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

Make Your Daughters BOLD!!!

I am a mother of a toddler and still my mum has nightmares that someone has kidnapped me. And this has been one of her most consistent dreams since my childhood.

As a kid, I have always been a very bold one. And that was one of the major reasons why my mum was always scared.

I was rather a very tough girl. I couldn’t tolerate anyone passing a lued comment on me or my friends and at times even a stranger. Once I was off to Kolkata for graduation, my mother’s insecurities increased and so did the frequency of her nightmares. Being a girl from a small town, going to a metropolitan for higher studies, staying in a hostel, managing all the things on my own, was not that tough for me. But, thinking about the fact that I will be doing so all by myself, with no one by my side was really tough for my mum. And I don’t blame her for that. I would do almost the same for my son.

But, one thing that I learned is that, if you don’t fight for yourself, no one will. The list of spectators would be endless, but no one will be there to lend you a helping hand. In case you find one, consider yourself lucky.

Any woman who has travelled in a Kolkata bus, knows what I am about to discuss right now. Take my word, every single bus has one thing common, a bus full of silent people. Yes,almost of them, be it men or woman. If its your lucky day then you may just find a decent person(which is rare) who knows how to speak up and fight for the honour of a woman. Every single passenger on a bus is aware of, why a girl/lady is shouting at the top of her voice at a man, who even after non stop warning, somehow manages to inappropriately touch her, and still no one comes to her rescue. Just like me, there must be infinite number of girls who must have faced this.

Before travelling in Kolkata buses, the only bus I used to board was my school bus. A safe secure bus. But Kolkata, changed my perspective, as well as me. The city made me bold. It took sometime to understand what was going on, and once I understood, there was no looking behind. Being very observant, within a weeks commute, I understood that no one in the bus would help me. People of all age boarded these buses, people from decent houses, working in decent offices would sit there throughout the journey, but I hardly saw anyone raising their voice. But, that shouldn’t stop me from raising mine, I thought. And all I did from that time onwards was to turn around and slap anyone misbehaving with me or anyone around me.

Yes, slap him. And I have done it countless times. This scared my mum like crazy. She literally expected that someone will throw acid at me or harm me otherwise. But the fear of someone harming me some day, compared to the resentment of getting abused by some stranger almost everytime I travel in a crowded bus, gave me the courage to fight for myself. Worst part was, there were times when after slapping a person, many spectators on the bus would actually accuse me of being indecent. For all of them, I had one answer, which actually did shut their mouths forever. It was “I guess, you treat the women in your family likewise. That must be the reason for supporting a man like this.” At times, the bus conductor would come to the rescue, but rarely a passenger. For the daily passengers, it was more like a routine job to view and tolerate the indecency towards women. Few good ones, at times offered their seats to the girls, but I have rarely witnessed a case where a passenger would fight for the right. At that time I was in college, 1st year graduation. Very young, but I knew that it was my war and I will have to fight it alone.

And, I never gave up slapping indecent men. Why should I? I have not given any damn person the permission to touch me indecently, then how dare they? If you allow once, it will be forever. So stop it at the very 1st time. If you muster the courage to stop any indecency done towards yourself, the very first time it happens, take my word, it will never happen to you again. Even if it happens, you know very well how to deal with it. But, before doing anything analyse the vicinity once. Make sure you are in a safe locality, or a busy place. Finding a helping hand may be very tough, but these psychopaths don’t have the courage to come up front in the crowd to accomplish the misdeeds, they love to hide behind the crowd like a coward. Once confronted, will hesitate doing it again. If confronted multiple times, then will never dare to do a thing.

Now a days, the crimes against the female gender have peaked. At times I feel that our society is raising criminals. But those criminals are actually coming out of a mother’s womb. No mother would want her son to be like this, but yet they are. And this situation will forever be there. No matter what you do, how well you raise your kids, there will be someone or the other, who will disregard the virtue of a woman. So the best thing you can do, is make your daughters bold, make them fighters, not victim. Even if no one stands for you, stand for yourself, no power in the world can prevent you from standing up for yourself, your honour.

We belong to a society where a rape victim is condemned and a rapist is given a trump card to roam around free. In a way we all are responsible for it. We have stopped raising our voice, we have stopped seeing the truth, or may be we have lost our voice because we never spoke. 15 years back it was me, tomorrow it might be you, in 5 years, it might be your daughter, then what?? Make yourself bold, your daughters will imbibe it automatically.

I have a son. And believe me, all I want from him, is to become a good person more than an engineer or a doctor or an investment banker. Profession doesn’t make a person great, the virtues do. All I want, is to raise a virtuous human. Fingers crossed!!!

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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.

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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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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.

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