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I Really Hope There Are More #NotMe Than #MeToo

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I have been thinking long and hard. I have read through every #MeToo post that has appeared on my timeline in the last few days. I have felt the pain in each of them, I have understood the anger behind every story, and, needless to say, I see myself or someone I know in all of them. Even though I always knew molestation, harassment and sexual abuse are rampant, these stories have filled me with a deep sense of helplessness. Or should I say fatigue?

Fatigue of fighting all the time. Fatigue of watching my back every second of the day. Fatigue of looking at every man with suspicion. Fatigue of checking on the eye and hand movements of every friend and relative who is close to me, my sister, my daughter, my niece, my friend, my cousin…

I was never taught to stay quiet about the wrong that was done to me. But I was also not categorically told what to do if someone tried to violate my body. Hell! The subject was never even spoken about at home. And with no elder sister, aunt or cousin, I was left to figure things out on my own. Whether it was the 45-year-old, seemingly educated and gentle looking tenant at my aunt’s place, or the doctor who operated on me at 14 — I remember every touch that has made me uncomfortable. But I did not know what to do about it. I did not know I could tell the elders about it or share it with my friends. All I could do was cringe and wince, and pray to god that I do not have to face the person ever again.

And so, even though I was never taught to stay quiet, I did. Because I did not know any better.

I kept quiet when my math teacher routinely stood behind me and placed his hand on my back, feeling up my bra strap. I kept quiet when some random man flashed at me inside a museum in Calcutta in broad daylight. I kept quiet when the lecherous gaze of my father’s young cousins scared me out of my wits. I kept quiet when I was told that I was too grown up for my age. I said nothing when I was groped in the middle of the road or touched in the dark of a movie hall. I even stayed quiet about the man who stalked me every morning for over a year. In retrospect, it was such a stupid thing to do, but at that time I did not think so.

Initially, these incidents troubled me — as they would trouble anyone. Later, however, they became a part of life. Sometimes I remembered them, sometimes I forgot about them. But I never spoke about any of them, for I always believed that it was something that happened only to me and hence, it should be my fault.

It was much later that I realised how every girl I knew had a story to share. Well, almost. The friend whose uncle regularly felt her up right in the middle of family get-togethers. The classmate whose cousin almost raped her. The cousin whose cousin was found sleeping naked next to her one night. Everyone had a story to share but none of them had told anyone about it. The reason? The same feeling of guilt and shame, and the belief that reporting it may cause families to break.

I do not know who told them that the family was more important than their well being, but somehow the belief was conveyed and so like me, they had stayed quiet too.

But I also found those who taught me to fight. Like the cousin who chased an auto guy who had passed lewd comments on her and pulled him out of the auto to kick him in his stomach before handing him over to the police. Or the friend who told me how I ought to stand up for myself and fight back the man who was trying to come too close. Even though I succeeded in doing so, and hitting, fighting, and protecting myself, I cannot say the same about the others.

I really don’t know if #MeToo is going to change anything. Maybe like most internet movements this too will die its own death. Or maybe it will make a small little dent somewhere. Maybe it will succeed in bringing forth the magnitude of the problem. Every change begins with acceptance and talking is the first step towards change. Or so we can hope.

And yes, #MeToo. Like everyone else. And I really hope there are more #NotMe than #MeToo.


Image source: – Mathias Rodriguez -/Flickr
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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)’.

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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.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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