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This IAS Officer Got A Resignation Letter, But Was Shocked To Know Who It Came From

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Editor’s Note: Patriarchy works in many ways, cutting across class, caste, and religious borders, and is often invisible. And it is especially important that we find and call out incidents of patriarchal oppression in conflict zones like Kashmir, where they are even more likely to go unnoticed. While Kashmir’s long fight for self-determination has gained renewed prominence in recent years, what is far less talked about is the patriarchal stifling of women that no doubt still occurs in the state, as in all other places, and is also facilitated by the unrest there.

Shah Faesal, the Kashmiri IAS officer and Director of School Education who was prominently featured  by the Indian media in July in an attempt to shame militants like Burhan Wani (a comparison he emphatically denounced), has written the following Facebook post which illustrates just one such aspect of patriarchy, and how men seek to control women because of their own insecurities. The post, which has received over 600 shares and over 400 comments, could be the start of a very important conversation.

[su_box title=” ” box_color=”#c6cec9″ radius=”0″]Resignation from life.
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The resignation letter had reached me by post, in a neat yellow envelop tagged personal, and addressed to me by name. It was typed in English. The Lady official had not given any specific reasons but just remarked that she didn’t want to continue in government service anymore. In an age of job crunch someone quitting a government job came as a big surprise to me.
So as we do with all dak, I marked it to my next officer who marked it to next and as expected the letter went six levels down the bureaucratic value chain, to follow the same return path one day if it was so destined.
A few months passed and one day I received the file back, matter duly scrutinised, notes firmly numbered and correspondences indexed. But at the very moment while I was running through the pages, a lady crashed into my chamber pushing the door keeper aside and lunged straight towards me. I was frightened. She was yelling loudly and like a hawk she dived straight onto my table, gave a quick look at the file, and snatched it from my hand. I resisted but not to mess with a woman, I let go.
She snatched the file, tore it’s pages and trampled upon it while I kept calling my assistants in. Then she sat on the floor and started crying over the shreds of paper.
I asked her to stop crying as I was unable to understand whatever she was saying, her sobs mixed with her speech. We got some water for her. I was angry and annoyed that she destroyed an official document but such was the swiftness with which it all happened that I couldn’t do much. So we let her cool down and then she said.
“I have not filed this resignation. The letter was sent by my husband in my name without telling me. He is not having a job and he doesn’t want me to have one. I want to work and earn for my children”.
It shattered all of us. Most of us were men around and our heads dropped with shame. We knew that somewhere all men have this insecurity that they do not want their wives to outgrow and outshine them. But here was a great lesson to learn. The lady had been lucky. She got to know about it at the right moment.
Then we talked about our schools where these days girls are outperforming boys in every field. Girls schools are far more disciplined, clean, better managed than boys schools. You visit a juvenile home you will see boys only, you visit a drug rehab most of the inmates will be boys. You visit a jail, young boys are in charge. You see the mobs who are creating indiscipline on streets, it is the boys. You think of someone who is throwing stones at street-lights or spitting at the bridge-railings, it will be a boy and more often a boy with a rather awkward haircut. Boys are completely distracted. I’m talking about Kashmir but it applies to other places also.
I wonder how many fake resignation letters our future husbands will have to write on behalf of their wives, if things go on like this around us. We need to do something about it.
PS: She had been informed by my office staff about the resignation letter in her name.
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  1. Piyush Digambar

    Really great article.

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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.

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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.

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 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.”

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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.

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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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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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