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Hey You, I’m Aunty Feminist And I’m Here To Help You Kick Patriarchy’s Ass!

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By Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan for Youth Ki Awaaz:

Dear You,

Maybe it would help you picture me better if you thought of this—our new beginning—as an actual physical meeting. We’re in your favourite coffee shop; or, if you don’t have one, I’ll lend you a favourite bar. We’ve just ordered two glasses of red wine, or iced lattes, and they come with the crumbly melt-on-your-tongue biscotti, and I lift my glass to my lips, and you are about to tell me all about your life. Maybe you need perspective on why your boss is being so mean. Maybe your boyfriend hasn’t called you since the two of you had a fight which you thought was just a little argument but which you are now realising went much deeper than that and hurt his ego. Maybe your mother is asking you to do something—even if out of a place of love—that sits uncomfortably with you. So you cross your legs and you look at me straight in the eye and you say, “What do I do now?”

So, let’s begin.

It’s quite exciting to think you and I are starting here, there’s nothing but blank pages ahead of us. And yet, what better time for a safe space addressing sexism and gender questions? Here’s what’s going to happen: some weeks, I’ll answer questions, any question, like the examples above, and we’ll look at those questions and problems through the lens of gender issues and how to be better human beings. Because that’s basically what feminism is about—when you raise women to be equal to men, with equal rights, then you have human beings who are elevated and aware and able. All the things our society desperately needs.

Some weeks, we may not have questions. And in those weeks, I’m going to answer questions that no one’s asked me. Why does this new budget seem to not address women? Why are a third of Japanese women sexually harassed at work—and why does no one seem to care? Is opening all combat roles to women a step in the right direction? You get the idea. I might turn my attention to the micro before widening the lens again going for a sweep across a broader problem. But it’ll be something we’ll figure out as we go on—because that’s the beauty of blank pages. We have only the merest scratch-in-the-sand version of plans and we’ll let everything bloom organically.

Feminism begins at home. Before I was Aunty Feminist, I was a feminist aunty, around the zillion children my friends seem to have produced in the last three years alone. And, lucky for me, they’re mostly little girls, and I tell them they’re smart or talented or clap enthusiastically when they do something, but I don’t normally tell them they’re pretty. They’re all quite young still, and I don’t know if they understand me, but they’ll have so many people telling them they’re pretty or cute or whatever their whole lives, I want them to have some people in the other corner besides their parents, some people saying, “It’s fine to be pretty or cute, but it’s amazing that you’re so smart!” I carry this over to my adult friends as well, offering up compliments on things they may not have noticed about themselves–“how nicely you handled that”, “wow, you can park really well”, “I wish I had your negotiation skills”. Little things which may or may not make that much of a difference to their lives, but are important to mark.

You are so much more than the first five adjectives people will use to describe you.

Come again. Let’s break down some walls.

Aunty Feminist

Aunty Feminist loves to hear from her readers! If you’d like her to answer a burning question you might have, send it to us at auntyfeminist@youthkiawaaz.com or tweet your questions to @reddymadhavan.

You must be to comment.
  1. Jigsaw

    Civilisation has been built on the bodies of dead men. Men’s mutilated bodies returned in coffins, men’s blood sprayed on battlefields, men’s scattered limbs, men in torture chambers, men held as prisoners of war, men freedom fighters etc. It is men who have suffered throughout history and continue to do so, to protect women. However, women are ungrateful and cunning, and want everyone to believe that they are the victims.

  2. Jigsaw

    Where is equality when:

    1. Women are rescued first from sinking ships.
    2. Seats are reserved for women on buses.
    3. The media only focuses on women’s issues.
    4. World’s most dangerous jobs are worked by men, safest by women.
    5. News channels announce deaths of ‘women’ and children.
    6. Juries discriminate against men in domestic violence disputes.
    7. Women have special quotas in the political scenario and corporate world.
    8. Women receive lighter sentences for the same crimes committed by men.
    9. Child custody is given to women is divorce courts, in the majority of cases.
    10. Men have to earn for women, but women are not under any obligation to earn for men.
    11. Domestic violence and dowry are seen as women’s issues, while men are the prime victims.
    12. Men are forced to pay alimony to women. Women don’t give alimony to men.
    13. Men are used as ATMs. Women always marry men who are richer, earn more, ‘well-settled’, and better educated.
    14. Men die on jobs daily. 97% of work related deaths are of men.
    15. Draconian laws where women land men in jail through lies.
    16. Men have to propose, buy roses, flowers, chocolates.
    17. Separate compartment and reserved seats for women in metros.
    18. Women are released first in hostage situations.
    19. Most teachers hired in schools are women.
    20. Men have to pay child support, not women.
    21. All research, funding, awareness for breast cancer. Nothing for prostate cancer.
    22. Women rescued first by firefighters.
    23. Reserved compartment and seats in metros.
    24. Strictness of teachers towards male students and leniency for female students.
    25. Societal acceptance for women hitting men, not the other way around.

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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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