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‘No One Cares About What I Want’: What Being A Girl In India Taught Me

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By Lubna Naseem:

Role Of Women In Indian Society

I was born of my mother, but my birth certificate states my father’s name. My mother who sheltered me for nine months didn’t have any identity. Who was she?

I grew up loved and cherished in a cozy household, but thoughts and worries of learning how to run a house, cook and sew were implanted in my mind from an early age because that was my destiny.

Years passed, and I was asked to keep my opinions to myself and do according to what my parents said. I entered graduation (of my parents’ choice) that I was compelled to do so as to get a suitable groom. At college, boys would stare as though I had murdered somebody. One dare not laugh out at jokes, else you would instantly be a spectacle. Scathing comments were passed against women who spoke to the other gender more. However, the male students were free to do anything.

When sitting idly, a question always echoes in my head “Who am I?” As a child, I was a little toy to amuse the elders in the house, a little girl to dress up in pink, and just someone to indulge. As an adolescent, I was a growing girl who had to be protected from the big bad influences of the outside world. I was trained and forced to perform the many duties a woman should. Everyone took it upon themselves to make me realize my gender, and how my aspirations must match up and be ‘grounded’ and I don’t have the right to think or plan anything for myself. Everyone’s (specially relatives’) prime aim was that I should get married and confine myself to the would be husband’s life.

But till now, there is no recognition of me. Before marriage, I have to make everyone happy at home. My primary aim in life is the contentment and satisfaction of others, and I know after marriage I will be someone’s wife, someone’s daughter-in-law, someone’s aunt and someone’s sister-in-law. Everything will change to ‘the wife of ___’, bank accounts, locker, passport everything. But nobody will actually know who I am.

My only duty will be to please the husband and in-laws, to stand behind my man and keep my opinions to myself. Then too I will have to shut up and turn a blind eye, learn to be supportive no matter what. It all depends on the vagaries of my husband. If he decides to talk nicely then my morning will be good but if he is in a nasty mood my whole day goes for a toss. I have to make sure that my husband has all the comforts to make his life comfortable and in return he can throw me around with no rhyme or reason. But still, I have to bear all of it because society has given men all the rights to get separated and take another wife but if a girl does such type of act she will be termed characterless and everyone’s eyes will be on her. A man can talk to anybody , do whatever he feels like but a woman is bombarded with questions if she is seen talking to someone new or tries to get little social. She is suddenly the subject of another type of entertainment for those around her who crack cheap jokes at her expense.

Nobody asks what I like, what I want to do but they keep demanding things from me can, expecting me to sacrifice, take a step back. I was never a free bird when I was at my place, and now also there is no place of mine in the society. Then who am I?

Am I the embodiment of Durga or Kali-everyone worships so dutifully? Or just an empty vessel where men can pour in their frustration? Why have I sacrificed my dreams and aspirations at the altar of the male ego? Why do I blame everything to fate? Why have I shed my tears silently and borne the burnt of abuse? Where did my laughter go?

I might not have an identity of my own, but I realise that on me depends the existence of these men. I don’t think they have the power to call the shots anymore. I am slowly but surely undoing the shackles and growing wings so that I can take flight. So cherish me, respect me, love me, care for me and treat me well… Because if you don’t give me my rights, I will grab them. If you don’t respect me , I will command it. I breathe the same air as everyone else; my heart beats just as yours does. I dream as everyone does and I want to live my life only my way. I am claiming what is mine… nothing more, nothing less.

For I have realised that I am nothing more than me.

You must be to comment.
  1. Cees Tompot

    Dear Naseem,

    You definitely will succeed and I wish you a lot of success and strength in this battle. It makes me feel sad that you have to fight without much support of those who should support you.

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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.

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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)’.

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 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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