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How I Found Out That Workplace Sexual Harassment Has A Terrible Emotional Impact

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Before I dive into my story I would like to ask all the readers about Batukeshwar Dutt.

How many of us remember him?

He was an Indian revolutionary, best known for exploding a few bombs along with the great freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. Unlike Bhagat Singh who was hanged, Batukeshwar was given a life imprisonment even though he begged for death too. Therefore, Batukeshwar got to see a free India and its reality which really disturbed and saddened him.

Well, I can feel the pain today very deeply and I cannot tell you how painful every moment is to see that even after 71 years of freedom we don’t get to enjoy this freedom at our workplace and employees are ill-treated, humiliated and tortured by some of the most savage men whom we call our seniors, our superiors and even sometimes our leaders.

Fighting a battle every day at the workplace is not just burdensome but also painful as ’emotional harassment’ is not limited to just an employee, but it pierces into every family member associated with that employee, especially their spouse and the children.

And the irony is that this piercing cuts you deep, yet it leaves no physical marks and blood is not seen oozing out. This harassment tortures you mentally and ruins you emotionally. It cannot be measured in a standardised way, so an employee and his family have to go through a very hard time.

Well, for most of the employees working in India, ’emotional harassment’ could be an extraterrestrial term in the professional arena.

It’s not that the Indian employees have never come across something like emotional harassment, abuse or torture. It is only because we are all so used to this phenomenon of letting ourselves be mistreated at the hands of senior management, that we never think of shielding ourselves from this ill-treatment. The similarity of this with our pre-independence era behaviour is startling.

I am talking about it because I cannot stand anyone who stands for it. One such heartless case shook me from within and made me question the dignity of an employee at the workplace in India. After so many years of Independence, an incident like this was happening in one of the well-known boarding school of India.

So, I raised my voice and I tried to bring this issue up. The first thing that happened was that they shut me down.

I thought when I will raise my voice against the issue and write about it to the management, they will seriously probe into it. But rather than understanding and discussing the problem, they not only simply denied it, but also went a step ahead and sent a warning letter, using unprofessional and threatening language.

For the first time in my writing journey, I realised how scared they were of the power of the ink and I was indeed proud of myself to see them getting scared. It will certainly encourage any good believer, to write more and even better, to leave a strapping impression and call for change.

One thing that strikes my mind is the attitude of superiors, trying to build the future of this nation because they are the people who are heading a big school in India. It also makes me worry about the future of our children, who are getting educated by these selfish and valueless mentors.

Many schools are fighting hard to stop the teen bullying. However, in this school teen bullying is not the only problem. Adult managers bully others is also openly rampant. Groups boycott an honest employee, publicly humiliate them, isolate and abuse them. These activities are quite common and this has been happening because the managers are allowed to do so by the superiors.

And this is where I realised that this area of ’emotional harassment’ which is very subtle to define needs a strong platform, from where an honest employee can stand, fight and raise his voice.

Dear readers, we need to realise that harassment can happen regardless of the gender in question. There are cases where men harass other men and women harass other women. While we definitely need more stringent laws against sexual harassment, we should not turn a blind eye to this type of harassment either.

When we understand the term ‘harassment at workplace’ and define it, we solve half the problem. And this is why I am trying to write so much about it.

We need clear rules and guidelines at our workplace that defines and gives no one a right to

  • Publicly humiliate any employee
  • Abuse
  • Emotionally torture
  • Gives impossible deadlines to complete the work
  • Isolate from the work
  • Making biased committees, without any verbal or written warning

As employees, we shall be aware of our rights and enjoy our freedom even at the workplace. When we decide to work for any organisation/institute we allow ourselves to grow, learn and improve but not be used, abused or tortured.

Talking in statistical code, in India around 90% of employees are emotionally abused and publicly humiliated but these employees do not talk about it. The number one reason why they never report it because they are confident that they will never get support from their co-workers, peers or superiors – because everyone wants to save their own job.

I see that coyness and being submissive is the biggest weakness that has led to emotional harassment taking deep roots in the Indian work environment. We don’t work as team, we don’t see communication as a powerful tool to solve problems, even though we pour in a lot of money and time in soft skills training. we don’t really work the way 21

We don’t really work the way 21st-century workforce is designed to be, we behave just the way our selfish emperors, rulers and kings did when the British invaded us.

Even today we are thinking of our own benefit, we are never together, we never raise our voice when it needs to be raised and later we have so many comments. I see nothing has changed we are still being ruled by some of the superiors who carry some false haughtiness of departed British officers.

This selfish attitude is indeed very dangerous at any workplace. And if this attitude creeps into the institutional area, it will bring in doom as educated minds with no values are no less than devils.

No employee deserves to be treated as worthless and the biggest weapon in this fight is strength, courage and voice.

So, be a true professional, stand up and fight against this harassment and enjoy your freedom even at the workplace because being alive, free and awake as a free citizen of India will hold no good until and unless we are free even at our workplaces.

Remember, you might be the only one at this moment, but we all know the power of one if you raise your voice with full vigor and strength, you will be no less than a powerful explosion, much like what Bhagat Singh rightly said, “If the deaf are to hear, you need to make a big sound.”

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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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