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Escaping 3 Years In An Emotionally Abusive Home, A Young Mom Rebuilds

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“I am a very homely and educated girl. My parent supported me in getting formal education, as I am the girl child. I have been brought up with good family values, and I dream of a nice, supportive life partner after marriage,” says 32-year-old Hina*. But things didn’t quite go according to her plan. She tells me about “the worst phase of [her] life“, where she was constantly told she had not brought dowry. “From the day I entered at my in-laws’ house, I tried to do all kinds of household chores to please my husband and mother in-law. I try doing it to the best of my ability. But I honestly don’t know what went wrong. After a few days, my mother in-law started berating me for being dark-skinned, and saying ‘Gori bahu aur dahej chaheyee aur tum kuch bhi nahi layee (I wanted a fair daughter-in-law and dowry, and you have brought nothing).’ She further stated, in a very pain-stricken voice, that her in-laws usually say ‘Tum to kaali ho aur tumhe yehan laa kar bahut bari galti ki hain (You are black-skinned, and bringing you here was a big mistake)‘.

Meanwhile I delivered a baby boy, and it give me strength. After the arrival of son maybe the torture will diminish, but it continued and my suffering has a no ending point. I was abuse every day for everything. I did not say anything, because I thought it may just add fuel to the fire, I didn’t tell my parents because I thought that they will feel very bad. However I adjusted with all my emotions torn out in the three years that I faced all kind of brutal abuse.

For representation only. Source: Picryl.

With no ray of hope, she finally shared her prolonged suffering with her parents, who tried every possible way to men her relationship with her husband. “I cried, refused to eat, and shunned everyone,” she says. “I was so depressed and shattered by the emotional abuse that it was affecting my health.” She tells me that all her husband does is belittle her and tell her she is wrong.

Frustration, helplessness and utter loneliness, she says she felt so scared, in spite of living with people who were supposedly meant to care for her. “The suffocation and toxic relationship worsened day by day, so I decided to move out and come to my mother home,” she says with tears rolling down her cheek.

The constant tension and criticism hurled at her made her blame herself. She stopped talking to anyone, suffering silently, and never sharing her story with anyone. With her anxiety in a full swing, bringing back all the memories of the past, she reveals all of this to me after she has taken her first counselling session.

“I hated my existence, but there is a light of hope: I can live because of my son, otherwise I think there is nothing left to live for.”

She heard about a one stop centre through an NGO’s outreach session that was held in her lane. When the team spoke about the services at their clinic, she thought, “This is a place where I can seek help and support.” When she met the counsellor, she relayed her story: “Trauma and the loss of hope manifest from the abuse translated into depression and phobia.

Speaking to me, she continues, “I am extremely lucky that I have an understanding mother who helped me to survive, and that I found a one-stop centre to rely on. First, in the counselling session, I was given emotional support and professional help to come out of the trauma. It was after these personal counselling sessions that I have been able to accept that this is not my fault.”

Soon, Hina became comfortable opening up and dared to speak about her past. She is now self-confident, and you can see it on her face.

After developing coping strategies to re-ignite her strength, she was able to see her future; beyond the dark side, she saw that life is always about moving forward, and never giving up. Today, she has graduated, and when she started start looking for job, she got one in the hospital.

It took me a long time to come out of my shell and fight for my rights. I want justice for the suffering and pain during that period. Being a survivor, now I am to file a complaint against my husband, and demand compensation for the same,” she says confidently.

Hina tells me she is grateful for the NGO’s clinic and the counsellor for healing her and making her stronger. It is because of the guidance and care at the centre that she can now see the bright side of her life.

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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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