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Chucking The ‘Sharmaji Ka Beta’ Syndrome And 9 Other Rules Parents Must Follow

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November 14 is celebrated as Children’s Day in India. I wanted to be a parent so I adopted 3 kids. One barks and the other two meow. Jokes apart, I always wished to be a parent to a human baby. My ex-boyfriend and I also planned the name of our child (as many over-enthusiastic, Bollywood influenced, heterosexual couples do). However, we broke up and we moved on in life and ended up parking this dream in the past and thereby dreaming new dreams.

There is an argument that gay people can’t be good parents. But the fact is that gay parents make as good as parents as straight parents do. I am not saying so because I am gay, this is basis hardcore research done by the American Psychological Association and others. In making a case for LGBTIQ parenting, they have argued, “There Is No Scientific Basis for Concluding That Same-Sex Couples Are Any Less Fit or Capable Parents Than Heterosexual Couples, or That Their Children Are Any Less Psychologically Healthy and Well Adjusted” (read the same here). It is not my place to argue how people need to bring up their children. I can only argue that children should be brought up in non-violent and non-abusive conditions. However, today is a good day to share a part of my diary on the way I believed my child would have a close to ideal upbringing so that I don’t impose the restrictions of a gendered, cultured upbringing I didn’t want.

1. Let’s Not Dismiss Their Talk As Child’s Talk

There is merit in speaking from a space of innocence. They see things raw and are able to share things in ways unadulterated by lust and greed. They will be able to visualise things in a better way. There is sometimes merit in learning from a child than learning from an adult.

2. When Children Play, Let Them Play

Education doesn’t mean only studies. There are several skills that children could learn while they are still growing up. What if one has some unique talents that could make them the next Sanjeev Kapoor or dance moves that could make them the next Madhuri Dixit? Madhuri is a science graduate, education does help, however, her degree didn’t stop her from exploring her art. And her parents never stood in her way of her decisions to pursue art. And anyway, even if they don’t become as big as the names above, they need to be happy for themselves, in their eyes. Expose them to all, let them choose.

3. Let’s Abstain From Loading The Kids With Our Dreams, Aspirations And Expectations

We need to ensure that once the umbilical cord is cut, they are a separate entity. We can guide them, we can guard them, we should, however, work at ensuring that they don’t become a reflection of our thoughts. They are their own being. They will carve their own path. If you want someone to obey your commands, get a robot.

4. Let’s Get Rid Of The “Sharma Ji Ka Beta” Syndrome

My parents did it, chances are that I do it with my kids too. It is a genetic disease in many ways. We can never stop ourselves from comparing our kids to other kids. Let’s stop that right now. Our kids need no benchmarking with other kids. And neither do other kids deserve the jealousy that we breed.

5. Celebrate Effort As Much As We Celebrate Excellence

It is okay to come first, it is okay to not come first too, and it is okay to come last. It is just okay to have given it a shot and failed. It is okay if all children don’t excel. It is okay if they are second best or they enter the race as mediocre and remain mediocre. They need to be where their heart is. And the fact that they are happy in a field of their choice is what is important.

6. Gender Appropriation By Them Not You

Gender is a social construct, give your child the freedom to build it. They need to be exposed to all genders. However, I will abstain from telling them that they are boys and should wear pants or that they are girls and should wear skirts. I will expose them to stories of people of all genders and tell them that it is okay if there is no congruence between their gender assigned at birth and the gender that they feel they are. No ‘boys play with cars and girls play with dolls’. But if my boy wants to play with cars, he will.

7. Speak To Them. Don’t Beat Them

Children are not our property. They could be the legal heir to our property. You can’t beat them into believing anything. Also legally it is a crime if you beat your own child also. Stop it. Just because our parents beat us up, doesn’t mean we need to pass that on to the next generation. There is a thin line that divides disciplining and abuse, lifting your hand on a child is abuse and so is traumatising them emotionally. Be patient in explaining. They may take time to understand, you have to be patient. I have an option for those who cannot be patient – Don’t have a child.

8. Educate Your Child About Their Body Parts

Sex abuse is not something that we just read in the newspapers, it is something that happens in our homes. I will ensure that I tell my child the name of every body part, even the penis or the vagina. When we empower children with language, we also build a conversation to speak to them about the fact that I will believe in their story.

9. Stop Embarrassing Them With Weird Questions

You could be a progressive mom or dad, however, you don’t have to be progressive enough to invade the privacy of your child. Be bold, but hold on…

10. Bringing Up Your Children In A World Sans Gender, Caste, Religion and Region

I would like to make my kids aware of the best and what constitutes as abuse or misbehaviour according to my point of view. But also, I’d equip my child to make their own choices. It takes a lot of effort to go be make people aware and yet allow kids to take their own stance. Rather than forcing our notions of gender, sexuality, caste, religion and even biases regarding region, it is important that we let them choose and make their own life choices based on experiences. The idea that you are born into a caste, religion, sex is something that needs to be worked upon. You are not born into anything, but you could make a choice of being everything.

This children’s day – let us allow our kids space and time. And tell them that second best or standing the last is the best too. Let’s pull up our children, not pull them down.

Happy Children’s Day.

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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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