink Barbie dolls that line up the girls’ sections of toy stores. I have never understood why we feel the need to buy a specific shampoo ‘for men’. I find the prevalence of rape across the world shocking, and the lack of women’s representation in politics shameful. In short, I view myself as a feminist largely cultivated by Western thought.

But as a British Asian, there is more to it than that. There is another side of me that feels uncomfortable with a definition that blindly categorises me with white thinkers, whose racial and cultural experiences are so far removed from my own. Emma Watson may speak about women’s rights, but hers is a kind of mainstream feminism that is not speaking for most women around the world. Whilst Watson may be at liberty to cut her hair down to the bone, I shuddered at the thought of doing the same. She may end up on the pages of Vogue and hailed as a model of subversive femininity, but the archetype of an Asian girl with a shaved head is really no archetype at all.

As the razor shaved away layers of black hair, something decidedly un-feminist in me screamed ‘betrayal‘!

A series of memories came back to me, of times when my own culture had insisted upon my inferior place as a woman. There was the time when I got banned from the mandir because I was having my period, and was therefore considered ‘dirty’. Or the times I was ordered to serve dinner to the men in my family, only being permitted to eat after cleaning their dishes. And the times I had been asked about my weight, and felt pressured to be thin for the sake of finding a good husband. As I watched my hair fall away, I came to the realisation that shaving my head would be seen as an act of defiance, not simply because of my gender, but because of my gendered role within the Indian race.

Western feminism often seems to ignore the fact that most non-white women must work against class, race and colonial modes of thinking to address inequality. For many Indian women, ‘feminist’ is a title that muddies the waters of an already murky situation. As Ashidhara Das wrote in Desi Dreams: Indian Immigrant Women Build Lives Across Two Worlds, ‘Most Asian Indian women, even those who call themselves feminists, hesitate to make alliances with Western feminists.’ Ours is a different kind of feminism that needs to recognise women of colour as a discourse in its own right.

My decision to shave my head began with a desire to make a fashion statement. It ended, however, with the realisation that in doing so, I had entered a discourse on what a modern Asian woman can and should be – a desi feminist.

For more on women’s and human rights, follow me on @HeenaliVP

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  1. Babar

    Emma Watson’s HeForShe? The very title reeks of misandry and promotes subservience of men, reiterating my point that feminism is about the superiority and dominance of women over men.

    How would it sound if I said SheForHe?

  2. Babar

    HeForShe is a recruitment campaign, because as more and more people are waking up to the lies of feminism, they now need men to stand up for them.

    On the Twitter page:

    @UN_Women’s Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality. Help Us Reach 200,000 Men at http://HeForShe.org

    200,000 Men?

    If you visit their website, you will find that the campaign (read cult) is funded heavily by ‘sponsors’. This reiterates my point about feminists enjoying money and power – It is not just politicians who enjoy money and power.

  3. Babar

    I have spent most of my life in protest against the pink Barbie dolls that line up the girls’ sections of toy stores.

    With hunger, poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, joblessness, disease, and countless other ills of society and problems in the world, you have found the most self-fulling purpose in your life. Fighting against the colour pink for girls. Let me put it in simple words. There is something known as ‘masculinity’ and something known as ‘femininity’. Men and women are two distinct and different beings – anatomically, physically, biologically, and psychologically. Men and women think differently, act differently, and behave differently. They are different. Pink is a colour most apt for girls because they look good in it. It suits girls. Women love it too. But, of course, now they have someone who is trying to dictate their choice for them, trying to tell them what colour they should and shouldn’t choose.

    1. Dakksh

      There is so much to fight for as you say, Babar. I wonder why you do not help with hunger and education issues rather than butting here and TELLING WOMEN THAT PINK SUITS THEM.

      I WILL DECIDE WHAT SUITS ME, PINK OR NO PINK.

  4. Babar

    …feminism is simply the concept that women and men should have equal rights, economic and social opportunities.

    Women already have equal rights. They can vote, stand for election, work, earn, get an education, and have a career, but they still bring up issues of equality because they like playing victims in order to gain undeserved privileges. There are cries of reservation in the political arena and the corporate world, because women cannot compete with men, and because women want the same benefits as men without working as hard as men (women get them after marriage anyway – husbands are ATM). If seats were reserved for men, women would cry misogyny and inequality, but reserve seats for women and they still talk about inequality!

    Men die on jobs daily, men die while working as coal miners, construction workers, roofers, in the army, and in their journey to politics. It is also noteworthy that the top ten most dangerous jobs in the world are worked by men – What happened to equality? Women question why there are fewer women than men in business and politics, without wanting to entail the harms and take the risks that men take to climb the ladder in the political arena and the corporate world.

    Women always marry men richer than them, and men earning more than them – When was the last time you saw a woman marry someone poorer than her? Men always leave their seats for women – When was the last time you saw a woman leave her seat for a man?

    What happened to equality? Or is it only applicable when it works in favour of women?

  5. Monistaf

    “Feminism is being recognized less for the distorted ‘man-hating’ version propagated by the misinformed, and more for its fundamental message of equality.” Every movement should be judged by its actions, not by its “noble” mission statements. Even though most feminists claim that they do not hate men, their silence and inaction when injustice and hatred are perpetrated against men, makes them complicit with the “man-hating” ideology that has become synonymous with being a feminist. Here are some quotes from the so called voices of feminism, including one of your idols, Susan Brownmiller that you mention. You cannot deny the simple fact that feminism is a movement for women and their boogeyman is the entire male gender. That feminism is about hating men. You simply have to look to what the political and famous feminists say and the complete taciturn approval of the entire feminist movement of those statements:
    Before you accuse me of “cherry picking”, these quotes are not from week-end or everyday feminists, these are accomplished women, authors, philosophers, professors, founders and co-founders of feminist movements.

    “The nuclear family must be destroyed. Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process” – Linda Gordon (American Feminist and historian, author of several books, national book award for history, graduate of Yale university)

    “I feel that man-hating is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them” – Robin Morgan Ms. Magazine editor. Robin Morgan has been a poet, political theorist, radical feminist, journalist, lecturer and child actor, graduated from Columbia university.

    I have not the faintest notion what possible role white hetero-sexual men could fultil, since they are the very embodiment of reactionary, vested interest-power. But then, I have great difficulty examining what men in general could possibly do about all this. In addition to doing the shitwork that women have been doing for generations, possible not exist? No, I really don’t mean that. Yes, I really do.” – Robin Morgan, Ms. Magazine editor

    We cannot destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage” – Robin Morgan, Ms Magazine editor

    I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire” – Robin Morgan, Ms. Magazine editor

    “And let’s put one lie to rest for all time: the lie that men are oppressed, too, by sexism–the lie that there can be such a thing as ‘men’s liberation groups.’ Oppression is something that one group of people commits against another group, specifically because of a ‘threatening’ characteristic shared by the latter group–skin, color, sex or age, etc. The oppressors are indeed ****** UP by being masters, but those masters are not OPPRESSED. Any master has the alternative of divesting himself of sexism or racism–the oppressed have no alternative–for they have no power but to fight. In the long run, Women’s Liberation will of course free men–but in the short run it’s going to cost men a lot of privilege, which no one gives up willingly or easily. Sexism is NOT the fault of women–kill your fathers, not your mothers”. — Robin Morgan

    To call a man an animal is to flatter him; He’s a machine, a walking dildo. “ Valerie Solanas, Authoress of the SCUM Manifesto

    SCUM – Society for cutting up men. Valerie Jean Solanas was an American radical feminist writer who is best known for the SCUM Manifesto, as well as the attempted murder of artist Andy Warhol. look up.. http://www.womynkind.org/scum.htm

    Life in this society being at best an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, where remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation, and destroy the male sex – Valerie Solana , SCUM founder

    The male is a domestic animal which, if treated with firmness can be trained to do most things – Jilly Cooper, SCUM. Jilly Cooper OBE is an English author. She began her career as a journalist and wrote numerous works of non-fiction before writing several romance novels, the first of which appeared in 1975. She is most famous for writing the Rutshire Chronicles

    Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage” – Sheila cronin, the leader of NOW (National Organization of Women)

    I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig” – Andrea Dworkin. Andrea Rita Dworkin was an American radical feminist and writer best known for her criticism of pornography, which she argued was linked to rape and other forms of violence against women.

    Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice – Andrea Dworkin

    Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women’s bodies – Andrea Dworkin

    Under patriarchy, every woman’s son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another women” – Andrea Dworkin

    The annihilation of a woman’s personality, individuality, will, character, is a prerequisite to male sexuality – Andrea Dworkin

    Men are rapists, baterers, plunderers, killers; these same men are religious prophets, poets, heroes, figures of roance, adventure, accomplishment, figures ennobled by tragedy and defeat. Men have claimed the earth, calle it “her”. Men ruin her Men have airplanes, guns, bombs, poisonous gases, weapons so perverse and deadly that they defy any authentically human imagination”. Andrea Dworkin.

    The institution of sexual intercourse is anti-feminist – Ti-Grace Atkinson. Ti-Grace Atkinson is an American feminist author.

    Feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice 0 Ti-Grace Atkinson

    Rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear” – Susan Brownmiller. Susan Brownmiller is an American feminist journalist, author, and activist best known for her 1975 book Against Our Will:

    When a woman reaches orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal system, eroticizing her own oppression” – Sheila Jeffrys. Sheila Jeffreys, an English expatriate in Australia, is best known as a lesbian feminist scholar and political activist, and especially for her analysis of the history and politics of sexuality in Britain

    Politically, I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated – Catherine MacKinnon. Catharine Alice MacKinnon is an American feminist, scholar, lawyer, teacher and activist.

    All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman – Catherine MacKinnon

    You grow up with your father holding you down and covering your mouth so another man can make a horrible searing pain between your legs – Catherine MacKinnon (Prominent legal feminist scholar; University of Michigan and Yale)

    In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women as a group are not strong enough to give meaningful consent – Catherine MacKinnon

    The more famous and powerful I get, the more power I have to hurt men – Sharon Stone, Actress.

    The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10% of the human race – Sally Miller Gearhart. Sally Miller Gearhart is an American teacher, feminist, science fiction writer, and political activist.

    If the professional rapist is to be separated from the normal dominant heterosexual male, it may be mainly a quantitative difference – Susan Griffen, Rape: The All-American Crime.Susan Griffin is an eco-feminist author. She describes her work as “draw[ing] connections between the destruction of nature, the diminishment of women and racism, and trac[ing] the causes of war to denial in both private and public life

    If life is to survive on this Planet, there must be a decontamination of the earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in the drastic reduction of the population of makes – Mary Daly, Professor Boston College. Mary Daly was an American radical feminist philosopher, academic, and theologian. Daly, who described herself as a “radical lesbian feminist”, taught at Boston College, a Jesuit-run institution, for 33 years

    Men who are unjustly accused of rape can sometimes gain from the experience – Catherine Comins, assistant dean of students life at Vassar Colelge.

    As long as some men use physical force to subjugate females, all men need not. The knowledge that some men do suffices to threaten all women. He can beat or kill the woman he claims to love; he can rape women, he can sexually molest his daughters. The vast majority of men in the world do one or more of the above – Marilyn French (Her emphasis)

    My feelings about men are the result of my experience. I have little sympathy for them. Like a jew just released from Dachau, I watch the handsome young Nazi soldier fall writhing to the ground with a bullet in his stomach and I look briefly and walk on. I don’t even need to shrug. I simply don’t care. What he was, as a person, I mean, what his shames and yearnings were, simply don’t matter. – Marilyn French; The woman’s room.

    Marilyn French, a writer and feminist activist whose debut novel, “The Women’s Room,” propelled her into a leading role in the modern feminist movement.

    All men are rapists and that’s all they are. – Marilyn French (Advisoress to Al Gore’s presidential campaign)

    The media treat male assaults on women like rape, beating, and murder of wives and female lovers, or male incest with children, as individual aberrations obscuring the fact that all make violence toward women is part of a concerted campaign – Marilyn French

    I believe that women have a capacity for understanding and compassion which man structurally does not have, does not have it because he cannot have it. He is just incapable of it – Barbara Jordan, former congresswoman.was an American politician and a leader of the Civil Rights movement. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives, and the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.

    Probably the only place where a man can feel really secure is in a maximum security prison, except for the imminent threat of release. – Germaine Greer. Germaine Greer is an Australian theorist, academic and journalist, and is regarded as having been a major feminist voice of the mid-20th century.

    Men’s sexuality is mean and violent, and men so powerful that they can reach within women to construct us from the inside out. Satan-like, men possess women, making their wicked fantasies and desires women’s own. W woman who has sex with a man, therefore, does so against her will, even if she does not feel forced. – Judith Levine, explicating women profiling prevailing misandry.

    I feel what they feel; manhating, that volatile admixture of pity, contempt, disgust, envy, alienation, fear, and rage at men. It is hatred not only for the anonymous man who makes sucking noises on the street, not only for the rapist or the judge who acquits him, but for what the Greeks called philo-aphilos, hate in love,for the men women share in their lives with, husbands, lovers, friends, fathers, brothers, sons, coworkers. – Judith Levine, My enemy, My Love

    Judith Levine (born 1952) is an American author, journalist, civil libertarian and co-founder of the National Writers Union, a trade union of contract and freelance writers

    I was, in reality, bred by my parents as my father’s concubine. What we take for granted as the stability of family life may well depend on the sexual slavery of our children. What’s more, this is a cynical arrangement our institutions have colluded to conceal. Sylvia Fraser; Journalist. Sylvia Fraser is a Canadian novelist, journalist and travel writer. Fraser was educated at the University of Western Ontario.

    Considering the nature and pervasiveness of men’s violence, I would say that without question, children are better off being raised without the presence of men. Assaults on women and children are mostly perpetrated by men whom they are supposed to love and trust, fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, step fathers – Daphne Patai’s excellent critical work, Heterophobia.She is a professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

    Overthrowing capitalism is too small for us. We must overthrow the whole patriarch. Gloria Steinem, Radical feminist leader and editor of Ms Magazine.

    Marriage has existed for the benefit of men, and has been legally sanctioned method of control over women. We must work to destroy it. The end of the institution of marriage is a necessary condition for the liberation of women. Therefore it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not to live individually with men. All of history myst be re written in terms of oppression of women. We must go back to ancient female relations like witchcraft – Declaration of Feminism

    We are, as a sex, infinitely superior to men 0 Elizabeth Cady Stanton

    The Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (Prevention) Bill is also biased against women. It has a clause for punishing ‘false complaints’ by women. No other criminal law has a ‘false complaint’ clause — then why a law relating to violence on women do so? Is it because women are assumed to be potential liars? This clause will seriously deter and intimidate women complainants.Kavitha Krishnan, self proclaimed voice of feminism in India

    The Bill has major flaws and serious problems. For instance, it makes sexual assault or rape a ‘gender-neutral’ crime — this means that a man can accuse a woman of rape! Kavitha Krishnan – self proclaimed feminist voice in India

    “Let’s forget about the mythical Jesus and look for encouragement, solace, and inspiration from real women…. Two thousand years of patriarchal rule under the shadow of the cross ought to be enough to turn women toward the feminist ‘salvation’ of this world.” (Annie Laurie Gaylor, “Feminist Salvation,” The Humanist,

    “In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them” (Dr. Mary Jo Bane, feminist and assistant professor of education at Wellesley College, and associate director of the school’s Center for Research on Woman).

    “Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession… The choice to serve and be protected and plan towards being a family- maker is a choice that shouldn’t be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that.” (Vivian Gornick, feminist author, University of Illinois

    “The most merciful thing a large family can to do one of its infant members is to kill it.” (Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, in “Women and the New Race,”

    These are just quotes, there is plenty of action too. Violence against men is laughed at on public TV, it is just entertainment, he deserved it. Check it out.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muuFygvXPAM

    Can you imagine the outrage if a group of men sat around a table and laughed at the plight of the victim in the Nirbhaya case?

    Heck, violence against men is even encouraged as a way to stop eve-teasing..
    http://www.storypick.com/ar-rahman-lata-mangeshkar-song/

    You talk about the #HeforShe. Did you check out the #EndFathersDay ? Even though it was a troll, a lot of feminists did take the bait and tweeted in support of the hashtag. That’s a pretty damning indictment of their strain of feminism, which has become indistinguishable from those who are parodying 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.

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.

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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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