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How ‘A Home Of Her Own’ Changed The Life Of This Woman

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By Mehernaz Patel

The focus on gender in the Indian media has escalated quickly. The plus side to this is that it has been given national attention far longer than most social concerns. But still, there are some aspects that remain in the shadows – perhaps due to a lack of their immediacy (Read: TRP value) – yet are just as disconcerting. Take ownership of property, for example.

Photo Credit: Aris Gionis/Flickr
For representational purposes only. Photo Credit: Aris Gionis/Flickr

The idea that women don’t inherit property seems like a plausible plot for a period piece, but doesn’t really factor into our discussions as much as it should. This might just speak to a “class” of intellectuals involved in such debates, but I digress. We could try tracing this using an account of a woman living in this “enlightened” society.

Asha (name changed) got married into a wealthy joint family. 3 years later she got pregnant and was blessed with a baby girl, and another one a year later. Since the first two children were female, she was constantly pressurized by her mother-in-law for the next child to be male. Her husband never said anything to Asha but didn’t take a stand against his mother.

This is by no means an isolated incident. Sex selection fuelled by the desire to have a male heir, is prevalent despite attempts at changing societal conscience. This preference however has clearly tipped over into property disputes. If we consider the fact that post-independence, the Mitakshara law concerning undivided Hindu families was left intact, essentially leaving women unable to inherit due to only men being “born into” co-parency.

That statement sounds so ridiculous, and yet is a reality for so many.

At a number of times, Asha was asked to go and live with her parents. When she refused to leave she was treated like a servant with no one in the family talking to her. Even neighbors used to sympathise with her but not her own family. This love for the male child in the family, to take the ‘vansh’ forward made Asha take medicines by crooks and undergo four sex-selective eliminations. One of these eliminations was made when the fetus was four and a half months old endangering Asha’s life. Before each abortion she was told about the ‘expense’ of having a daughter and how it will affect them economically.

Now, this may sound rather barbaric and rightfully so, which is why, it is heartening to know that as of 2005, the amended version of the Hindu Succession Act has removed this heavy skew and stated that women, like men, are born into co-parency. It further removed the section where women – to put it bluntly – had to ask nicely to camp out at home till a male relative decided to give them the money. No ownership per se, only possession.

Few years later the joint family separated. It was at that time Asha’s husband decided to buy a new house in the name of Asha. Unsurprisingly, this decision was opposed by Asha’s in-laws but her husband stood by her. After moving into a new house, Asha gave birth to another girl. Her husband supported her this time. After years of toeing the line, Asha got the confidence to take a stand for her own reproductive health. Ownership of the house not only gave her the confidence to make decisions on her own but also gave her a sense of security. In her own words, “I have a sense of relief that my daughters will not be left without any means. This house gives me a security and I am confident that I do not have to worry about my daughters’ education and careers.”

This is the security that every citizen deserves irrespective of gender; there can never be a compromise on such a basic necessity in a country that dares to call itself “developing”.

But even after the 2005 amendment, as well as amendments made in the direction of equality in states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the more important question is, how many people, let alone women, are aware of it? All the amendments and all the goodwill is completely useless if there is no primary initiative to know our own constitution and rights better.

The debate surrounding gender needs to move away from the niches it has clogged itself in and explore its ‘less glamorous’ outposts, to dig deep into specialty areas like law and economics, to weed out the remainders of a bias that has long overstayed its welcome.

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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, 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.

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