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How Women Are Conditioned By Patriarchy To Be Sexist

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In our conversations, experiences, in newspapers, on TV screens, and everywhere around us, we encounter sexism. Men, in most cases, are the perpetrators of such violations, with women being on the receiving end. Women, despite being almost half of the world’s population, still feel unequal, discriminated against and neglected. This is not a story of a single isolated remote corner of the world. This is the story of women everywhere, every day, cutting across every stratum of society.

Recently, a French friend, who came to visit India, confessed that she had to lie about office work to be allowed to travel with her friends. So, if you think the situation is very optimistic in the West, this is a myth has been shattered after someone like Donald Trump became the President of the USA.

Manifestation Of Sexism

Sexism or gender discrimination can affect any gender, but here we are talking about prejudice against girls and women. Establishing one gender above the other, and consequent violent repercussions have become so universal, that some women tend to normalise it. The structured gendered roles have become an unspoken rule of law, which have sustained and institutionalised this discrimination.

The institutionalisation of gender roles is validated by socio-political institutions governed by men and further endorsed by the media. Under the influence of patriarchy, some women are unable to realise their own potential. Some women see men as superior and beyond criticism. Generation after generation, women carry forward the guilt of being unworthy and justify the oppression by self-criticism and denial. Despite constituting almost half of the world’s population, sexism and misogyny against women have been sustained successfully for thousands of years. It is beyond doubt that men are the perpetrators of patriarchy. But it is also true that this setup has also been nourished and perpetuated by some women.

The Collective Burden: How Some Women Pull Other Women Down

While talking about layoffs in my office, I remarked, “Who knows, I may be the next one to leave.” A female colleague of mine was quick to respond, “You are too beautiful to be removed from this office.” Feeling hurt, I corrected her and said, “I have been hired based on my qualification and my experience and my job profile doesn’t include selling my body and face.” How often in our conversations, we knowingly or unknowingly pull each other down. Even some women look forward to body shaming their colleagues, mocking their dressing sense, speculating on other women’s married life. Slowly and steadily, they shape our thoughts, beliefs and get ingrained in our minds, dissolve in our blood, leaving a lasting effect that is difficult to erase.

We have unknowingly used humiliation, approval, admiration, inclusion, etc. to sustain sexism. Over time sexism is internalised. Running towards an unrealistic image, women compete for the male gaze and aspire to fit into an artificial mode. It often leads to mental stress, loss of time, money, energy and a lower self-esteem.

Many women have internalised a patriarchal ecosystem that survives on being under confident, soft spoken, unopinionated, domesticated and believe that they need to be protected. In case you think that it holds true only for poor and illiterate women, it is not true. This is also very relevant for many women who endorse sexism in hideous ways. Haven’t you encountered many working women, who flaunt their earnings, but do not mind fasting for their men’s long life or changing their names after marriage, or are dictated by the men of the house?

Relevance Of Team Work

Women have been mocked, harassed and victimised in every possible way you can ever imagine. We all know and share that apathy together. Some women are quick to ridicule other women’s pain, but since karma is a bitch, you will sooner or later be confronted with a similar situation.

The moral of the story is that we suffer. So if we do, why don’t we seek a collective solution for it. Gossiping and spreading rumours about fellow women should be a big ‘no’. After all, we are all on the same team, and when has a team won when the teammates are divided. Appreciate and be inspired by successful women. Our gender should bind us together to foster an alliance.

I still clearly remember how my cousin had accused me of trying to steal her husband, just on the pretext that he was dropping me back to my place because it was a little late at night. That too on his insistence. I never asked to be dropped. Such stereotypical opinion about other women is indeed the worst form of betrayal. So, next time you join someone in calling a woman names like ‘whore’, ‘slut’, ‘bitch’, ‘whack’, pause a little and think.

Developing solidarity requires an acknowledgement of the damage caused by practices of internalised sexism. It is said that unless you become conscious of yourself, the outside evils can’t be won over. Compassion and commitment to collaboration can only liberate women and empower them. Love and be loved, because when we work together we are a force to be reckoned with.


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

Bidisha was selected in’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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