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This Mother’s Day, Let’s Not Forget The ‘Mothers You Despise’

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I’d been to a marriage lately. It had all the pomp and show that Indian marriages have. Thinking of dowry? Yeah, it was given. I have no proof of it, but I heard people saying that the groom (who’s an engineer) got more than ₹20 lakh in cash and a car, apart from the beautiful bride.

After returning, I swore to myself that I would never ever attend a wedding, where I am made to feel like an object worthy of a make-up kit and a fancy wedding sari, only. However, let’s forget this otherwise acrimonious affair. I want to talk about women, here.

Mother’s Day is upon us and right now, we are probably taking a look at our mothers and trying to express our regards in ways we deem to be proper. Perhaps, we are all flaunting our Mother’s Day selfies and writing letters to our moms on Facebook and Twitter, speaking of a mother’s pure love.

However, before continuing to do so, I would ask you all to stop for a moment, and think of all those mothers you despise, for no good reason. Yes, you do it – knowingly or unknowingly.

There are many ‘fatal laws’ of the society that people are still following. During the performance of some marriage rites, I came to know of a woman (whom I hadn’t met) who was a young widow with a child, besides being a close relative of the family. However, she hadn’t been invited because they thought her presence would be a baleful one, during such an occasion. I thought that they might have visualised her as some witch, who carried darkness wherever she went.

Then, I remembered another wedding which I attended when I was in class 11. It was my mamaji’s (uncle’s) wedding. In that wedding too, there was a widowed woman. I remember that when the baraat (wedding procession) left the house, and only the women were left at home, they thought of singing folk songs and dancing till they were all exhausted.

Then, I saw a woman lying on a mat on the floor in a room which was dimly lit. I went to call her to be a part of the celebrations that were going on. She said that she was unwell. I was disappointed. I told her to take rest and went back to join the jovial crowd.

Someone of my age asked what I was talking about with the woman in the room. I said that I had gone to call her. Only then was I enlightened about what was really happening. She said that the woman didn’t come, simply because she couldn’t. When I asked her the reason for this, she said that the woman being a widow was the problem here. I never saw that woman taking part in any of the rites during the entire marriage ceremony. In fact, I wondered why she had even been invited.

This time, however, during the recent wedding, I was somewhat happy and relieved that the woman they were talking about wasn’t there to face such a menacing insult. The people I was talking to, there, told me that the woman felt sad for not being invited. On the other hand, even if she had been invited, she still would have had to deal with cruel traditions.

It pains to think that you all abandon your women so gruesomely. I mean, some of your women are setting foot on the moon, while some aren’t even allowed to see the moon! Moreover, others are happy at this, for the moon might get ‘offended’ seeing those ‘ominous faces’.

How do you all celebrate Women’s Day and Mother’s Day, then? Is it only about ‘your’ woman or ‘your’ mother? Shouldn’t this celebration include ‘us’ all? I’m not here to judge anybody, neither am I trying to give some gyaan (knowledge) – but I believe that a celebration for and about women is complete only when you don’t discriminate between ‘us’.

Here, I shared one of the incidents that broke my heart. You know your families and your societies better than I do. Think of every such woman who does matter and speak about her. Just don’t get stuck in the labyrinth – get out of it and love all!

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Image used for representative purposes only.

Image Source : Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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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)’.

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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.

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
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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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