This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Krithika Rao. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Incredible Story Of Seelampur’s Mothers: Fighting Poverty And Abuse For Their Children

By Krithika Rao:

Heena, a 10-year old girl with big dreams in her big eyes, studies in a low-income private school in Seelampur, Delhi. It had been a week since she was stopped coming to school. Although all the kids live in the same locality, nobody knew the reason for her absence. So, after a week of continuous absence, I decided to visit her house. Heena lives in Dedh number gali (Street number 1 and a 1/2), a very narrow side lane in the Brahmpuri area of Seelampur, where piled up garbage and bees hovering over them grace the street every 50 meters. The lady who greeted me at the door looked so young and small, with shrunken eyes and a bandaged head. Had it not been for the sari and her covered head with ghungat, I would have mistaken her for any regular college-going girl. With folded hands she said, “Namaste ma’am, main Heena ki mummy.” That day, I stayed and talked with Heena’s mother for nearly 2 hours. It seemed that she never had anyone to talk to about her woes to and today she could let her heart out.

Heena’s mother, Tanvi, got married at the age of 14 and had Heena at 15. Tanvi lost her father when she was 6 to alcohol and drugs. Her mother took care of her but unable to sustain themselves, married Tanvi off to an unemployed person. She is 25 years old today, has 3 children and is a victim of physical, mental and sexual abuse. Tanvi’s husband comes home drunk almost every night and beats her and the kids. 3 nights ago, he tried forcing himself on her in front of the kids, and when she declined and fought back, he beat her so bad that he almost banged her head, and he called her and Heena a whore. She lay unconscious for hours. She says, “Ma’am, is umar mein maine jitna dekha hai or saha hai, utna kabhi kisi aur ko na dekhna pade” (Ma’am, I wish nobody ever has to go through what I have gone through at such a tender age).

“I am 25 with 3 kids and an abusive husband. I am living only for the kids, else I have no wish or a reason to live.”

“Mera sapna? Main dancer banna chahti thi.” (My dream? I wanted to become a dancer).

“Mujhe apne liye koi ummeed nahi hai, bas ab sab kuch in bachon ke liye hi hai” (I don’t have any hope for myself, now I just want to give my kids everything).

Very sadly, it’s the same with Shabia, Fiza, Tanya and many more women in Seelampur. A lot of them never had any education, they are dependent solely upon their drunk husbands and other male members in their family. It is very sad that even after 70 years of Independence when the whole nation is revolutionizing, in many parts of our society women are still subjected to neglect, violence and abuse. They are still supposed to cover their faces and hide themselves behind the purdah(veil) when an elderly person or an outsider comes; their schooling is stopped after 8th grade; they are not allowed to work outside.

For representation only

Having grown up in a posh community with all the privileges, worked and lived abroad, advocating about how much India has grown and how it’s women have come up in their life and how India is not the land of snake charmers, elephants and women behind purdahs anymore to first-world countries, this came as a hard slap on the face.

I work as a teacher in Seelampur in North-East Delhi, as part of Teach for India, an NGO that works for education equality in low-income communities. During this fellowship, I got to realize how easy our life has always been and how difficult it could get. Now in my second year of the 2 year fellowship, and having taught an amazing bunch of 5th graders in a low income school in Seelampur, I feel that these kids and their community have taught me much more than what I could teach them.

Tanvi, Shabia, Fiza and all the other women in the community hope for a brighter future for their kids. They are willing to go to any length to give their children a good education. Tanvi has enrolled herself for 10th-grade exams through open schooling this year, despite her family’s protests. I, with my colleagues, have started a skill-development training centre in Seelampur for the women to get trained in a skill that would equip them to lead a life of dignity and respect, and that would enable them to sustain themselves and ensure a good future for their children. Being part of the skill development programme will help them earn and save money for their children’s future education. They all have a dream, that one day their kids will achieve their dream.

It feels wonderful when my girls tell me that they will fight for their equality (and they are only 10) when my boys argue with their parents to send their sister to school with them. It makes me believe that there is a hope for these kids, for their parents, for Seelampur and for this country.

You must be to comment.

More from Krithika Rao

Similar Posts

By Priyasmita Dutta

By Pratiksha Sharma

By Shraddha Iyer

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below