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Why The Women In My Family Ignore All The Messages That Wish Them ‘Happy Women’s Day’

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By Aakash Joshi:

march-8-1228403_1280Like any other morning, this morning started with the usual course of activities at our home. It was a pretty normal day for me and everyone else in the house. They began their work and I started mine. We had breakfast together and dispersed off on our routines.

So what’s the difference between today and any other day?

Just a few additional things happened today. The inbox of these women was flooded with some 40 odd messages. The newspapers, both online and offline, were full of articles portraying different perceptions people held for this day. Facebook was full of images with the message of “Happy Women’s Day” and about a hundred women tagged on each of them.

My mother saw the messages, but didn’t reply, instead she put the phone aside and went to the kitchen. My sister marked each one of the messages and deleted them all at once. My crush didn’t even bother opening them. She preferred being offline. All of them untagged themselves from those posts on social media.

It is not that they don’t respect the achievements of women and their contribution to the world, or that they don’t appreciate initiatives for women empowerment. But making women feel so very important and special on this particular day through messages and wishes and labelling this day as the “International Women’s Day” just doesn’t suit their, or my, understanding.

Sitting with them and talking to them about this day made me realise the fact that making them feel special on this day by showing unusual respect, or taking them out for dinner, gifting them the things they love is not really something they would necessarily like. These things are just meant to pretend to the outer world that we have a positive approach towards women and we respect them and treat them with equality. But what we fail to realise is that just showing isn’t equivalent to feeling the same from the core of our hearts.

8th of March has been marked as “International Women’s Day” since the 1900s to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. However, the sensitivity that is associated with the issue of women empowerment and parity can be judged from the fact that it’s been over a hundred years and we still need a “Women’s Day” to respect women and treat them well. Whereas, it is the approach towards women for the entire year that should define the celebration of this day on the 8th of March.

Let’s all question ourselves – are women safe and secure around us? Are they given rights equal to men? If yes, then are they actually able to exercise those rights? Do we treat them equally in our minds and hearts as well? And, will women be treated better for the rest of the year until the next women’s day?

Trying to answer these questions yields more doubts in our minds rather than answers. Hence, we avoid them. The fact that we don’t have answers to these questions signifies how “happy” this day must be for the women around us.
The entire year goes in satisfying the ‘male’ ego, satisfying the urge of being the ‘superior’ gender through rapes, molestations and public humiliations. Suddenly on the 8th of March, we treat the same “inferior” gender as goddesses!

Birthdays are not celebrated only because you were born on that day, but also because you survived a year more and for all the learnings and understandings you developed in that year. Similarly, we forget that the entire year, women have been treated badly. Whether we consider it at national platforms or even at our homes.

People argue that women are being treated well and are being given equal opportunities on the basis of a sample space that hardly forms 5-10 percent of the entire population. But what they neglect is the way they are treated in the rest of the space. Providing a handful of women with opportunities and a stand in the society when a majority is being objectified, or a means to get dowry, and are being deprived of even the basic human rights is not something to be termed as women empowerment and felt proud of.

Do the wishes count? Do they change the perception and understanding of men towards women? Does the standing of women in the society become the way she wants it to be and not the way the egoistic male wants? When the answer to all of them is No, then how can we say that the wishes of a happy women’s day are even valid? It is all a myth.

A day cannot solve the plight of women in the mind of the entire society. What I contend is that we should mend our behaviour in a way that we no longer need the crutch of a “Women’s Day” to treat females fairly and equally.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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
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