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After 2 Years Of Sexual Harassment At The NGO I Worked For, An Apology E-mail Is All I Got

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Impact: Post publishing, this piece led to mass media mobilization around the issue as several news outlets published the author’s story. The Greenpeace Executive Director and Communications Director had to resign for inaction on the case of sexual harassment inside the organization.

By Sonam Mittal: 

In 2009, I joined as a volunteer for a well-respected environmental NGO, bright-eyed, idealistic, and ready for change. But in 2012, two years after I joined as an employee, my view of this place was completely and utterly undone, when an older male employee repeatedly sexually harassed me, and the senior management didn’t even blink.

sexual abuse

One night at a hotel, on a work trip in October 2012, the man in question was drunk when he made an official call to me at around 10-11pm, telling me to vacate my room and insisting I sleep in his. He approached me physically despite my obvious discomfort, followed me around, insisted on force feeding me my birthday cake and sat next to me at breakfast when there were multiple other seats empty. At times, two of my male colleagues had to physically place themselves between the two of us to stop him from coming on to me.

While this was just one manifestation of misogyny forced on me, the ‘informal work culture’ the organization prides itself in already constituted such vile behaviour with impunity. I lost count of the misogynistic comments directed towards me and other women. My hard work as a fundraiser was dismissed with comments like: “It’s easy for you, you just have to smile and the supporter would cut off a hefty cheque for you.

Further, senior employees have joked about my ‘character’ during official meetings, asking, “Who’s in her room today?” or “Is that person in her room, or in her?” People laughed, including those who would later constitute the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). If I tripped on the stairs and showed up in bandages the next day, everyone joked that I must’ve been drunk. When there was a theft at my place, everyone joked that I was drunk and passed out. These guys didn’t even spare my choice of food in my tiffin box. Even female colleagues (some of whom were part of the ICC) made me feel that it was all my fault, that people bullied me because I let them, that I didn’t know how to “set boundaries“. These were the same people who told a senior female employee she’s ‘hysterical’ because she’s ‘menopausal’. Her source of ‘hysteria’? The rampant sexual harassment that she wanted senior management to tackle and address.

I’d had such implicit trust in my fellow campaigners, activists and social workers that I never thought I’d have to familiarize myself with the mechanism of harassment complaints. When I got over my initial hesitations (fearing the resulting tensions,) and filed an official complaint two months after the incident, there was no follow-up, and no verbal or written communication that year, or the year after that. Vishaka Guidelines and the subsequent act, The 2013 Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act clearly instructs the ICC to carry out an internal investigation and gather evidence, neither of which was done. Instead, my harasser denied the entire incident, saying that ‘he didn’t mean it in that way!’ The official ‘punishment’ involved swapping his role with another colleague’s. I was told a man should get a second chance, even though two other female colleagues of mine had fallen victim to my harasser before me, which the senior management was fully aware of. In 2015, the senior management ordered my harasser to apologize to me through this email (supposedly the “penance” that “lacerates” him):

“I feel, I owe you a personal apology for my insensitive behaviour towards you. You have been a wonderful colleague and friend, and I would not intentionally hurt your feelings. Please accept my apology. I hope you will be able to forgive me. I respect you and your abilities, and I hope we can continue to work well together and be good friends.

It is a disgrace that now, 2 years, 5 months and 17 days later the first official communication from the HR department comes to me. It is a disgrace that the justification for not taking further action is the HR head’s belief ‘that this behaviour would not repeat’.

If something like this was handled so poorly, how would they have treated a much graver incident?
In 2013, amidst this environment of victim blaming and trivializing sexual harassment, something happened to me that left me too terrified to speak, and even if I had, I knew no one in this organization would come to my aid.
It was after a party, when a male colleague whom I knew quite well found me unconscious and raped me. You cannot imagine the pain and fear I was engulfed in. Every morning I was painfully aware that my workplace was peopled with those who harassed, raped and bullied me. Some were my managers.

Doubt came swimming in. Was I at fault? Did I bring this upon myself? Would anyone in that workplace even believe me if I decided to complain about my rapist? It was only after I quit that I built up the courage to approach the HR head. They refused my complaint, giving me the explanation that no action can be taken against an existing employee on the allegations made by an ex-employee, and it didn’t matter if I was an employee at the time of the incident.

The string of incidents took a toll on my physical and emotional health. I was constantly stressed. I developed low self-esteem. I spent one year in denial, trying to forget the memory of those hands accessing my body without my permission, and the pain of my resultant injuries that lasted two weeks. I almost stopped eating and drinking water with a pointless hope to stop myself from performing basic bodily functions. My previous incidents in the organization had broken me down to an extent that even the thought of approaching a hospital to treat my injuries was far from my mind.

Going back to office was the most difficult thing. I had to face all the silent stares and smirks my rapist gave me on our work floor. I had to sit next to him and work along with him. Today I suffer further when I learn of more instances like mine within the organization. The man who raped me has harassed other employees and volunteers. I never had the strength to report my rape, neither to the police, nor to my employers. How could I when the “processes had failed” me once already?

Tired of the constant harassment, I decided to leave this organization. On informing my manager, I was laughed at further, with him saying he was relieved he didn’t have to do paperwork regarding my role any longer. They laughed about me even after I left the organization in 2014.

The trauma I endured was deemed inconsequential in the face of a new ‘crisis’ – government crackdown on NGOs. But the fashion in which the Modi government is treating the organization is no different than how it has treated its employees. Criticism and dissent had no place in this organization, which carries the motto of ‘You cannot muzzle dissent in a democracy’ in all its social media communications. Employees who were asking uncomfortable questions were silenced, bullied and thrown out.

And why this institutional inaction? The NGO delinked environmental justice from women’s basic human rights, despite the fact that women face the double injustice of climate change and gender inequality!

As a fundraiser attached to the organization, I had a direct, respectful working relationship with donors. I feel sad their money is now being wasted on the salaries of repeat sexual offenders; that their hard-earned money now sits in the bank account of my rapist; that donors are funding a senior management that has allowed all this ugliness. They have now launched a solar streetlight project that also aims to promote ‘women’s safety’. How ironic can that be!
The NGO ignored the mandates not just under Vishaka Guidelines but also under the 2013 Act timely action, time-bound communication and gender sensitization training for all employees. This NGO ignored my basic rights. It ignored me.

I’m fearless now. I’m stronger now. I don’t care if people respond to my story with personal attacks and fabrications, and call me an ‘attention-seeker’. My reality is much stronger than people’s simple perceptions. I know I’m not the only one, and I fight this not just for myself, but for the right of all women to live free from harassment, especially in civil society.

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  1. sagar

    horrible. if greenpeace does it to its team members and its international management has nothing to do with it, its alarming. really sorry to hear the story. ironies everywhere. an organization fighting for environmental justice overlooking justice for women.

    i would ask a question here. this matter is of serious nature. why not disclose the names and really call a spade a spade. why running around the bush? you have disclosed your name. that’s powerful. but you must tell the world who are the people did this all to you. and why not? i understand the risks…

    but is the risk bigger than the risk of injustice to womanhood?

    love

    1. Shreya

      What to disclose, how much to disclose and to whom to disclose is the choice of the survivor and the survivor alone. As the person reading her story, your job is to do just that. Read her story. Validate her truth. You are not in charge of bringing her abusers to justice. What will you do with the names? Why is it her responsibility to take the risk (if that is the reason even) and bring justice to all of womanhood? Why “must” she tell the world what she clearly doesn’t want to (for WHATEVER reason) because you feel it’s the right thing to do? How is a detailed account of everything she went through falling short of your standards of “calling a spade a spade”?

  2. Bhavita

    Terrible. Takes guts to write this. I wish had the right words to say. Only thing i can think of is — how many more???? How many more women have to go through this repeatedly until things finally start changing?

  3. Vivek

    By description, this organisation seems Greenpeace

  4. Shreya

    Ironical is why not yet tHe organization’s name being published !
    Women would be safeguarded further only if they get to know the Bare truth. The person, the NGO.

  5. Divya

    Hi
    Greenpeace is an organization that works within a larger social context and therefore carries within its self elements of the larger castist, sexist, ageist, communal and classist tendencies that individuals bring into the organization. This is also true of our other institutions like political parties , social movements , NGOs, corporations educational institutions and many of our homes and work places. Far from being complacent about these realities we have initiated dialogues on diversity, challenged each other and set up multiple processes for prevention and redressal.

    Unfortunately there have instances where we could have done better . Greenpeace has earlier publicly acknowledged this.http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2015/02/27/greenpeace-india-apologizes-over-handling-of-sexual-harassment-claim/

    In the incident that you talk about. The director who acted on the case has left the organization over 2 years ago after the complaint was addressed inadequately. The manager has also left. As a result of the executive director issuing a harsh warning to the person in question when this issue came to his notice 3 years later (few months back) ; the person who has caused you much pain is also leaving the organization.

    There is little that the organization and myself as a senior management team member can do rather than offer an apology on behalf of those that had acted at the time. This has been done . The incident has also challenged us to do an audit of our process with regard to sexual harassment at the workplace based on the new law and amendments. By repeatedly accusing the organization of inaction and insensitivity without taking cognizance of the steps taken is against the basic feminist principle of dialogue and engagement.

    Divya
    Program Director
    Greenpeace

    1. Iram

      Ms Divya,
      I hope you have read what you have written. Because your apology/explanation(?) doesn’t do any damage control here. So according to you all of her offenders have left (not sacked or suspended!) the organisation, after staying in the organization for 2 long years after committing the crime. And now all that the organization can offer is an apology! Seriously Miss! If you are at a position of a program director, you should know that ethics of an organization can not be compromised because of its SIZE! Good to know that you are doing something about it now so that you can make sure things like this DON’T happen again. But as far as Sonam’s case is concerned, I’m afraid its too little too late. Think about it. You are a woman too.

      Iram

    2. Shambhavi Saxena

      That’s rich. Your “basic feminist principle” did not seem to apply at the time of these incidents of harassment. The steps taken are inadequate. The complainant remains unsatisfied, as anyone in her place would be. We’ve all seen the sham of an apology letter that was sent to Sonam. Disgrace. Greenpeace is a disgrace.

    3. Shilpi T

      Hi Divya,

      You seem like a very insensitive person who does not care about about the organisation or its employees. You are out there to make money from other people’s misery. You also seem a bit stupid to not realize that your drumming about your organisation’s (Fake) values will not help Sonam in anyway. This response of yours will not help any woman in Greenpeace India who has suffered sexual harassment or who will suffer it in the future.

      Greenpeace India has not achieved anything by acknowledging the incident. You will achieve some respect and dignity if ou do something about the people who have harassed women in Greenpeace office. DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT IS FEMINISM? Your nonsensical comment on ‘basic feminist principle of dialogue and engagement’ is doing no good for you because feminism is about giving equal rights to men and women. In Greenpeace’s case, the men who have sexually harassed the women are still in your office!!! Why have you not fired them? What is stopping you? GREENPEACE IS PROMOTING SEXISM AND PROMOTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT in sending such flimsy apologies by PROTECTING SEXUAL OFFENDERS AND RAPISTS.

      Sonam has clearly mentioned that she was RAPED. HAVE YOU DONE ANYTHING TO PUT THE RAPIST BEHIND THE BARS? Please take your perverted idea about feminism elsewhere because the truth of the matter is that GREENPEACE HAS FAILED SONAM AND MANY OTHERS LIKE HER IN THE ORGANISATION.

      SHAME ON GREENPEACE. YOU GUYS SHOULD BE KICKED OUT OF INDIA OR SENT TO SAUDI ARABIA WHERE YOU WILL ENJOY THE KIND OF FEMINISM YOU LIKE TO GO BY!!!!

    4. B

      @Shilpi: I am not sure why you had to drag Saudi Arabia in the middle. Do you know that in Saudi Arabia, rape, molestation, and harassment of women is the lowest in the world. Furthermore, from banks to shopping malls to coffee shops to mosques, all have separate areas, spaces, and floors for women. The government spends the majority of its unemployment benefits on women. Shops selling female attire ban men from entering those shops unless accompanied by a female relative. Many girls are grateful to be born in the Middle-East, where they can roam freely in a burqa without being harassed and racially abused, where they feel human because they are not compelled to dress semi-nude to ‘fit in’. Saudi Arabia does not treat women like meat, unlike their Western counterparts. Semi-nude images of women are not plastered on walls, there is no sale of adult DVDs, no one devises cunning methods to sell provocative clothing in the name of fashion, advertisements don’t feature women in skimpy clothing, girls don’t have body image issues, there is no STD epidemic, drug and alcohol abuse is unheard of, and rape is the lowest in the world. And if Saudi Arabia is so bad, what are countless western expatriates doing there, where there are no taxes, petrol is cheaper than water, excellent salary packages, great food, where even in a modest job your company will provide housing, education for children, free airline tickets, among a host of other benefits which has seen westerners, including women, from all over the U.S. and U.K. leaving their so called freedom and settling in Saudi Arabia. educated, independent Muslim girls in Europe, U.S., and Canada choose to wear the burqa, and are not ‘forced by their husbands’, as the U.S. media would like you to believe. Miniskirts and skimpy clothing are automatically seen as a choice, even though they are enforced through constant images in movies, magazines, music videos, advertisements, billboards, fashion industries, peer pressure, and a need to ‘fit in’, but if a woman wants to cover her body and save herself from lewd stares and wants to reserve her body for the gaze of her husband, it is immediately labelled oppression.Please talk to burqa clad women in India and abroad, and it will give you a broader perspective on the issue, instead of succumbing to theories of oppression invented by the U.S. – an imperialistic nation which kills and maims and thrives on human suffering.

    5. Sonam Mittal

      Divya,
      The only intention of your response seems to be to damage control and nothing else. Don’t make obscure statements and sideline facts.
      When my facebook post in february this year caused you and your organisation to go into a tizzy, you claimed through a press release and through other means that –

      ‘yes greenpeace had failed to live up to the standards it would like to hold itself up to’ and that you had dealt with the case around one repeat offender but the failure was only in the fact that the process had not been documented properly and that the decision was not communicated back to the complainants. You surprisingly failed to acknowledge that your HR department did not think the complaints do not fall under sexual harassment and therefore never went to the Internal Complaints Committee. It speaks volumes for the calibre of the people in your HR department, to say the very least.

      The reality that your HR department did not think a man making a large number lewd remarks to a female colleague in full public view including your view and the same man stalking, intimidating and physically touching a woman without her consent, constituted harassment of a sexual nature, is wrong on an institutional level.I have access to mails from your organization that says this.
      You claim that these complaints were ‘re-investigated’ because as plainly stated by yourself, the previous process (or the lack of it?) conducted by a senior management member fell far short of minimum diligence that should be displayed by an organization on sexual harassment issues. Do you not remember what happened with this recent reinvestigation? Selective amnesia much?

      Firstly your organization and yourself including have handled the issue in the most pathetic manner and then you go ahead and make claims which makes me laugh.
      – Neither the other complainant nor I were ever called by the Director who you claim investigated the case. Nor were we ever asked for further details by him nor asked about witnesses.
      – The ‘proceedings’ in this case resembles that of a kangaroo court. Did you give the accused a chance to defend himself at all? I was the victim, but as you have recently told many people – the accused has rights too – but only at your convenience?
      – On what basis did you come to the conclusion that the man was guilty and what the correct quantum of punishment should be?
      – Finally, the information given on the punishment was that he was grounded – presumably indefinitely because thats what makes it a punishment. If one were to assume for argument’s sake that this punishment was right for repeat offences and the fact that this employee was widely known to get drunk every evening and in the presence of what now seem like fairly tolerant female colleagues. This same employee traveled to bihar within 6 to 8 months of this grounding – the explanation given by your HR manager and other members of your management team was that there was a shortage of admin staff. REALLY? REALLYYYYY?? That sounds okay to you? You can change punishments based on your whims and fancies? sounds like Manu sharma’s (who killed jessica lal) saga of regular bails and paroles!

      And if the handling first time was bad, what happened with the second round, beggars belief
      In February or March, you sent the complaints to a recently constituted internal complaints committee, it brought to the fore some new complaints against the same individual. The complaints were investigated slightly more thoroughly this time and the conclusion(almost unanimous) was that the individual’s employment must be terminated – this was also the opinion of the mandatory external member in your committee and members of your HR team. This decision was apparently leaked – and i admit that if true is a serious breach – and was used as a reason to disband the committee.
      Surprisingly though, a request by an internal complaints committee member to have the leak investigated was NEVER followed up on. Instead, the Executive director decided to play god – and he in a suspicious move decided that the decision of the committee was somehow nullified because of the leak and he decided to OVERRIDE the committee’s decision. Then in a complete mockery of process, he went on to downgrade the punishment to a laughable exercise of getting the offender to send pathetic short copy paste apologies to his victims – from his personal email account. The Executive Director did not transfer the decision to the new committee as he should have -which is what he should have done if he wanted to disregard the previous committee’s decisions.
      As for the rest of your response on what all you have done to change things internally, Divya wake up and smell the stink under your nose. Word gets out. People know of the levels of anger and backlash you faced internally from February. Holding a bunch of workshops and seminars that half of your staff doesnt attend does not make up for lost trust. Forget bullying, browbeating, hectoring and harassing as means to solving this. Leave your arrogance at home. Try something new – decency, humility, respect for your now SMT colleagues. You never know – it might actually take Greenpeace some place better.

      Sonam

    6. Arpit Kulshreshtha

      shameful!!! for entire male fraternity, as such rubbish people are still being hired in offices & no strict action is been taken.

      i really appreciate your courage to speak out the truth in public… really issues like this needs a lot of courage to be spoken out loud… like u did…

    7. Mishti

      And why is the name of the offender still being protected like it’s a sacred secret? He should also be named and brought to light! I can’t bear the thought of him smugly sitting there under a blanket!

    8. moot

      No, he shouldn't have to be besieged by people because as much as YOU want him to suffer, ours isn't a society based on vengeance, but on rehabilitation.
      Also, even if he did commit the crime, he still has rights and one of those is to be regarded innocent until he's been convicted. Take your mob cave-dweller mentality back to where you crawled out from.

    9. upasna

      Dear Divya, is this your official response for Rape of an ex-employee? Do YOU understand basic human principles at all? YOU want the victims to upload dialogue and engagement with a RAPIST? Are you for real or a hired BOT? This must be the most disgraceful response I’ve read.

  6. Pallavi

    Shameful! I feel for you Sonam and wish the working world wasn’t such a bad place for women. Really proud of you for standing up and narrating your story. Me on the other hand (and previous employees where I worked before me) just chose to quit our jobs when harassed. That is what gives these predators strength to go after woman after woman.

    That said, I’d urge every woman to be mindful of her surroundings. Steer clear of office parties if you are not comfortable, do not take even a sip of liquor let alone getting drunk or passing out when surrounded by such people. In no way am I saying that what can happen or does happen when you are passed out drunk is your mistake. However, do try to protect yourself as much as you can. For the scars run deep and hurt for a long long time.

    Sonam, do call on the police. Let these “men” get what is due to them. Eff the internal system and drag them to a court of law. They deserve nothing better.

  7. Amitra Sudan Chakrabortty

    From the allegation of the victim cum Human Rights Defender it is clear that the EMPLOYER GREEN PEACE INDIA HAS MEASURABLE FAILED TO ENSURE A CONDUCIVE WORKING ENVIRONMENT FREE FROM SEXUAL HARASSMENT and forced the employee to keep silence as long as she works there and the Victim cum Defender ONLY MANAGED TO GET COURAGE TO COMPLAIN AGAINST HER SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE ONLY AFTER AFTER HER RESIGNATION FROM SERVICE.

    Its a clear disgrgard to and non compliance with the mandate imposed on the employer under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Po·evention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Immediate action by the Government on GP India is required to be taken although I was a great supporter of their work and reminding them they also have the responsibility to show respect for human rights and that will enable them to ask other to show respect human rightsfor

  8. Neurotic Knight

    It is just so sad. The organization lost its way with its former founders quitting it and it’s potent anti science bias and to add to all their fraud and attacks, this too. I hope they get shut down for good.

  9. Akanksha

    I was raped by the head of my NGO thrice. You give me courage to come out and speak and now I will. Thank you, Sonam.

  10. Usha

    I wanted to make a few points here about the Greenpeace India Program Director’s pathetic excuse of a response to a traumatied and justifiable angry victim of repeated sexual violence at the workplace.
    1) In keeping with the feminist principles of engagement and dialogue, these repeated incidents of sexual harassment and sexist, misogynist behaviour were brought up by several colleagues in Greenpeace India and I myself have raised the specific instances of sexual harassment directly with the Executive Director in January 2013 itself. The first official complaint against the repeat offender was made in November 2011, and directly to Divya Raghunandan. Each time, complaints and concerns were dismissed as ‘harmless fun and jokes’, ‘Greenpeace’s informal work culture’ by the HR manager then, who has now(4 years later) conveniently quit the organisation! And for my troubles of sticking to feminist principles of dialogue and engagement, I was branded mentally unstable and bullied out of the organisation in September 2013.

    2) Because the young women were too scared to speak out publicly, I chose to raise the issue internally with Greenpeace International and the Greenpeace India Board, in late 2013. Their response was disappointing and dismissive. So, for Divya Raghunandan to now say that the Executive Director acted as soon as he heard about these incidents ‘a few months ago’ – thats plain dishonesty. What does this say about the values of the senior management of Greenpeace India, that women employees and those facing harassment are too scared to speak up?

    3) The senior HR director who she claims investigated these incidents and decided not to take action, was well known in the organsiation for his misogynistic and sexist, classist, ageist views and in Januray 2013 I filed a misconduct complaint against him for making extremely discriminatory and threatening remarks about my gender, my age and ordering me to seek ‘psychological counselling’ for thinking that all men in Greenpeace India are sexist! I was bullied out, and this man was allowed to draw a salary as HR Director for long after my complaint! How was this man allowed to take decisions in sexual harassment cases, when he had displayed misogynistic and highly sexist tendencies himself?? He was not even part of the ICC!

    4) It is my contention that it is this very inaction, insensitivity and dismissive attitude on the part of the senior management (of which Divya Raghunandan and the ED are part) that led to the repeated acts of sexual violence perpetrated on Sonam and other women in the organisation, where male colleagues acted with impunity and the knowledge that the victims would be silenced!

    Unlike the young woman who graciously speaks of hope for Greenpeace India, despite her own trauma, I strongly feel that Greenpeace values of non-violence, courageous direct action and bearing witness to injustices and fearless dissent cannot be upheld by the likes of the Senior Management members of Greenpeace India – they are morally and ethically bankrupt.

    1. suresh ranka

      it is shame on green peace.
      all the victims should join hands to fight on multiple fronts, and ensure the bastards are hanged till death.
      that will be a big service to the society, though a hill task

  11. Nitya

    Such pompous and high-and-mighty response by Greenpeace.. I am appalled! Coming from those “standing against all odds to fight for the rights of people”, there’s something terribly wrong here. You can’t fight for the rights of some people while ignoring/overpowering/overriding/scorning at the rights of others. There can’t be a selective fight, sorry.

  12. Aysha

    Greenpeace… Somehow I’m not surprised at the bullying she had to go through. Been there.
    Sadly they have a “policy” of “protecting” who they consider more valuable for the organisation in the long run. I went through hell when I crossed horns with my British boss. I was in my notice period and I was asked to pull out from a project I was in the middle of, and asked to leave Delhi immediately. Infact I was called and screamed at “I am your Fucking Boss and you are my fucking subordinate. Just obey” were the exact words when I asked for an explanation. And then Paul , the boss guy tells me “You are not to leave that room, until I tell you. STAY IN THE ROOM” I was in the Delhi guesthouse doing my last project, my last action. I was not to “go anywhere near the team”. I was informed in a very derogatory manner as being a “waste of money
    and time for the organisation” and that the project did not have money for me. I am sure there are better ways of saying that. I decided to keep my dignity and returned the Per diem amount and booked my own flight back. It was not just the abusive language used here. It was the way a manager treated his sub-ordinate; especially in an organisation like Greenpeace.
    I was “suspended”; asked not to come to the office, because I “distracted the team”. I was referred to as lying and manipulating;
    all without explanation given till date.
    I was asked not to attend the team meetings.
    I was threatened of consequences if I don’t attend a meeting that my manager called. “I don’t know where you got the fancy idea that you can say No to your manager”
    He refused to reply to my mails.
    He removed me from the work I was supposed to be doing without informing me.
    And even, of what he has “apologized”; it was an excerpt from a mail send to a senior manager… in vague terms.
    When I called to speak to the HR manager about this, her response was “I do not know what you are expecting Aysha, but we cannot fire Paul, if that is what you are looking for.” I considered this issue closed then and there. Because even before there was any decision or discussion on this issue; or a conclusion on who or what is wrong, the lines were clearly drawn as to certain Individuals are more important than the organization and the policies there

    I was asked to appear for a meeting without any lead on what the meeting was for. I refused to go, unless I was send a mail with the reason. It never came. I left on a very bitter note. After which I heard all kinds of stories about me – Thieving money (!!!), I was spreading rumours (!) , I created discord in the project (!) I spend around three days in the guesthouse just crying. Later I heard from some more employees that left that this was a standard procedure – being labelled thieves and rumour mongers!!

    What followed destroyed me completely… I’ve never spoken about this anywhere because what followed hit my self confidence so hard that to this day I have not been able to recover my full confidence in myself.
    But I have of course met some truly wonderful people also from GP. Sadly even those memories are screwed up because of the final days of pure agony I went through.
    This might look like me riding on the wave . Of course I am… I feel such shame to have remained silent and left cowed down. I was so shaken that I thought I honestly believed that I was a terrible shitty employee… I’ve never ever put these into words… I always thought I was such a bad employee that maybe they were right- or that is what I was lead to believe by every single senior manager there then. To hell with every single one of them.

    1. Shiva Sharma

      Wow Divya.
      This was the best you could come up with! Really?
      Because those people have left the organisation so this sweet, innocent, naive organisation can not do horse shit about what
      has happened with her female employee. Bravo! You could have seriously come up with something better, considering people in Greenpeace especially in the senior management team waste long hours mustering fancy words and exquisite language games.

      You call Sonam’s courageous article against feminist principles ! Then what do you call your response? I will tell you, your response stinks of arrogance and self righteous bullshit.

      Greenpeace was the first organisation I started working for, pumped up with high voltage passion and an unbelievable commitment to save the world (like many other fools), standing up for RIGHTS! Well, over a period of time all this paraphernalia of over rated drama frizzled out. You want to know why? Because of the people, processes and structures or to be specific, because of the lack of processes and structures.

      I was misbehaved with and shouted at by one of my colleagues (A British Manager of a different department) in front of 4 other employees at a time when I was making all the efforts to come to office while suffering with a major and horrible skin disease. Even before I could complain about his behaviour, this incident was dismissed and instead I was given a warning!

      The filth of dirty experiences are just too many and the memories of them way too painful.

      Looking at the the way the organisation has said some of the most insane and ridiculous things on the issue of harassment of its own female employees, I know, I should be shocked. But I am not! Who the hell approved that apology email?

      Shame on you Greenpeace India!

  13. Kavita Krishnan

    My comments on this episode and specifically on Ms Divya’s comment posted on this thread – https://www.facebook.com/kavita.krishnan/posts/10206434694367728?pnref=story

    1. shree

      Kavita Krishnaji, No efforts have been spared for trivializing the issue. Why are you guys not consoling the victims but are indulging in emails & posts? Why aren’t you sitting beside the victim and assisting her in filing a police complaint? Are you not bound by the laws of the land?

  14. pooja.s

    Sonam, while we stand in your support and solidarity. I have following doubts in my mind.

    1) Why are you not reporting rape to police?
    While you have bravely narrated the entire ordeal in multiple public platforms, what is stopping you to file complaint? as far as I know, with the accusation of rape, this has well crossed NGO’s limits and has to be dealt with police by investigation followed by court case. This is important to put the rapist behind the bars. with support from Kavita ji, we will fight for you, build public pressure to have maximum punishment possible for the rapist. your delay or intentions to not to file police complaint and fighting social media war is I think is half struggle. in this way your reporting crime but not punishing criminals.

    2) What is stopping you from not revealing the names of the people who passed sexist comments, sexually harassed you and that of rapist?
    I think fundamentally it is the deeds of these people followed by NGO’s in action. with you not revealing the names, these culprits are still enjoying the vale of secrecy. Who know they are not even following the story, and who knows they might commit more such crimes in future? While you have narrated entire ordeal, why not name these people too? they equally deserve name and shame. by not revealing the names it gives an impression your anguish is more on NGO and less on culprits.

    3) What do you expect from NGO?
    To reopen all the cases of harassment occurred roughly two years back with most of the accused left the NGO. I think its practically not possible. even if NGO do so, what powers do they have now on ex employees? even if they investigate, at the max they will acknowledge the crime, may be strength the ICC or may be one or two senior members may step down? with this how do you think justice is served? since your rapist is still at large. NGO, if they found out you have been raped, they dont have jurisdiction to take action but to report to police. if that is the case why wait for another few months and not directly report to police now?

    one more observation

    starting from your previous story on same channel, where you accused a caretaker of molesting you in Goa while you were drunk. after that police inspector of colva police station inspector Uttam Raut Desai failing to register complain. Second to go was 19th Feb facebook post on which you accused of a person misbehaving with you on twitter and later accusing same person molesting you while you where drunk. old colleague who force fed you cake, managers who passed sexist comments, senior managers who acted ignorant, people around you at that time, who laughed at you, and ofcource the rapist himself, who has committed heinous crime finding you unconscious after a party. HR that handled the case, and ICC. roughly 30 people. All of them needs to be punished under the law.

  15. Roy

    @Divya – You can do more. Sack this employee with the reason – “Sexual Offender at Workplace”, so that he does not get a chance to go to another organization and rape again . File a police complaint against him and ask the police to probe this incident further. Come clean on this at least.

  16. Tanya

    Dear Sonam,
    Despite feeling a pang of sympathy for what you have been through can I ask you a few basic questions?
    A. If you have worked in an NGO how is it that you are unaware of your rights as a woman- why have you not filed an FIR? and when you know that HR useless- why did you constantly keep asking them for help? Can you not help yourself?
    B. If you are aware of how caustic your office is- why would you choose to attend any office event let alone party alone without a friend- especially when sexual comments have been passed at you?
    C. Why did you choose to stay with this company for such a long time despite being harassed and raped? You gave up food and water-but somehow forgot to quit a shitty company?
    If you cannot help yourself, how do you expect to help others? I am not siding with your offenders- don’t get me wrong-but what’s bothering me is why you did not stand for yourself when you know what was happening to you was wrong. Its not like your some financially dependent, uneducated village idiot who doesn’t know better.
    Hope you gain enough strength to stand up for yourself in ways that actually count.

    1. Shambhavi Saxena

      Sorry, I have to weigh in here and say that these questions are extremely insensitive and further miss the whole point of this post, which details the kind of physical and emotional trauma this young woman was/is going through. I don’t know if you’ve ever filed an FIR, particularly against sexual harassment, but I have, and I can assure you it is no cake walk. The reason so many rapes and assaults go unreported in this country is indicative of the kind of treatment victims get despite the Vishakha guidelines. It has taken Sonam all the courage she can muster to even talk about these incidents, let us not belittle her efforts. If you have not considered this before, let me tell you now, it is not a simple matter to break one’s silence and confront harassers and a system that condones harassment. Perhaps you may find it easy to do, but there are many many women who do not. Let us respect that. What Sonam needs right now is support, not nitpicking. Thank you.

    2. Rudraya Gupta

      Tanya,
      I’m sort of surprised you even pose such silly questions to Sonam. Think a little.

      A. Simply because she is associated with an NGO that deals with environmental issues does not necessarily mean she needs to know word-by-word about women’s rights and laws protecting women. Of course she must have a basic instinctive understanding of whats right and whats wrong. If I work with an animal shelter, an NGO, I wouldn’t need to look up a law book on harassment.

      B. Caustic office and sexist comments can’t stop women from going to parties. Going by your logic women ought not to step out of the house! If she went, she went with the idea of enjoying herself not expecting colleagues to feel her up or voice their unnecessary judgements.

      C. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind after being verbally harassed to be a Joan of Arc. People expect change, immediate or gradual, and that probably was why she stuck on. She probably also stuck on because this was in her initial years of carving out a niche for herself in the world. She might have stayed on because she began doubting herself.

      I understand you are trying to go against the tide and be a rational thinker, but please, save trouble and apply these dumb questions to another post. Don’t post for the sake of posting. Especially more so, being a woman, you ought to put yourself in her shoes and think how you would handle the entire ordeal.

      Cheers,

      Rudraya Gupta

    3. Aditya Jha

      basically ur blaming sonam for being raped..sorry but ur no different from those rapists.

  17. TempleTwins

    This seems like another mattress girl in the making, what is next? making an ‘art film’ based on your experience? Rape is a criminal offence and you haven’t filed an FIR and expected the kangaroo court to punish your alleged rapist?

    You said, I quote ‘ If I tripped on the stairs and showed up in bandages the next day, everyone joked that I must’ve been drunk.’
    So where this claim of you being drunk came about? Are you a person who drinks or go into an unconscious state? If so such remarks about you is quiet obvious, however judgmental it is. You also said, I quote, ‘It was after a party, when a male colleague whom I knew quite well found me unconscious and raped me’. What caused that unconsciousness? How do you know this person raped you when you were unconscious? Perhaps, the police would be asking questions like this to get to the bottom of your claims. which may put your claims under scrutiny, which is why you didn’t file a FIR?

    1. Paathu

      Dear TempleTwins,

      I’m going to take a wild guess here, like you did about Sonam, and call you a byproduct of Patriarchy and Chauvinism.
      What are you getting at? Her drinking? Why is it wrong? Are you saying it is fine for a male colleague to rape her if she is unconscious for whatever reason? Yes she drinks, does it hurt your athi uththam samskaarik soch? Well hard luck then. You can possibly use some lubrication where it hurts.

    2. TempleTwins

      I am going to make a wild guess, naw it is apparent that you are the byproduct of ignorant dogmatic ideals of gender studies program. Where am I get at? I am getting at the point where Ms. Sonams colleagues joking about her drinking habits which is not unfounded based on her own story. Why is it wrong to drink? Why is wrong to joke about a person who can’t handle drinks? I don’t give a shit about her drinking habits just spare me the ‘Woe is me’ attitude. If everybody you encounter at your work is shitty towards you, then perhaps the common denominator is you and the way that you carry yourself.

      Does it hurt you that I criticized your self proclaimed victim? You can perhaps use the same lubrication which you suggested.

    3. Shambhavi Saxena

      TempleTwins, we have all come to expect this kind of verbal diarrhoea from you, but Sonam is my friend, and a woman I respect very much and support, I cannot allow your comment to go unanswered, even though engaging with you is like talking to a wall (of insensitivity). I am not going to ask you to put yourself in her position and see how these questions will make you feel, because I know that anonymous commenters aren’t one for being reasonable and exhibiting even basic human empathy. I’m not going to even talk about how difficult it is to bring yourself to file and FIR and then appear in court and face your abusers again and again, because I don’t think you have the faculties to appreciate that. I am however going to point out to all the readers and commenters on this thread that what TempleTwins is saying amounts to victim shaming and should not be tolerated. When a woman finally decides to talk about her experiences, we should not discredit and dismiss her. It’s because of people like TempleTwins that Greenpeace has treated complainants this way, and because of people like TempleTwins that complainants are terrified to talk in most cases. Thanks.

  18. pooja.s

    While sonam is enjoying blind sympathy and support, she herself is responsible for protecting the rapist by not filing the FIR. This is even after NGO made it public through PR ” we are deeply concerned by these allegations and have expressed support for a police investigation”
    If she is really serious about her allegations beyond media stunt, she should name the culprits as a part of name and shame campaign she is running.
    Sonam is it true that after your facebook post in February this year NGO offered to reopen the cases and to an extent willing to initiate police complain against accused and you denied it. if so why?
    Is it also true that your sudden fearlessness is because this NGO is already in limelight and there is not better opportunity than this?
    Why have you limit the name and shame campaign to NGO? why are you not naming culprits. seems like you are now scare. once you name them at public forum they will counter you back or may be file a suit against you.
    What is your idea of justice? attack NGO and protect the culprits. The idea of justice should be culprits gets harsh punishment by the law so that they do not dare do it again.
    Kavita ji is not less than a NGO itself. While NGO issued apology, Kavita ji issued statement. Why not she provide the victim a legal aid and quick process of law? are you also going to issue a statement against the molestation happened in Goa to Sonam around same time?
    It is possibly the unique case where victim is all out in open about her rape but failing to take legal course. All of us provided the blind sympathy rather than helping her to fight it out. Remember each day these culprits are roaming freely it is a shame for all of us.

    1. Ashish

      Let me guess, Pooja is a handle by some man…

  19. Ashish

    Sonam,
    You have been courageous, I am sorry you had such a pathetic work place.
    I hope you file a police complaint for rape, with strengthened laws you may find that b**d behind bars and many others repenting.
    Wishing you good will, may you find more strength.
    Regards.

    1. Saira Sayani

      For the past few weeks I have been hearing, reading and witnessing people’s reaction towards Sonam’s post.
      t is sickening to see the ugly side of humanity once again. The insensitive, appalling and horrible things being said by people to the person, who has already gone through so much, shows the sick concepts and values these egoistic and patriarchal minds carry.
      And this certainly doesn’t show the love for the organisation or its vision.
      Greenpeace was my first job and will always hold a special place in my heart but that doesn’t mean I will act like a bystander and ignore the heinous crimes being committed.

      I was with the organization for five years and I saw it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. The snobbish and holier than thou attitude of the HR and the SMT is no surprise. As much as I love the Organization’s fight for sustainable environment I also value a safe environment for the women working in that organisation. I’m not here to tell my story. Because it is not about me, it is about the girl who was repeatedly abused and now is being called names because she has the courage to speak up.
      By raising her voice against this abhorrent crime now she is also putting other women like her on guard. Before questioning her actions and motives has anyone spared a thought about her situation? Has anyone stopped to think about her family, her health and the kind of pressure she is dealing with? Living each day with what has happened to her; on top of that she has to face these judgmental comments and allegations.
      Just because a woman chooses to drink or party doesn’t mean it is ok molest and rape her!!! How can you think such awful thoughts? What gives anyone the right to commit such a filthy act?
      The Programme Director’s response and the unapologetic arrogant apology is the last thing Sonam needs.
      The Senior Management messed up big time; while the molester and the rapist roam freely; their name and identity being protected fiercely, and the name of the girl who suffered is being taken on news channels openly.

      None of the cruel commentators thought for a second, “What if it was me? Or my sister, mother, daughter, wife, friend?
      Wouldn’t it hurt if people of my own organisation don’t support me or stand by me during such a traumatic phase of my life?
      It was said that the organisation is not made of just SMT members or HR; it consists of hundreds of employees.
      Can those hundred plus employees ensure that this insensitive, power hungry and arrogant SMT is dissolved?
      Can all the employees ensure that the members of SMT are asked to resign from the organisation before they make things worse? People over profit anyone!?

  20. Simble

    Hello Sonam,

    Read your article and also went through the comments that followed. To begin with, I’d like to congratulate you on being a part of that strong women majority that India includes. Most of us, like me, stay quiet. We think if someone is brushing past against us ( consicously) but it just a trivial thing. We think if a male employee is being too “friendly” and can’t think beyond a conversation without physical touch, it is just how things work. We think if a guy is letching, let him do it, it is not harming us any way. We tolerate. Each time we let such scumbags do the deed. And every time we let them go, a rapist is born. I am sorry I let such perverts grow by not bashing them right there. We stand by you. And hope you and every other woman who has been victimized, gets the strength to name her perpetrators.

    More power to you, girl

  21. TempleTwins

    I am assuming so many overtly sensitive admins are censoring in here, censorship is a weapon of their choice preventing social disclosure or criticism. I am talking to you, the admin who is reluctant to approve of my comments.

  22. Third Umpire

    Here is the summary from the spectator who have been following the story.

    Chronologically, after alleged victim was molested in Goa by a caretaker in 2013, she was raped by her ex boyfriend ( employee of same NGO)
    in a private party. In one of her facebook post she mentions when a boyfriend becomes EX it is a rape.

    Now NGO got to know about this alleged incident by her February facebook post. soon after that NGO offered support by offering
    her legal advice and encouraged her to file police compliant. She repeatedly denied out for two major reasons.
    1) She do not have trust in legal system, which she thinks is a painful process.
    2) FIR or police or criminal case, she thinks is not the only way to achieve justice.

    Her main demand is, NGO leader should be sacked for the alleged rape by her ex boyfriend.

    Now, there is always other side of the coin. Did rape really happened? While victim is out loud about it, her ex claims it be
    consensual. Since none of us has seen it nor any legal investigation happened, the matter is hanging between Rape vs Consensual.

    But majority of us choose to believe rape happened. Well I do not know on what grounds since matter is not reported, investigated
    neither we heard from her ex boyfriend on the matter. Natural justice requires us, if we are sensible humans, to listen to two sides
    equally before passing judgement.

    Food for thought: Imagine accused being your brother/ husband/ boyfriend/ Son/ father, how would you react to this allegation?
    Victim blaming is not a good deed, yes, may be, but how justified it is to blame an accused just on the basis of blog?

    1. Sonam Mittal

      //Her main demand is, NGO leader should be sacked for the alleged rape by her ex boyfriend.//
      I have no interest in clarifying my reality all over again, you’re free to have your own set of assumptions. But, you have got one fact wrong.

      My demand from my organization was to give me justice for a sexual harassment case that I had filed against another colleague in 2012. The organization has failed to take action then and in almost all my communications with them, my demand was centered only around this incident, not on the rape case.
      They did offer help, but I refused since I have no trust that they can handle a rape case, if they failed to give me justice to a sexual harassment case. The reason why I call for the senior management team to step down is because they know of everything since 2011. Nov 2011 – one incident happened right in front of them and they dismissed it as a joke. Oct / Dec 2012 – Organization decided that my case (and the previous case) doesnt fall into the category of sexual harassment and they dont get the Internal Complaints Committee to investigate. In 2013, one board member questioned the ED on these cases, he LIED again that there has been no cases of sexual harassment in his office. Later in Feb 2015, when I reveal the names of this repeat offender who’s still in the organization, they lie and tell me that they did investigate the case. Then they investigate it again and decide that this guy has to be fired. This NGO leader disbands the committee and downgrades that repeat offender’s punishment to a ‘strict warning’ and a apology letter. Later, this guy sends me a vague apology and says that he hopes to be my friend again. Then this ngo lets go of, not terminating, but giving this guy the liberty to walk away by resigning only after I wrote this article. No organization can have credibility and grow if the senior management team is like this. Now do you get it why I ask them to step down?

      Youth Ki Awaaz story is my narrative. My story. I decide if I want to talk about my rape or not. Do you think I’m stupid? That I’ll ask my organization to act on this guy in the absence of a complaint?
      Get your facts right before commenting.

  23. Ram Seth Gilani

    Quite possible, think about it.

    A trend among women filing false rape cases stands exposed with the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) revealing shocking statistics showing that 53.2% of the rape cases filed between April 2013 and July 2014 in Delhi were found ‘false’.

    http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/false-rape-cases-in-delhi-delhi-commission-of-women/1/409320.html

    Any argument or disagreement with a woman can end up in the man being trapped in a false case of rape, molestation, eve-teasing, his life and reputation ruined and many such innocent men have either been jailed, or worse, they have been beaten up mercilessly or even killed.

    Read more at: http://www.oneindia.com/feature/jasleen-kaur-to-rohtak-sisters-why-instant-social-media-justice-is-becoming-a-sham-1853447.html

    “They were pretty darn fast. Unlike us, who like to evaluate all possibly available forms of evidence, these guys just need a social media post to declare verdicts,” the source pointed.

    http://www.fakingnews.firstpost.com/2015/08/impressed-with-times-nows-quick-verdict-on-jasleen-kaurs-case-supreme-court-hands-over-all-pending-case-to-arnab-for-fast-track/

  24. moot

    You're a narcissistic attention seeker and you seemed to have called yourself out correctly!
    Because of your spurious ersatz complaints, these organizations have the privilege of hiring “gender specialists”, instead of just increasing wages for hardworking men who have to provide for their families.

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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.

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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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