This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Anupama Dalmia. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Marriage Isn’t An Inevitable Part Of Life

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And one day she will marry and leave to build her own nest…”

Sorry for interrupting but how do you know she will marry? There is a probability that she may not want to. ”

Huh! Of course, she will. Everyone does. She can’t be living alone all her life.”

Hmm. Well, there are examples of people who have chosen to stay single all their life. So what’s the problem if she makes such a choice too? Who decides that everyone should marry?”

Those people must be feeling very lonely. Everyone needs a partner in their life for company and love.”

We are no one to decide for everyone. Happiness and love mean different things to different people. No two people can have same expectations from life in all aspects. And in any case, she is just a toddler now, so why are we even discussing this? ”

But don’t you think she would need a man in her life to protect her, make her feel loved and cared for?”

Absolutely not! Firstly, I don’t want to teach her that she needs to depend on someone to feel protected. Rather, I want her to be self-sufficient and be able to take care of and protect herself. Also, again you are assuming she will need a man. What if she turns out to be gay? She might not need a man you see, in that case.”

What are you saying? How can you even think like that about your daughter? So disgusting!”

You are reacting as if I cursed my daughter for something. What is disgusting about being gay? You are being a hypocrite because just the other day you were posting on Facebook about supporting gay rights but you clearly don’t!”

That was it – she stomped out of the room in anger even before I could complete what I wanted to say and I was finally relieved that this hairbrained and frivolous conversation came to an end. As is already obvious, this was a discussion I was forced to have with a nagging aunt during a gathering while I was in a room feeding my toddler. Since her birth I have been hearing about direct and indirect references to her future marriage. Yes, you heard it right – people are already thinking that far! It is appalling that even in today’s age, many people still tend to think that marriage is the ultimate destination of this journey of life and without it, life isn’t complete. Be it in the case of a man or a woman. As we know, it doesn’t end here and then we have to have kids to feel more ‘complete’. I personally do believe in the institution of marriage and that’s the reason I got hitched. I married because I wanted to legally wed the man I love and not to follow the so-called rule book of society. But, marriage, for me, is far from being the be all and end all of life. And just because I believe in it, I cannot presume that my daughter will too.

I want to talk to my daughter about living every moment of life and enjoying it to the fullest. I want to talk to her about being sensitive to others’ feelings and caring about them. I want to talk to her about being open and honest in every relationship, and not pile on baggage. I want to talk to her about respecting everyone including her own self. I want to talk to her about self-acceptance and to focus on continuing to evolve as a person. I want to talk to her about being a responsible citizen of the country. I want to talk to her about pursuing her passions and exploring the world. I want to talk to her about being strong and independent. In all this, do I want to talk to her about marriage? Yes, of course. But only from a neutral, unbiased perspective without painting a rosy and dreamy picture – no prince charming, no larger than life expectations but what it truly means to live with a person under the same roof. I will trust her to decide for herself whether in life she wants to take the plunge or not. If not marrying really means loneliness. It’ll be her choice. She would be adult enough then to understand both sides of the coin and I will let her follow her instincts.

The reason I chose to write about this topic is that I do not want people to talk about marriage as a given when it comes to my child. The moment we start saying ‘when you marry’ instead of ‘if you marry’, we are compelling our kids to infer that marriage is an inevitable part of life that has to happen someday, which is not true. As they grow, some might question us about such traditions and apply their own mind to take decisions. But unfortunately, some might just grow up to presuppose that they have to marry, like it has been the case with many in our generation. Statistics clearly indicate that in India, there is a significant percentage of married folks who acquired marital status only because everyone said it was the right thing to do or because their peers were getting married. No prizes for guessing how detrimental this can be at times to the growth of a relationship.

On many occasions, I have read forwarded posts floating around on social media that say things like, “Raise your son well because you are raising someone’s future husband and father.” While I appreciate the intent of such posts, I strongly disagree with the message being conveyed. Why can’t we simply say, “Raise your kids well because we ought to raise good humans.”? I don’t care whether my daughter gets married or remains single, whether she wants to bear a child or adopt or not rear any at all, as long as she values the relationships in her life and understands commitment. Whether her choices in this matter will be tough for me to accept is something I cannot predict, but that is my problem and I will not let it affect her decision in any way.

This post was originally published here. Republished on YKA by the author.

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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.

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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.

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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