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My Parents Need To Learn To Let Me Go

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I was 6-years-old when my father felt it was time to remove the training wheels from my cycle and make it a big-people cycle. I don’t remember if I was scared or thrilled or both, to be making the transition. But I do remember that the process of learning to ride a bicycle made me experience both.

My father used to make me practise every evening. Even though he held the cycle’s seat from the back and kept reassuring me that I had his support, I kept crying, scared of balancing it on my own. Being a pampered child, my father scolding me and telling me that I wasn’t trying enough was doubly hurtful. He asked me to have faith in myself and take charge of the cycle. But I just wouldn’t. Him having my back was my comfort zone, and I was scared of what would happen if I stepped out of it.

After a few days of this, he resorted to the evergreen trick, “Slyly Letting Go Of The Seat While Reassuring Your Child That You Wouldn’t”. And before I realised what had happened, I was riding a bicycle! By myself! The initial euphoria was overtaken by a feeling of betrayal. He said he wouldn’t let go, but he did. I ignored the concept of breaks that my father had made me memorise and dwindled to stop the damn cycle.

Of course, later, I was glad he let go. I rode it under parental supervision for a few weeks, and a few years later, became embarrassed of the same supervision I once craved. I fell and hurt myself countless times. I got lost on roads that I used to navigate every day even more frequently. Still, worth it.

This isn’t a unique experience. I recall this almost 14 years later because it’s paradoxical to the life I lead now. I am asking my parents to let go of the seat, and they just wouldn’t. I know they fear that if they let go, I might never want to come back.

It’s 2017, and it’s still wrong of people to want to move out of their parents’ house unless their job, education or marriage demands it. I am a college student who wants to move out of the house and live independently. I want to live with people other than my family, even though I am terrible at adjusting with new people. I want to take care of what I eat, what I wear and how to make ends meet all by myself. I want to become responsible enough to study when my parents aren’t at home. I do not fully support myself financially yet, but given the array of content writing opportunities online, I know I am capable of it. College is the time you can take charge of your life and work towards being the person you want to be. To accomplish that, in my head, it’s essential for me to move out.

The problem is I live near my college. My parents are as wonderful and liberal as middle-class parents can get. Through the eyes of society, I have no excuse for making this demand. How dare I want to be independent? How dare I relieve my parents of the responsibility of bringing up an adult? What have they done to deserve this? Every time I bring this up, I am made to feel guilty.

I thought my parents oppose this because they worry that friends and relatives will assume that there’s something wrong with our house, which is why I want to move out. But after numerous fights with them about this, I know it’s not just that.  They fear that I’ll forget everything they’ve taught me, and they’ll never get to see me at all. Plus, they suspect that my motive isn’t just to be independent, it is also that I want to *whispers* have sex (which I most definitely do), and become a heroin addict (which I don’t).

I realise that it’s not all that glamorous. Living alone is difficult – emotionally, financially and logistically. What my parents don’t understand is that not letting me go, won’t stop me from doing things I want to do, things they don’t necessarily approve of. It will additionally delay the process of me being self-reliant. On the other hand, if I move out, I will learn to take care of myself. This doesn’t mean that I’ll stop needing them or stop wanting their support in my life. It’s just a thrilling and scary journey that I want to embark upon. I know they’ll miss me, as I’ll miss them. Maybe even more than how much I’ll miss them.

Sure, I’ll fall and hurt myself. But I’ll learn to pick myself up. I’ll lose my way countless times. But I’ll always navigate my way back home. More so, I’ll always want to navigate my way back home. For all of it to happen, they need to remove the training wheels and let go.

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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.

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.

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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
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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