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

My loyalty to that favorite Pair of old blue Jeans

To live in the society with a raw and unaffected outlook toward people and their behaviour would make you appear as an alien( this reminds me of the film pk ) to the torch beerers of stereotypes (the sum total of whom come to 90%), even I could be one of those supporting stereotypes in the ways apparently unknown to me .  The other day I found me telling a friend how the girl standing across us in the lobby was having a manly hair on arms. later went on to realise, what exactly a “manly” stuff is? As we know, We are all creatures with different amount of hormonal fluid secreting from our bio glands and it might result in different rate of hair growth to each next person,  I also would appear like one ” manly” being if had missed the last waxing appointment being that “girly” lazy at home with fashion mags and that’s so shitty on our behalf to put entire lady community to shame by coming out in public like that. Come on, ladies are those who grow no hair on body but so much on scalp and uff! That threaded upper lip curves into a fascinating smile , not really wanting men to get fascinated though , that’s not a lady stuff then.  We are so conscious of societal approval at every step of our being. Its the story of me as a 14 yo teenage girl with an “extra” broad mindedness , and very “rigid” in not letting other decide what’s right for me to do. My Masi, who had once claimed herself to be a pure feminist , having decided to make the fiance wait for marriage until she got to secure a government job herself, and had been a subject of critisim to relatives due to marrying at age 32, a “too late” phase……so its about me and this lady whom I had idealised since childhood being mesmerised with how feminine her tone of voice is and the womanly her hair style looks. I had reached her house prior 2 months to my board exam slightly with a bad health, to get my mind refreshed in the rejuvenating atmosphere over there in her location. By now, she had left her job and had become a full time homemaker and a doting mom to her 4 yo. As I stepped into the house and grabbed a sit by the corner to the table, my Masi had pointed out ” Rimpa, now you are growing up, you should understand how men perceive girls wearing such jeans or other trousers you are in.We are Indians. If society has set certain values for girls of your age to wear a salwar with these dupattas , its for a reason. You know in this skinny pair of jeans , how visible the shape of your thighs are to men? And how they will stare? If you are going to spend your vacation at my place, am not gonna allow you to be in these kind of clothes.” My response was on automation, the 14 yo me/rimpa exclaimed ” men too wear such trousers right? Being a girl I don’t stare…or as a lady , I guess , you too don’t . So the problem must be with people who stare , not the ones wearing it. And its not that I haven’t noticed street people to stare ,in my incredible India, the point is ,more disgusted I’m with the comment that has come from you as my Masi rather than how their pointless, not-so-important-to-discuss behaviour feels”. That is all I could think of as a 14 and to which my Masi told my Mom that I wasn’t taught how to speak to elders and didn’t have a good upbringing . To both of their surprise I retaliated ,” My Mom being elder to your age , you did not bother to teach your didi about how she should have raised me up , so I wonder how exactly you think you are preaching what you practice ?” Lol, as a result mom had brought me back home next day morning with a storm of scolding have taken place. Now , when am 22yo and an established hotelier , my Masi takes pride to tell everyone how much contribution she did have in my upbringing , and keeps calling me to visit her , since now I haven’t been able to overcome that insult to my mumma and many more complications that followed and thus might do some mental healing first and visit her on my next vacation if only allowed to be in what I always wear, a simple pair of jeans, my favorite.

P.S.  This 22 yo now sees it clear that the people change, their minds change with time, we must not give up on our rights and suffer for a mental phase with a related momentary reaction that the other person’s having. Am still learning to recognise those momentary phases from the “14yo rebel me” and I guess we all may from that inner little girl/boy. 

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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 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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