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I Was Sexually Harassed On My Way To College, Other Girls Told Me How I’m Not The Only One

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By Ishita Mishra:

It was 9:30 am on a Monday as I walked into college feeling uncomfortable. I noticed the police jeep standing at a little distance from the college gate but I did not tell them about my predicament. Everything inside Kamala Nehru College seemed to go on as usual – girls were going for their classes, the library was quiet and the canteen buzzed. I looked at them and wondered if they too had ever experienced what I had today, if they too had faced harassment inside the metro train and if they too felt uneasy after that.

While coming to college via the metro, I stood in a corner near the door of the train, waiting for it to reach my destination. The train doors opened at a station before the one I was supposed to get down at and a huge crowd of passengers hurried inside. The large number of passengers in the small coach made it uncomfortable for everyone. I got squished by people and tried my best to maintain my balance while the train moved fast. In no time, my station was about to come and in all the pushing I felt something awkward. I felt that someone standing behind me had touched both my breasts. In the hustle, I turned back to see who had done it but found everyone too busy making a place for themselves. I neglected it, thinking that I must have felt so because of the pushing and stumbling of the crowd.

The train reached the station and along with others, I stood in front of the door, waiting for it to open. Just as the doors opened, I felt someone squeezing my breasts again and this time, I was sure it was done on purpose. While de-boarding the train, I turned back immediately and saw a man about thirty years old right behind me. The position of his hands and the look on his face left me in no doubt. Before I could say or do anything, I was pushed by the massive crowd and after I finally found myself space, I immediately looked for the man but he seemed to have hurried and disappeared in the sea of people at the metro station. I was boiling with anger. Everything happened so fast that I could not even catch hold of the man. I felt bad. A stranger had touched me and made me feel uncomfortable. I could not do anything about it and therefore left the metro station for college contemplating about how women face similar situations every day.

What had happened to me in the metro left me worried about women’s safety. As I looked at the girls in college, I wondered if all of them felt safe while travelling to and fro college and in other public places. In pursuit of my answers, I decided to question them about their safety.

I was shocked at the answers I received from everyone. Most of them felt unsafe. In fact, a majority had experienced harassment in a public place. As I heard their stories, I realised how bad the condition in the entire country would be when most girls from a single college felt insecure. One of my friends narrated an incident about how she was constantly being stared at by a stranger at a restaurant. He stared at her for all the time that she dined at the place and passed a filthy vulgar comment while she was leaving the restaurant. Enraged, she screamed at the man for his unacceptable behaviour only to have him act all unaware of the sequence of events. She told me about how no one in the restaurant believed her. Instead of coming to help her, everyone enjoyed the show.

Another horrifying incident was narrated to me by a second-year student; while she was walking on the road, two boys in their 20s, came to her and asked her if she would like to have some extra income apart from what she received as her pocket money. She was in a hurry and walked away from the two men, ignoring what they had to say. As she walked away, they caught her by her wrist and didn’t let her go and with a smirk informed her that she would earn an extravagant amount of money. Afraid and shocked by the audacity of the two men, she didn’t shout or scream for help but freed herself from the grip of the man and immediately ran and sat inside an auto.

With such incidents becoming a common affair, women do not feel safe at all. The worst is that most women are afraid to scream or report such events to the police, with the fear of being harmed and harassed by the same people or being humiliated by the police. Living in the 21st century, is this the empowerment we are talking about? When something as basic as the security of a woman is problematic, how can we think of empowering them? From five-year-olds to sixty-year-old women; all are under a constant fear, even simple activities like travelling, going to a shop or a bank become a nightmare for many.


Image for representation only. Source: Qamar Sibtain/India Today Group/Getty Images
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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