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6 Powerful Books That Children Need In A World That Enforces Gender Stereotypes

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Heteronormativity and gender binaries are something that are often imposed on us from a very young age and this is reflected in the literature and visual culture that is produced for and consumed by young children. It is important to break out of these patriarchal trappings, and to teach, from the very beginning, to question gender norms and encourage alternate sexual identities. The following children’s books are trying to achieve this, through their unique storytelling methods and LGBT-positive messages, so, parents—look beyond Disney and fairytales and gift your kids one of these little treasures in order to equip them to smash that patriarchy!

Soma So Strange, by Carrie Rosten

soma so strange

Soma, a young misfit, is surrounded by “Meanies” and “Townies” who bully and torment her for being “strange” and different from other children. They target her for her occasional loudness, and her love for sushi—facts that to a layman may seem small and insignificant, but are actually metaphors for her rejection of traditional gender roles. So, Soma leaves town with a band of misfit pirates to understand why the Meanies have to be like that, and ends up learning that being “strange” is actually a really good thing.

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket, by John Boyne

This is the story of Barnaby Brocket, who is born to a strict and conservative family who turn up their noses at anything that’s remotely ‘different’, and who proves to be anything but ordinary, as he defies the laws of gravity and floats in mid-air. Desperate to please his parents, Barnaby does his best to keep both feet on the ground – but he just can’t do it. So one day, his control snaps and he floats away from the grasp of his parents’ suppression of his actual identity. Betrayed, frightened and alone, Barnaby floats into the path of a very special hot air balloon – and so begins a magical journey around the world, with a cast of some extraordinary new friends. The LGBT themes in this are quite obvious—the struggle of knowing that you are ‘different’ and still remaining in the closet due to conservative societal pressure is something that many queer individuals have faced. This book celebrates those struggles, and tells us that there is a magical journey ahead of us, if only we embrace our identities and not be afraid to exhibit them.

And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson

This book is based on the real-life story of the two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who had adopted an egg, and raised the offspring that hatched out of it. The event had attracted quite a bit of international media coverage, including protests from homophobic bigots. This book dramatizes the story of the two penguins and challenges the heteropatriarchal notions of family—showing that love can come in all shapes and sizes, even avian!

My Chacha Is Gay, by Eiynah ‘Nicemangos’

This Pakistani children’s comic initially started out as a blog post, but due its popularity, was turned into a book through crowdfunding. The story is about a little boy named Ahmed, his gay uncle, and how Muslim society perceives homosexuality. It challenges a lot of stigmas that are present within Pakistani and Muslim culture surrounding same-sex relationships and portrays that families do not need to always be heterosexual to be happy, healthy and functional. The book has been translated to Italian, Spanish, Urdu, Arabic, Hebrew, Pashto and Russian so far and has received an overwhelmingly positive response from kids and adults alike.

Large Fears, by Myles E Johnson

large fears

This is the story of Jeremiah Nebula, a black boy who loves pink, and loves adventures. In a surrealist plot twist, he is faced with his scariest adventure yet: a trip to Mars. But will he find the courage to embark on it? As Jeremiah confronts his deepest fears, he will also learn one of life’s most important lessons. ‘Mars’ is an obvious metaphor for the real world, where patriarchal codes of masculinity ruthlessly incarcerate boys like Jeremiah, who do not adhere to traditional gender norms. His journey is that of every queer person’s, as they struggle with coming out of the closet and discover their identities further.

Sometimes The Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon, by Jacinta Bunnell and Nathaniel Kusinitz


This colouring book has an important LGBT-postive message for young minds. Children engage with colouring books well before they can read, and all it takes is a fistful of crayons! This colouring book follows the photo-story of a spoon running away with another spoon against all odds and opposition—showing kids from a very young age that same-sex relationships are as normal as heterosexual relationships.

What we teach the next generation about gender and sexuality is extremely important, and how we do it even more so. It is crucial to tell kids that it’s okay to be different, to be queer, and to be gender nonconforming. These books go a long way in doing that, and here’s hoping that more children’s books take a cue from these and involve gender and sexuality positive messages within them. Next time you are confused about what to gift your young child or cousin or niece/nephew, gift them one of these, and help them learn some important lessons!

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

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

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

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

Read more about his campaign.

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

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

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

Read more about her campaign.

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

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

Read more about her campaign. 

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

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

Find out more about the campaign here.

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

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

Read more about the campaign here.

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

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

Read more about the campaign here.

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

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

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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

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

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

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

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

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