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My Parents Are Progressive In Their Thinking But Not When It Comes To Me. What Do I Do?

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By Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan for Youth Ki Awaaz:

Hello, fellow feminists and people who say they aren’t “really real feminists” but read articles like this anyway. Welcome back to the fold. Let’s begin.

T asked:

My parents are really clued into women’s rights and freedoms and all, except when I’m getting late in coming home. Why are they progressive in their thoughts as long as it’s not about me?

Dear T,

I remember having the same argument with my parents when I still lived at home. I couldn’t believe I had to have a curfew when it seemed to me that it would make no difference what time I came home—11 pm was surely just as dangerous as 1 am? The point I made was that they trusted me, the individual, and that trust should hold them in greater stead than a sort of nameless fear of “what will happen to our daughter?” each time I left the house at night. We had many, many arguments about this, so usually, if I wanted to stay out nights, I spent the night at a friend’s with a more flexible curfew. I felt like my mum was just using a knee-jerk “no” each time I asked her if I could do something that went even slightly out of her comfort zone. It was the same when I asked if I could get my arms and legs waxed at 12 (which led to the Great Summer Arm Waxing Fight of 1994), the same when I asked if I could go to a very popular “conti” party four years later (by which time, I grew wise and just went anyway) (Sorry, mum, I know you read this, but, look, I totally survived to adulthood!).

But then, as I age, I begin to see things a little differently. It all began with my yearly Gilmore Girls re-watch (If you haven’t seen the show, here’s where I tell you that you must, as a generous aside). As I got drawn into Star’s Hollow, and all their antics, enjoying some of my favourite lines again and again, I noticed the way my opinions were leaning had changed. I was now much more firmly on Lorelei’s (the mother’s) side than Rory’s (the daughter’s). Worse: I felt like all the times Lorelei shouted at her kid were actually justified. What was going on with me? I was so horrified, I couldn’t binge on any more episodes for a week. Picking up more TV shows, I noticed my biases were all leaning towards the adults. Of course you can’t do that, I’d tell one drama-filled TV teen after another, do you want to die? What had happened to me? Was I finally an Aunty For Real? The true test is what you would do if you ever travelled back in time and got to influence your past self’s life. Would I let 12-year-old me get an arm wax knowing how many more years of hair removal she had in her future? I’m…not sure. Would I let 16-year-old me out with boys who were just barely shaving? Um, maybe not.

That’s what being an adult is, thinking of all the stupid risks, and all the ways things could go wrong. Last year, I was on a panel on teen lives with fellow author Nicola Morgan. She goes round the world talking about the teen brain, and one thing she said that day which was quite interesting was that up till your twenties, your pre-frontal cortex (the part of your brain that weighs outcomes, basically helping with risk-taking decisions) doesn’t fully develop. We basically want to do all the scary stuff without actually looking down a future road to see what’s going to become of us later. Which is probably why my twenties were a haze of bad decisions, one tattoo, several piercings, and lots of unsuitable life choices.

So, no, I don’t think your parents worry about you has to do with feminism, not exactly. I think it’s just that we take fewer risks as we get older, and then we get cautious, and about people we love, we get over-cautious. (Parents, especially, find it hard to chill and let go.) I bet they think you’re perfectly capable of making the right choices, they’re just not so sure about the big, bad world around you. Not a judgement call against your woman chops, which I’m sure are pretty kick-ass, just that people get robbed, raped, run over, murdered, assaulted and so on and so forth. Men and women, it’s just that more bad things tend to happen to women as softer targets.

Here’s my advice: talk to your parents and figure out a way you can have fun and they can feel like you’re safe. Maybe a car service? Maybe send them your Uber/Ola co-ordinates as soon as you get into a cab? Maybe they’d like you to text them every now and then to confirm you’re alive? Maybe all three of you could sign up for a self-defence class? It kind of sucks that you have to do all this just because there are monsters that want to hurt, kill or maim, but that’s the world we live in, and in order to be stronger than the undertow, we need to learn to fight fire with fire.

Aunty Feminist

Aunty Feminist loves to hear from her readers! If you’d like her to answer a burning question you might have, send it to us at or tweet your questions to @reddymadhavan.

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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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