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‘Dear Mom, What Would You Say If I Got Divorced (Like My Friend Did)?’

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Sonam, please check the guest list once. Hope I have not missed any names out here!” Sonam’s mom said to her while putting the list on the table.

 “Mom, how will I read with wet mehendi on my hands,” Sonam said to her mom, laughing.

Oh yes! I am sorry, beta! You know how excited I am, with only a few days left for your wedding. I still can’t believe that my daughter, my world is getting married. Will miss you Sonam! Love you loads !” Sonam’s mom said, fighting through her tears.

Mom! please don’t get emotional now. I am here. You should be happy that I am getting married to the person who loves me like anything. Raj is an awesome guy. He will never bring tears in my eyes. So be happy now. I love you too, mumma!” Sonam said, hugging her mother.

Mom, please read out the names on the list. After all, I want all my friends to be here.

Sonam’s mom read out the names one by one.

Mom, where is Anamika’s name? Have not you invited her? I didn’t hear her name on the list.

Who’s Anamika?“, her mom asked, surprised.

Come on, Mom! Don’t you know Anamika? She is my close friend. She was always there for me, whenever I needed her the most. How come you forgot to invite her to my wedding?“, Sonam asked

I didn’t forget her,” Sonam’s mom replied instantly.

Then? Why is she not invited?,” Sonam persisted.

Don’t you know?

No! What?

She is a divorcee!

So?

I don’t want her to be around you.

But why ? She is a close friend of mine.

I don’t care. But she won’t be coming. She is a divorcee!

Mom! Are you kidding me! How is my wedding related to her divorce.

Sonam! There’s no point in arguing any further. She won’t be coming to the wedding, and that’s final.

I don’t want my daughter surrounded by a girl who has failed in her relationship with her husband.These people have a different mindset. They are non-adjusting people, who simply opt for divorce when they fail to fulfill their responsibilities. They are full of ego and pride. They don’t care about the consequences that both families have to face, after they are divorced. They are self-centred. Moreover, a divorcee brings bad luck. I don’t want you to be in contact with such a person,” was her mother’s final stand.

Enough Mom! I can’t believe you said all this. You have really hurt me. I didn’t expect this from you at all. How can you say this when you are a woman yourself?,” Sonam retorted.

To remove or not to remove: that is the question!

The girl you termed ‘self-centred’ was a sweet daughter, a loving, honest wife and an innocent sanskari (one who devoutly follows cultural traditions). She was also a caring daughter-in-law, who left her job for the sake of her in-laws.

The girl who, you said, is full of ‘ego and pride’, knew how to offer unconditional love and respect to her families.

The girl, who is ‘non-adjustable’ in your opinion, was putting down her self-respect for the sake of her husband’s family.

What do you expect a girl to do after being cheated by her husband – other than filing for a divorce? She had devoted four years of her life for the sake of her husband and in-laws. What did she get in return? Physical and mental torture!

Despite all this, she had wanted to carry on with her married life with her unfaithful husband for the sake of her family and society. However, the circumstances didn’t even allow her to continue. Only then did she break free from her cage and suffering!

I wonder if you would respond in the same manner, if I suffer a similar fate!

It’s very easy to comment on and judge the lives of others. Really, this is a very strange world! Here, the woman is the only sufferer in most cases. Almost nobody accuses the husband or asks him why he was unfaithful to his wife. On the other hand, the finger is always pointed towards the irresponsible, self-centred, egoistic woman!

The problem is that we judge people based on our own perceptions, without knowing at all what the person has actually experienced.

Do we question why the girl took this life-changing decision?

The fear of leading a lonely life afflicts almost all of us. That is why we desire a partner who is loyal to us.

A woman deserves a man who is loyal and affectionate to her, protects her, and takes care of her health, needs and desires. However, what happens when your chosen male partner turns out to unfaithful, un-protective and does not care for you at all?

In cases of divorce, almost no one questions the husband. Barely anyone wags their finger at his character, only because he is a man. Just because he is a man, it is ‘cool’ for him to be involved in an extra-marital affair. A divorced man can be invited almost everywhere.

Then, why are the odds stacked only against women?

Why do women bear the brunt of a divorce and its consequences, whereas their ex male partners roam scot-free?

When will society learn to pay the respect due to a divorced woman?

While a woman may not think of divorce from the outset, what option is she left with if ‘her man’ proves to be unfaithful?

Yes, she is a divorcee! I am proud of her and the fact that she is now single and not living with a cheating, characterless guy!

Yes, she is a divorcee! And I respect her for her decision to come out of the cage and express her own individuality!

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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.

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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