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A Girl Created A Matrimonial Site For Herself And It Raises Many Important Questions

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By Prerna Grewal:

The self-assertive move of Indhuja Pillai to create a matrimonial website describing herself the way she wanted, rather than simply accepting her minimalistic, approval oriented depiction as “Tamilian, single child, 5 feet 4 inches, eggetarian, earning” in a matrimonial advertisement, not only induces positivity regarding women’s emancipation, but also provides the perfect opportunity to offer a commentary on the hasty attitude that many parents in the Indian society tend to have towards the marriage of their children, especially girls.

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Speculation leads one to assume that parents are perhaps compelled by convention, perhaps by society and consequently, dictated upon by both; for convention is constituted only through the prolonged presence of society and its notions.

The ‘Indhuja like situation’ that several girls face, are all generated through the vicious wheel of compelling and complying. I call it vicious because parents, despite having their child’s best interest at heart, also compel them towards a compromise. After investing in their child’s education, they suddenly want to minimize the scope of their exposure as an independent individual, free of commitments or responsibility (towards another individual). I call it a wheel because it works not only through the dominance of compelling but also through the response of complying from the other side.

Amongst the financially weaker section, this wheel exists out of obligation and lack of education in some families. In such cases, one can perceive amalgamation of psychological, social and economic factors responsible for the existence of the wheel.

Coincidentally, while working on this story, I overheard the conversation between my mother and domestic help who was complaining about how her father-in-law’s apprehension of death made him hasten up the process of getting his grand-daughter married. Forced to discontinue the computer course that she was pursuing, she was married off to a man who lied about his job and qualifications. Today, he struggles for a job every second day while she stays at home and already has a kid, but lacks adequate resources to raise him.

One can empathize with their situation and try to generate awareness through various modes. But why does the Urban, educated class comply (except cases when they really want to) half willingly or unwillingly?

While conversing with a friend the other day, I heard the story of her senior, who, having graduated, was looking for a job within Delhi (the city of her residence) and not in any other city because her parents wanted her to stay with them for a while longer as ultimately she would get married and leave. Of course, her parents had nothing but her best interest at heart. Neither were they planning to marry her off right after she had finished her education or acquired a job. Yet, the same wheel of compelling and complying works here too; only because she complied with their demands. She applied for jobs only in Delhi, and I respect her decision as her personal choice. But my question here is – what if her potential offered her better opportunities elsewhere? When I heard the story, the first question that came to my mind was, why couldn’t her parents put forth the obverse condition for her to work wherever she wants, explore as much as she wants and get settled in Delhi after marriage? Why is it alright for the woman to go to the remotest corner of the world after marriage, yet she is forced to comply with all sorts of demands before it? Why is complete freedom granted by the paternal authority only once she is the responsibility of her husband, perceived by society as an alternate authority? I use the word responsibility against husband to highlight societal notions that pervade in our country. Otherwise a mature, educated individual is quite capable of assuming his or her responsibility.

The recent Maggi advertisement, in fact, is a complete contrast to this and showcases a girl of 21 preparing to move out of her house to an alternate dwelling within the same city. Her mother doesn’t really understand the necessity of it, yet respects her daughter’s wishes and puts up with it.

Compelling by society is not coercive. Rather it is internalised by people as “right” and as “the way things are supposed to be”. Therefore many parents don’t find it unsettling to marry off their daughter the moment she completes her education and/or gets a job. Just like parents, some girls also come to internalize these suppositions and comply. Who defines these suppositions? Who decides what is “right”?

The problem lies not just with the parents or the youngsters but with the rigid mindset that has been propagated and internalised over years. Changing times require alteration in norms and “ideals” of living. Today’s youth is extremely accommodating and the society too needs to broaden its horizon. Individuals must be allowed the freedom to conform to their notions and ideals. It is only through this freedom that they will realize what is right for them and what is not. One must allow this realization to dawn upon them through their experiences rather than making them conform to societal notions of right and wrong and its perspective of “the way things are supposed to be”.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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
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