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Why I Think We Need to Embrace Feminism

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By Madhavi Jadhav:

Women attend a prayer ceremony for a rape victim after a rally, organized by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit (unseen), protesting for justice and security for women, at Raj Ghat in New Delhi January 2, 2013. The ashes of the Indian student who died after being gang-raped were scattered in the Ganges river on Tuesday as reports of more attacks stoked a growing national debate on violence against women. The death of the 23-year-old woman, who has not been named, prompted street protests across India, international outrage and promises from the government of tougher punishments for offenders. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST POLITICS RELIGION) - RTR3C1M7
Image credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi.

I was born to my parents 18 years after their wedding, something that is not very common. They were extremely happy when I was born. My father had invited all his relatives and friends to share his happiness. However, to his surprise, a few of my relatives were concerned for him, and they even dared to say, “Itne saalon baad bhi bhagwaan ne diya toh kya, beti (After so many years all you could get was a girl child).” When someone narrated this story to me, I didn’t hesitate to ask my father whether I was an unwanted child. He had a smile on his face and said, “You are my special child.” I was blessed with a loving and caring father, but everyone isn’t that lucky in India.

The sex ratio in India is 940/1000 (female/male), and in each census, it barely seems to improve. Thousands of girl children are killed even before they are born. The sole reason behind this is that in India a female child is considered a burden while a male child is considered an investment. The day a girl child is born her parents start worrying about her wedding. The dowry system is also a prevalent custom in India. It is among one of the reasons that Indians are averse to a girl child. One of my friend’s colleagues told her that it took him four years to find a good match for his sister. He paid around 20 lakhs to get her the ‘perfect husband’ as she was a little plump! Well, husband’s are pricey, aren’t they? So, he had to help her settle with her husband (who came with a price tag).

I still can’t forget the conversation that I had with one of my uncles who wanted me to get married to some obnoxious guy. My uncle told me that the groom’s family had rejected me (as if I cared). My father started blaming me for being rude to the guy. After investigating a bit, I came to know the real reason for rejection. The groom’s parents were worried that their son (the groom) would have to take my parent’s responsibility. Well, WTF! My parents have made me independent so that I can take care of myself and my family. On the positive side, I never met that obnoxious guy again.

Indian parents want their daughters to be perfect. They want her to be perfect at cooking and at household chores. They want her to be an obedient wife and a good daughter in law. They don’t want her to take stands or take risks. They are taught not to talk to strangers but are married to a stranger (which they call an arranged marriage)! They condition her to learn and adapt to these lessons. On the other hand, a male child is taught to take risks. He is not limited by timings or any other restrictions. He is allowed to be on his own. They are never taught cooking or other household chores as these are considered women’s jobs.

Last month, I visited my friend PJ with my nephew and niece. I was having a conversation with his wife so PJ volunteered to make a cup of coffee for us. After we left their house my inquisitive nephew asked me, “Attu, why did PJ uncle make coffee for you, isn’t it supposed to be his wife’s job?” I was shocked, but then I realised that it’s not his fault he is conditioned like that. I just couldn’t resist and shared with him a video about why laundry is a woman’s job.

According to Wikipedia, “Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, personal, and social rights for women.” So, why do I think India needs feminism? India needs feminism because I want to be treated equally with respect to my brother. India needs feminism because household chores aren’t a woman’s job only. India needs feminism because daughters also love their parents like sons do. India needs feminism because parents invest more on their daughters’ wedding than their education. India needs feminism because we need more Indira Gandhis, Indra Nooyis and Chanda Kochhars.

You must be to comment.
  1. ItsJustMe

    We dont need anymore Indira Gandhis. I think the Indian had enough of the first and only one after the Sikh Genocide, using the army against ppl from NE and also the emergency. Just like we dont need feminism. Definitions are for the books, feminism is not really a gender neutral movement.

  2. Truth

    I would much rather have a daughter because like my female cousins, even if she barely passes high school she can be married off to some rich dude. If I have a son and he doesn’t do well in school – game over.

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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.

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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, 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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