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This Former ‘Fat’ Woman Is Tired Of Your ‘Concern’

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By Sushmita Singh:

“You look beautiful.” That’s something many of us wish to hear for themselves, and that too, every day.

Right since I was a kid, around 10 years old, I had been, what they call it, a ‘fat kid’. At family events and social gatherings (weddings, birthday parties etc.), I was constantly told that I have a very pretty face, but I should start ‘watching’ my weight. I am sure, everybody who said that to me, meant well for me (or at least I’d like to think they did).

But, you know, asking a 10-year-old to lose weight and not get ‘any fatter’ is not one of the most helpful and nicest things, not nearly. I have hated my body for as long as I can remember. Always with the “Oh, stop eating that,” “Do some physically-challenging activities,” “You are too overweight for a girl your age!”

At school, at coaching classes, with my friends, at home, everywhere I was and everywhere I went, I felt like I was not good enough. And mind you, all because I was obese. I know that’s not a healthy lifestyle, and by means of this article, I’m definitely not trying to convey that I was proud of it. But you know what else is unhealthy? Constantly picking over a kid, who has an eating disorder and a tortoise-slow metabolism! The amount of damage those ‘concerns’ can do, to a kid, it’s amazing. Those concerns do wonders to our self-esteems, if you must know.

By the time I was in high school, I was convinced that I was hideous. (Sorry, my younger self, for being too harsh on you!)

There were times when elders used to come up to my parents and say, “Your kid is so intelligent, I’m sure she will get to great success in life. But, on the other hand, you must watch her weight.” I swear, I have overheard this so many times, and have been crushed equally bad each time. You know, maybe the kid would get to great heights of success in life if people like yourself wouldn’t put her down over something as petty as her weight. That might help.

By the time I was 18, I’d reached the point where I had started to starve myself, just so I could ‘look beautiful’ to everybody around me. “Pfft, how naive!” But hey, they compelled me to hate myself, and I wanted to feel more acceptable.

With everybody’s growing ‘concern for my health’, I started to starve myself and got on to exercising (Not the best way to get healthy – eating like a baby and running like an athlete). In less than 5 months, I had dropped down 12 kilograms of weight. That’s something I was proud of, when I had done it. But now, not so much!

I’ll tell you why. With the pretty visible weight loss that I’d went through, people’s behaviour towards me started changing. They had started to accept me, far better than they did at the time I was fat.

Now, I am nowhere close to being lean, but I am borderline mean to everybody who’d once contributed to my low self-esteem. I do not hate them. I hate what the fake standards of beauty and body image has done to their minds. Those fake ideals, they do no good – neither to the one who does not meet them, nor the one who projects and promotes them.

Now, I do not like it when people compliment me for my physical attributes because that only suggests that finally, I’m good enough for their eyes, I pass for their visual leisure and that’s why I’m on the receiving end of those compliments. I could have really used those back then, when I had been sulking in self-loathing, and for what? -something as petty as my weight.

I do not want to be beautiful, not anymore. Because the idea of ‘beautiful’ only promotes self-loathing amongst the ones who’re considered to be conventionally not good-looking enough. And I refuse to encourage that.

Low self-esteem amongst kids and/or adults, that’s never the thing that I’m going to sign up for.

I say, burn the concept of beautiful.

Let’s stop bringing in the usage of the term ‘perfect’, and for ourselves and everybody we know.

Why are we even taught that ‘nobody is perfect’? Oh, everybody I know, and have seen, sure seemed like it, to me.

“I am perfect. So are you.”– make this a habit, and a regular one.

Promote self love in the nicest ways, not the ‘fakest’ ways. Because that’s going to do good to no one.

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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.

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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.

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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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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
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