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What A New Friendship Taught Me About Motherhood

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I thought of complimenting her as soon as she entered, on seeing the slight glow on her cheeks. We were seeing each other after a long time. All we wanted to do was to talk endlessly.

The one disadvantage of girls not getting married in their hometown is that they can’t see their ‘friends for life’ more often. One of the reasons they crave to visit their hometown more often is that they often start missing ‘being silly without being judged.’ You need somebody else to tell you that ‘such stuff happens to them too!’ – and then get advice and soothing from someone as crazy as you.

I always knew that it was hard for me to find friends. I had problems when my friends bonded nicely with other girls at office, or even if someone tagged my best friend on Facebook as their best friend and got all those kiss and love emojis in return.

If my friends don’t come to see me when I visit my hometown, I feel as though a part of my visit got wasted. I get mad and always become cranky.

I blame my mother for this. She never taught me to share stuff. She was always like, “we have only two kids” – and anything that came home was enough for two. Sharing never occurred to me. And for me, it is harder to share with people now.

I tried to be friends with my beloved husband, who, by law, had no option but to avoid my crankiness as long as we lived. Soon I realized why the saying “ek aurat ka dard aurat hi samajh sakti hai (A woman’s pain can only be understood by another woman)” holds true. I didn’t stop at bothering him with the ‘girly issues’ – I also used to get irritated whenever he had plans with his friends. I used to envy him because he had friends to hang out with, while I didn’t.

I had failed miserably in finding a single friend at my marital home. It is the one dangerous social task – to find someone with whom you can discuss “Kya chal raha hai (What’s up with your life)” without the risk of the discussion being divulged to others. That’s too tricky.

After failing for three years, I finally realised that the one I was searching for lived just two floors above mine. And I cursed myself for not having initiated the talks over the past few years.

Our talks used to centre around household chores, the side-effects of being at home all day and the ‘irritation’ that others feel about many educated, married women. I have seen that the level of this ‘irritation’ is higher if we are the type of women who like movies like “Lipstick Under My Burkha”.

Soon, I realised that the issues we faced being homemakers were mostly similar. Of course, that would explain why many of us have watched two celebrated TV soaps, “Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii” and “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi”. Perhaps, this shows that nagging about household issues has been partly hereditary for us. Perhaps, we got it from our mothers – who used to watch the serials daily and used to sympathise with the lead characters, while also cursing the villains in the story-lines.

Recently, during our chats, she asked me about my ongoing ‘child planning’. I thought she was curious, but little did I know! We planned to see each other.

Still, her beaming face was coaxing me to compliment, but our never-ending talks continued. After a while, she left me pleasantly surprised when she disclosed that she was now an expecting mother. Her admission revealed to me the reason for her glowing face.

All of a sudden, I remembered our first interaction. On the first day in the club, she was trying to figure out how to swim in the midst of all the coughs and the sneezes you usually have when you first enter a pool. We soon became good friends there, as we shared the same level of immaturity. And now she is expecting to figure out how to handle a toddler!

It is different – the feeling you have when you realise that someone almost your age is having and dealing with such a responsibility. We all assume all the time that we are too young for everything.

Actually, all I have experienced in my marriage at 20-and-a-half is that ‘you learn while you grow’ and that all the wonders happen ‘in the process.’

I have fallen in love with our chats now. They generally have all the lovely details about the changes she is feeling. When I asked her about her nausea, I was very amused. She was like “Arey woh toh all okay, but roz roz kuch naya pain hota hai (That is all right, but I feel a new kind of pain each day).” She also said that she felt crappy and tired all day long.

I just wanted to go hug her when she mentioned that she had literally heard her baby’s heart beat.

After missing my call due to an extended afternoon nap, she told me, “Whatever I do nowadays, everyone is trying to make me happy.” For me, this seems to be the one good time when all the women you know are suddenly so comforting to you. Whenever there is news of a new-born, I find it amusing when women start sharing stories of their pregnancies and labour pain. After all, these are memories worth treasuring, since these are the things that changed their lives. It is also a blissful feeling that many women share.

All the monthly cramps and pain we faced are worth it because ultimately, we are creating life. All the nausea, the cravings and crappy feelings become blessings when they remind you that a life is growing inside you.

It is the only ‘blind date’ you have for an entire nine months – where you know, in all likelihood, you will meet the ‘love of your life’ in the end.

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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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