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All I Ask For Is Liberty And Freedom: From A Millennial To His Parents

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Dearest mom and dad,

In just a couple of months, I’m about to turn 25.

Yeah! It’s been 25 long years. I can’t imagine what I would have been or have achieved if it weren’t for you. Actually, I wouldn’t have been there in this world without you.

In all these years, you have provided me with resources and things (which you’ve never had for yourself as a kid) despite the middle-class hardships and economic constraints we faced. Loved me like no one can ever do. When I look at some of my peers, I realise how fortunate I am to have you. You’ve set a standard for parenting, which I don’t think I’ll ever be able to meet with my kids. And a thank you would never suffice for your sacrifices, care, and love. But still, thank you a lot.

I want to take this moment to talk to you about certain things – issues I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Thoughts that have been stuck in my heart. If I were to summarize those into two words, they are: liberty and freedom.

These words may seem familiar and insignificant at this moment. Trust me they aren’t as trivial as you think, and are actually critical and crucial in today’s life.

We are the generation that has witnessed some of the most radical shift in norms, ideologies and thoughts that the world has ever experienced in its history. The generation of informed, native digital immigrants, who had experienced and seen through the life in an entirely different perspective than you or any of your predecessors did.

Fortunately, we grew up with respecting parents more out of love than fear, like most of you did. Unlike you, we are the generation with strong political beliefs. Our liberal views may seem a little radical and anti-establishment to you. And thanks to your parenting, we are also that generation that believes in loving, respecting, and caring for our parents, because we want to, rather than have to.

The world of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s in which you grew up is not even remotely related and is completely different than what it is right now. The patriarchal structure in which you grew up in, isn’t an accepted standard anymore.

Today things like gender equality, the dignity of labour, racial discrimination, sexual harassment and pursuing your passions aren’t merely confined to books. I understand how difficult it is for you to let us question your perspectives that are built over a very long period and change them all of a sudden. But you have to accept the new norm because it’s the definition of the term ‘evolving’.

The careers and professions that didn’t even exist at the beginning of this 21st century are the drivers of the economy right now. So please don’t pressure us to pursue the traditional choices of becoming an engineer, doctor, CA or go into the management field, because there are professions beyond and bigger than them.

A professional hairdresser, stylist, photographer many others which might seem unconventional to you, actually earn a lot more than you could think, make a better living and are happier than the majority of traditional ones. So please don’t stereotype or criticize or discourage the path we’d want to pursue. Give us the liberty and freedom to make the most critical decisions in our lives – such as ones related to our careers – and guide (not pressure) us along that journey.

I’m sure you want me to be as religious as you are. You want me to follow the beliefs which you’ve stuck to. But the knowledge and wisdom I gained with my education and life experiences had taught me something else too.

It taught me to question!

When certain customs and rituals of our religion or society are fundamentally flawed and in violation of basic human values and dignity, we are left with no option other than to question their existence. Just because certain things are accepted as the societal norm, we are not bound to accept it. Remember how not till long ago, customs like sati and child marriages were proudly followed, accepted, and performed by the same society, which tries to preach us the morals. So it’s absolutely fine for both you and me to use our intellect and question any those practices and reject them. Or have the liberty to disown it entirely and freedom to choose another one.

You raised me with your guidance, your affection, your love. The world’s best parenting. I know and understand the founding values, culture, and priorities upon which our family is built on. When I share with you,  about a person, who not only shares the same kind of principles as ours and but also understands, respects and loves our family and me, I request you to give it a thought.

Remember those random times when you casually said: “I trust my son”? I want you to hold on to that trust and respect my choice. I understand everything can and will have both pros and cons. What I desperately need is the guidance of my best guide, i.e., you. I want you not just to think as a parent but for once step into my shoes and understand what I’m asking for.

I grew up with having a hundred reservations in choosing a partner to share a room for a year in the college hostel, and think about how it works when it comes to a life partner. Remember, even when I was a kid, you would always ask whether I liked the choice of clothes you were buying? Don’t you think the choice of my lifetime partner deserves more respect than my choice of clothing? I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.

And no, I’m not trying to inculcate or promote what some might call ‘westernization’. Even if you consider this as the adoption of the so-called western values, don’t you think it is as western as the pizza and denim we got into our lifestyle for our taste and comfort. Because we are evolving. That’s what humans do. And trust me, these aren’t any radical, anti-social things that I’m trying to talk you into. I mean, why and what has caste got to do with my life choices (Anyway, neither you nor I am into the occupation, which it asks us or gives right for us to do).

We are tired of you letting down your child, because of your (un)hidden fear of “log kya kahenge/sochenge (what will people say/think)”. We don’t want to listen or think about what any Tom, Dick, and Harry has to offer or say about our lives. And we don’t even want you to give any significance to those meaningless things. For once, we want you to realize that in this 21st century, ‘We live in the society. Not for the Society’.

If you really want to us to live for the society then make us join an NGO or ask us to contribute to an organization actively. But please don’t let that senseless, invisible and, unuseful social barriers be any contributing reason for the loss of your dear one’s passions, happiness, interests, and love. Don’t let that be a hindrance to the ever growing love to my dearest parents

Despite all these existential crisis issues, we love you a lot (maybe not as much as you do). You are terrific parents. You are our superheroes. We idolize you on a lot of issues. We care about your happiness just like you care about ours. And also while trying and balancing to stand up for our individuality, after all, we too have grown into adults. And in the struggle to balance out between you and us, most of us are left with nothing else but compromise and sacrifice. Some with their passions, others with careers, love, some with themselves and few with their lives.

So please don’t let your son/daughter fail. At least not because of you. That image and feeling of failure is not the thing you wanted or the thought you had in your mind when you brought us into this world.

If you really want to make an effort to help your kids, love them more, and wish to see them happier, then please start by opening the gates of your hearts to break these social barriers and stereotypical thinking, maybe one at a time!

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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