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A Letter To Male Reporters Who Text Us ‘Nice DP’ At Night And Laugh At Sexist Neta Jokes

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“Oh, how do you manage being on the field and your life at home?”

If we were to reply to this question, with one of our own, we would say, “Dear Male Colleague, Are You Ever Asked this Question?”

Today is World Press Freedom Day, a day to celebrate freedom of thought across media platforms. For the past 16 years, at Khabar Lahariya, we’ve been putting forth our reports, opinions, commentaries, and analyses in a completely independent manner, right through our print and digital forms. A lot has changed in these 16 years, and a lot hasn’t – our male colleagues in the field and their unending well of wisdom has been unchanging! And honestly, we’re so sick of listening to them give us advice upon advice, always unasked for, that we thought we’d give them some advice of our own, on this day.

So, here’s our Open letter to all the male colleagues we’ve ever worked with, will work with in the future, across our districts, and indeed, even outside.

First off, please stop telling us how we must cover “women’s issues”. ‘There’s been a rape case, you must go and report on it at once’, or ‘Oh, did you hear about that girl who’s abducted her boyfriend from his wedding? Where have you been all day?’. We want to ask you, is this not a news report for you? And if it is, then may we suggest reporting on it in an unbiased style, free of all your prejudices? And not try and make it into a sensationalist piece of news, for once! We’re quite sick of reading your ‘Mother of three runs off with boyfriend’ kind of “news stories”. It’s high time you put an end to this.

We know very well that you all have friends in high places, and perhaps it’s good to have some contacts being reporters. But it would do you good to demarcate the boundaries between your professional duties and your personal relationships. Your first line of responsibility should be towards your work. So, imagine our fury when all you male reporters laugh along with a neta as he cracks sexist jokes about having two wives –“gharwali” and “baharwali”. Isn’t his something that tarnishes your reputation as a professional journalist?

Please stop interfering in our personal lives; it’s really not part of your job description. So, stop asking us questions along the lines of ‘Are you married?’, ‘How come you don’t wear sindoor, mangalsutra, et cetera?’, ‘Why are you wearing a suit today, no sari?’ et cetera et cetera.

Do us a big favour and keep your fake concern for our safety to yourself. ‘Sister, it’s midnight, and you’re outdoors! All well?’ is a question we never wish to hear again. We’re responsible for our own safety, and if we feel the need for support, we know to rally around our sisterhood – we gain courage from it. None of you has ever stepped forward to help us here, in any case. If we’ve ever told you about men harassing us over the phone, you’ve asked us, unblinkingly, to ‘change your number, madam’. We ask of you today, is that something you would do? Tell us, why are all these expectations only our burdens?

Plenty among you are editors and senior members of large media organisations. We still recall how you all responded during a research we conducted on the role of local, rural women being potential field reporters. You all said how women are liabilities, how they can’t go into the field alone, how they need maternity leave, and how they really can’t be expected to report on important issues. At the time of this research, we took away a big finding dear men. And it was this. The women reporters we met, told us about instances of sexual harassment they faced inside the office.

We love working on digital platforms and using technology, but you’re all here too, your disgusting, regressive attitudes in tow. If you see us online on WhatsApp in the late night hours, we’re sure to get texts from you. ‘Nice DP’, ‘How come you’re online at this time?’, ‘Who’re you chatting with?’ Many of you think nothing of video-calling us! We’ve lost count of how many numbers we’ve had to block because of sleazy, unprofessional men like you. But today, we’re really wondering: Why must we leave a WhatsApp group because you men have no control? Because you can’t help yourself from sharing sexist jokes, using swear words, putting up obscene photographs and video clips?

The world is in the churning of a revolution. Women are saying ‘No more’, they’re sharing their pain and distress with movements such as #MeToo, through lists on social media. We are part of this revolution, and this open letter is our contribution to it. Listen hard.

And read it once more, we suggest. You might just be the all-knowing male colleague we want to reach out to today.

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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.

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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.”

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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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