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How I Did Not Give Up My Personal Space After Marriage

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As I approach four years of my married life, I get goosebumps recalling the roller coaster ride it has been. These years have been everything. Happy, sad, ecstatic and horrific. The tagline ‘and they lived happily ever after’ at times doesn’t come guaranteed to all. Some are fortunate to get an understanding of family and spouse, while others have to labour hard to make things work. All these years have shown me that there is no shortcut to blissful marriages. It becomes such with time. It is often perceived that a marriage based on choice is smooth, but here too the challenges are no less.

Having grown up watching Bollywood romances, I too got married with the assumption of a happy go lucky bride. I dreamt of a perfect situation where everything would be great. Little did I realise that life is not black and white, but uncountable shades of grey.

Today, when I reflect back, I can easily see many mistakes we both did. Unknowingly, together and individually. The biggest of them was to expect things. We both had built up many expectations based on the socially perceived roles within marriage, which we both failed to live up to. I am glad that we failed miserably in what we were not made out to be. I am glad that we both managed to keep our choices and identity intact and not become someone else just for the sake of being accepted.

I have heard many people complain about adjustments, while they still keep doing it. I have never compromised with my choices or routine. I have my friends, my job and space, and so does my spouse. We do not encroach upon each others’ space and nor do we do things just to be politically correct. I rarely hang out with my husband’s friends and don’t expect him to do the same with my friends or relatives. I find it extremely suffocating to force your friends into the life of your spouse. I have till date not understood how and why women leave their friend circle after marriage and become best friends with their partner’s friends. Women should never leave hanging out with their friends. It is a common thing in India. Men on the contrary, never break ties with their friends, which is indeed a healthy way forward for a marriage. It is as important to have family time, as it is to have time for friends and others. For me, it is extremely difficult to make relationships just for the sake of it. I would only call his parents ‘mom’, ‘dad’, or call his friends ‘mine’, only when the relationship develops over the course of time. I totally disagree with this “Hum Saath-Saath Hain” (A totally shitty movie on the Indian family by Sooraj Barjatya) concept of your brother is my brother and your sister is my sister.

To all those men and women who complain that their partners don’t understand them, have you reflected on whether you have communicated effectively? Since every person has a differential capacity to decipher, your message should be clear. I have also observed that many times men fail in understanding the issues but this should not stop you from saying what you feel. As a thumb rule, never settle for what you don’t believe in, whatever it might take. Men in India are usually not socially equipped or nurtured to be considerate and compassionate, which is why the task may seem difficult. Mostly born in traditional families, they will fail to reinvent themselves but it’s never too late to make them realise that the times are changing.

There are women who enjoy being at home. They like cooking and cleaning. I am the type who hates going into the kitchen. I often got to hear comparisons of how our mothers, sisters and aunts have done their family duties. But I always made it a point to stick to what I was. We have always distributed the work equally. Make clear your priorities and limits. There is a huge difference submitting to what you don’t believe and caring for your family. Any relationship which makes me lose myself is not my piece of cake. Be what you are and be unapologetic about it. Easier said than done, but never try to be in the good books of people at the cost of your beliefs. People might not like it initially, but trust me, it pays off well. You will be respected for your honesty.

I have seen many wives becoming like mothers to their husbands. If it does happen to you, stop to ponder if he has ever tried to spoil you as a father. Never indulge too much into the other person. Every relation requires some space. At the same time, little gestures for each other can do miracles. A friend of mine and his wife who were having a tough time in their relationship were advised by their counsellor to make a to-do list of expectations they had from each other. This included small things like talking for half an hour every day. Even if they were travelling or were at home, small gestures like distributing household chores, saying good morning with flowers, etc., really worked wonders for them.

The old age proverb says that money is the root cause of all problems. I agree that it brings happiness in many ways but at the same time, if there is disagreement over finance, it can be fatal. Having learnt this lesson early in life, I have always particular about sharing expenses equally. Whether it be by buying necessities or travel and partying.

Sometimes, I feel disagreeing is difficult. Wouldn’t it have been easier to be and do what everyone expected out of me? I could have easily avoided conflicts and won many hearts. But it would have killed me from within. I wonder why I end up choosing challenges. Something in me always tells me to do my bit, to make life easier for the next generation of girls, to hammer the glass ceiling again and again, so that one day, it breaks on its own!

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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