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I Wish People Would Stop Saying It’s ‘Okay To Be Fat’ When They Never Really Mean It

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By Abhilasha Singh:

I feel ugly. My hair is curly, my dress size is 12 and I’m short. I have no fashion sense and more often than not, even when I wear the prettiest of clothes, I look ugly. There is always some extra flab making its way to the corners of my brand new Vero Moda top, so I have taken to wearing baggy tees and my hair up in a bun, because who in their right mind is going to compliment me even if I do dress up?

They laughed so much harder when I tried. Like the attempt to wear sleeveless tops with arm flab was blasphemous.

Nobody cares, and I am not beautiful. I am intelligent but not beautiful.

But beautiful is what counts, right?

A man I once loved told me, “beauty is pain and pain, beauty.”

I am in pain now, but my pain is not beautiful. My pain, which has only grown with time, has now been reduced to slashes on my wrist. He told me that no one cared for an intelligent woman. They’d listen to her because she’d make sense, but not if a pretty girl walked into the room at that moment.

Two months later, he picked that pretty girl over me: fair, tall and a size six. I left the city to save my sanity, even though it isn’t something I’m proud of, in retrospect.

It is easy for women who are backed by their ‘conventional good looks’ to step forward and attempt to be a champion of my cause, but the problem lies right there. They don’t know the stigma that people like me grew up with. They were not ‘fat shamed’ from the moment they turned 14, showed down by people whose acceptance meant everything to them, been told by a friend who fit the stereotype of ‘popular girl’ that their hair and clothes were never right, or been rejected by the first man they ever loved. They never understand because they haven’t lived it. And because they haven lived it, they end up belittling it even when they don’t intend to.

Love. Yes – those primary instincts of bonding most people develop with people who connect with them on a deeper level, was probably never denied to them because they weren’t conventionally pretty. They were never out rightly told that they were a second choice to that thin girl with straight, black hair. They were never embarrassed every time their size wasn’t available in a store, or when giggly make-believe teenagers in a commercial mocked their hair type.

But conventionally beautiful women, I don’t hate you. I don’t begrudge you either, because what happened with me and women like me was not your fault. It was the fault of all those people who believed that I was a lesser person because I looked a certain way and liked different things. The fault of people who wouldn’t accept me because I couldn’t accompany them on dress trials to stores where a size eight was the largest size. It is the fault of that commercial that told me that smooth and silky, straight hair, was all I needed to win hearts and that neighbour who told me that I’d look pretty if I lost weight.

No, I am not complaining about life being unfair, handing out bad deals and playing the victim card. You’ve probably had your own fair share of struggles and they might have been challenging. But just as your problems weren’t mine, mine were probably never yours so I wish you’d just leave me be, instead of trying to attempt to restore my ‘fallen grace’.

Activism these days is just a click away. But by constantly trying to remind me of what I have believed were my flaws through my life, even if you’re trying to tell me that I shouldn’t be ashamed of them, you aren’t helping. Just making it worse, to be honest. It feels like you know I’ve been a victim all my life and are rubbing it in my face further which makes it so much harder to come out of. People who’ve been labelled all their lives don’t need further labelling to justify or escape their past labels. It’s tedious and a tad bit annoying (if not entirely depressing), since it almost always comes off as condescending.

I don’t need acceptance, I don’t need sympathy; I’m not an anomaly. I just wish you’d stop staring at me and questioning my choice of clothes because you think people my size make them look obscene.

I just wish you’d stop telling me that it is ‘okay to be fat’, that it is okay to look a certain way, because to society, it has never been and at some point, I have seen you be a part of that society. Don’t propagate a cause you don’t understand because you pity me and it’s suddenly the politically correct thing to do.

My broken heart doesn’t need your sympathy to mend.

Don’t tell me that I’m not ugly if you’re going to say it with condescension.

Don’t make excuses for me, I’ve overcompensated in that department just enough all my life.

Your sharing a post to make me feel better will not undo eight years of scarring.

Don’t reduce me to a Facebook post or a passing fancy.

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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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