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The Week That Was For Women In India: Victorious And On Top Of The World

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By Abhishek Jha:

It might sound patriarchal to express surprise at women achieving feats that have hitherto been uncharted by them. However, it is an achievement if these barriers are broken because it is societal norms and pressures that have kept women from achievements that have been hogged by men alone. There were moments in the past week when this barrier breaking was reasserted through some spectacular achievements for women in India. Here we present five of them that made news:

indian hockey

1. Supreme Court Judgment: In a welcome judgment, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that an unwed mother could have the sole guardianship of a child. The court was hearing a petition filed by a mother who wanted to make her son her nominee in all her savings and insurance policies but was asked to declare the father’s name or get a guardianship/adoption certificate. The mother argued that she had known the father for only two months and that the father did not know anything about the child.

The judgment was not without its problematic aspects. For instance the 20 page judgement also says that “Avowedly, the mother is best suited to care for her offspring, so aptly and comprehensively conveyed in Hindi by the wordmamta’,” thus almost making it seem that guardianship is the sole ‘duty‘ of a woman. However, this judgment is likely to help those working to remove the stigma attached to unwed mothers and children born out of wedlock.

Image  Source: Facebook
Image Source: Facebook

2. UPSC Results: The results of the Civil Services Exam were declared on the 4th of this month. The top three places were occupied by women. Four of the top five candidates are women. The topper, Delhi’s Ira Singhal, who is differently abled had passed the IRS exam in 2010 but had been refused posting by revenue department and the DoPT. However, Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot, said on Wednesday this week that she could be the brand ambassador for the programmes of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. The Minister also felicitated her on Monday in Delhi.

3. Hockey: With their 1-0 victory over Japan last Saturday, India’s women’s hockey team finished fifth in the World Hockey League, thus keeping their hope of qualifying for the Rio Olympics alive. “Our target was to qualify for Olympics and we are still in contention. All the players played to their strengths. We played against some of the higher ranked teams which gave us insights on our shortcomings. We will work on them to improve our game play and be ready for our Olympic dream,” Ritu Rani, captain of the team said after returning to India on Monday.

4. Cricket: The Indian Women’s Cricket Team won a five match ODI series against New Zealand 3-2 after defeating them in the deciding final match at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. The BCCI announced a Rs 21 lakh reward for the team after its victory on Wednesday. Another achievement was made as Indian captain Mithali Raj became the second batter in women’s cricket to pass the 5,000 runs mark in ODIs. The only other batter who has achieved this feat is England’s Charlotte Edwards.

5. Mountaineering: Twin sisters Tashi and Nancy Malik became the fastest South Asians to complete the Explorers’ Grand Slam on July 3 when they climbed the 5895 metres high Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The Grand Slam requires one to climb the highest peaks in all the seven continent and reaching both the poles on skis. “We are happy to add another moment of pride and glory for the Indian girl child. For now we are focused on raising the bar of performance so that the girls can claim their rightful place of dignity and respect in our society,” Tashi reportedly said.

Image source: Wikipedia
Image source: Wikipedia

6. Tennis: Sania Mirza won her first women’s doubles Grand Slam title when she and Martina Hingis defeated the Russian duo of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina on Saturday in Wimbledon. Mirza has won three Grand Slam titles before, albeit in mixed doubles’ tournaments. Wimbledon is considered the most prestigious of the four Grand Slam tournaments. Mirza, in her earlier wins, has already covered the other three turfs.

Such trespassing is not unknown to women in India, who regularly surprise patriarchs with their actions. We hope that this trespassing becomes a norm soon and there are no patriarchs to surprise.

Also Read: The Week That Was For Women In India: Sexist, Misogynistic And Violent

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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