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Male Feminism: Yes, That’s A Thing!

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It is odd when your title contains what is perceived as an oxymoron. ‘Male feminism’. These two words are rarely used together in a sentence; unless the sentence includes the phrase, ‘feminism is against males’. But in the prevailing conditions and in the want of a better tomorrow, I feel ‘male feminism’ is the need of the hour. If we list down the hindrances that India is facing in its march towards progress, we should find patriarchy right up there. It is often ignored or brushed under the carpet, or more eerily imposed upon us.

I have had the privilege of becoming friends, dating, and finally marrying an active feminist. She has been instrumental in shaping my thoughts, beliefs and general attitude towards gender and sexuality. I am realising that in addition to women, even young men are collateral damage of patriarchy. To put this in perspective, a college guy would love to date or be associated with a ‘modern’ girl who parties, drinks, is good looking (obviously), so that he gains the validation from his friends. But as soon as it comes down to marriage, the search is on for a homely, non-drinking, non-working girl (yet for some, a strange fetish exists that she should be well educated), so that the approval is gained from parents as well as the ever prying relatives.

Maybe on some levels, this is the reason why men feel trapped in a marriage. Instead of finding a friend for life, we tend to find a perfect addition to our families. A perfect partner was needed but we end up finding the perfect ‘daughter in law’. Make no mistake that my rant is against arranged marriage. My rant is against patriarchy and the ripple effect it has caused in our society. While patriarchy is seen as skewed in favour of men, I for one have some problems:

1. I have a problem with being the boss of the house.
2. I have a problem with being the better driver.
3. I have a problem with being supposed to know electrical and engineering work.
4. I have a problem with knowing the directions to any place.
5. I have a problem with assuming that I earn more.
6. I have a problem with being the sole provider of my family.
7. I have a problem with the waiter always handing me the cheque.
8. I have a problem with cab drivers always assuming I am the one paying.
9. I have a problem with patriarchy.

My partner earns more than me and I proudly claim it. I borrow money from her with as much ease as asking her to cook a meal for me.

We believe our friends are Batman and Bruce Wayne. One has to make way for the other; one of them needs to lose their identity for the other to rise (pun intended). We forget that partners can coexist together if we can let go of our intrinsic patriarchal notions.

Asking for directions or opinion of the ‘fairer sex’ does not make you less of a man; in fact, it makes you more of a human. It’s high time we change our mentalities. ‘Swachh Bharat’ shouldn’t only be for roads. It should be for removing the cobwebs of such archaic thinking. We can have umpteen laws yet they will have the use that a comb has for a bald man if we don’t change the way we think.

To the point of being very blunt, I feel that no, women and men are not equal right now. Women have been getting a raw deal for ages. We have definitely started talking about it, but that is just about what we have done. No tangible change is being seen in our behaviour towards women. We are witnessing brutal gang rapes, harassment at workplaces, molestations.

No woman is spared from judgements, name calling, shaming, because we have been taught that it is perfectly fine to do so and because we have seen that we can get away with it. Just the fact that we needed a law to be told that women should not be exploited at workplaces speaks volumes of the deep-rooted patriarchy in the mindsets of the so-called white collared society.

We are a very tech savvy generation, yet our notions are still stuck at MS-DOS level. We need a software upgrade, which makes us humans again. Curing the identity of a woman is like trapping a bird in a cage. You may stop her from soaring but we can’t make her forget flying. Also, ‘allowing’ her to fly is not your duty or obligation. She was born to fly and she will do just that with or without you.

Though the destination seems far and the journey arduous, it needs to be done at the earliest. Taking small steps like asking women for help, avoiding usage of any abuses, respecting them (not in temples only), will help speed up the process a great deal. We know these are tough times when what is idealistic is not realistic and what is realistic is not idealistic. We need to do this not to create a better tomorrow, but an awesome today.

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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.

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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