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I Am Not A Mom And This Amazon Ad Tells Me I Am Better Off This Way

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A lot of pop-culture leaves you with the notion that each new stage of your life is you crawling out of a chrysalis. Apparently you’re an entirely new person the minute you choose commerce over science in school, or when you turn eighteen, or when you become a parent. Sure, a lot of these moments hold immense sentimental value, or mark important points in your personal development, but when it comes to how motherhood changes women, the conversation always seems to end with some platitudes about ‘womanly duty’ and such.

Motherhood can be immensely fulfilling, yes. But for a lot of women – let’s just come out and say it – it can be stifling, when their personal choices and aspirations fall to the wayside. And as much as we want to think “your life, your rules,” it doesn’t always work out that way. Mothers are expected, by patriarchy no less, to be a lot of things rolled into one – counsellors, friends, educators, health care practitioners, cooks, cleaners, managers, and more, and all of this free-of-charge of course. It’s an identity defined by a woman’s relationship with her children, but even with the best of intentions, it is an identity defined by self-negation.

A new series of Amazon ads points to precisely this – how motherhood, for so many women, means the retirement of so many parts of a woman’s self.

It’s genuinely great that the ads do what a lot of Indian media doesn’t – recognize that women have had lives before their children. “Tum apne saare interests bhul gayi, tum khud ko bhul gayi,” (You’ve forgotten all your interests, you’ve forgotten who you are) goes the voiceover in one ad, urging moms to go back to their hobbies. But here’s the thing, women don’t “simply forget.” It’s just that motherhood hardly leaves them the time or mindspace.

Motherhood should be a choice, not an obligation or a compulsion. But that isn’t the message that young women like myself are getting. Take our State programmes on breastfeeding – they make it look like motherhood is the be-all-and-end-all of women’s lives. Additionally, we’re always seeing cultural cues that paint motherhood as the unspoken and socially accepted death sentence to our careers, our relationships, and – as Amazon notes – our interests. I’m not a mom. And I have no desire to be, but if I did, it looks like a pretty bad bargain right now.

In a patriarchal world, motherhood is not comfortable. And many women like myself have caught onto this. Which is why there is a carefully constructed narrative around motherhood – they say it makes you complete, they say it’s only natural, they call you the source of all life. But they don’t tell you how your life is about to be flipped over like a poorly cooked omelette in an ungreased pan.

Women have written about how motherhood interferes with an earlier sense of purpose – whether it came from a career they excelled at, or a passion like badminton, skating and photography. Obviously this isn’t 10 out of every 10 cases, but a majority of women do find it taxing. In fact, the Pew Research Centre found that the notion of motherhood being super difficult has not changed in the last 20 years. Notions about fatherhood, on the other hand, have.

Now you have more men choosing to be stay-at-home-dads, or readily accepting their roles in the home. But we are still fed images and stories of how domesticity does not suit men the way it suits women. The hugely successful “Shrek” movie franchise explores the burden of fatherhood on a male who was used to a certain lifestyle. You had Michael Kelso on “That ‘70s Show” confronting his philandering ways after the birth of his daughter. And you’ve got a host of TV dads seeking refuge in “man-caves” like the garage or study or bathroom. But there are no mom-caves, because you’re on call, all day every day. And if you can’t do your duty as a mother, then really what good are you?

Amazon’s ad is a fluffy attempt to make you think about your mother as an individual. It is the tiniest of nods towards the cumulative years of unpaid care-work that mothers do. When I jokingly tell my mom to stop nagging me, she says, “I’m a mother. This only stops when I’m dead,” and I realize that motherhood is always characterized by self-sacrifice.

Why this happens isn’t really in the purview of the Amazon ad. That’s really for us, as viewers and havers-of-mothers, to think about. And until we have those answers, I guess I’m just super content not being a mom.

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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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