From 2016-17, I used to visit girls from rural schools. This was a part of a campaign with the local clinic to teach these rural girls about menstruation, the science behind it and the numerous ways in which menstrual hygiene could be maintained. Apart from a complete lack of resources to manage their reproductive and menstrual health, there was a significant lack of awareness among the girls. From not entering the kitchens to skipping schools during their periods, it was an unpleasant situation. Along with this, they were extremely timid and would giggle whenever I used the word ‘periods’.
Even when someone ignores all these societal problems, what is still glaringly in front of our face is the conditions around us. A lot of these sixteen and seventeen-year-olds were married. A vast majority of them have had to face some or the other form of sexual violence. Throughout the project, I always returned home agitated by the lack of education and resources that should be available to them. That is when I took a broader approach to the topic. It hit me that this isn’t just one girl or one school, it’s hundreds of others. It’s not only the rural population that falls victim to societal stereotypes, it’s the whole country.
The second realisation was that nobody was doing anything to eliminate these stigmas. Not just about menstrual hygiene, but also in matters of gender, sex, caste or religion. Toxic stereotypes surrounded us, hate was prevalent in all forms of speech by the other groups. And just because breaking stereotypes was a systematic process rather than one providing instant results, nobody was interested.
That is when our campaign ‘We Talk Back’ started. My main goal was to educate youth from all walks of life and teach them from the grass-root level. The primary purpose of this organisation isn’t to convince people how sexual violence or religious extremism is wrong. It’s to go into details of these topics and understand how we might be unconsciously doing the same things. From the recent cases of mob lynchings to the arrest of activists without any grounds, the need to make the citizens more aware is growing day by day.
‘We Talk Back’ is a youth-led initiative, to educate the citizens. It aims to break stigmas and stereotypes through activism and create a more accepting and inclusive society, and fight the small acts of oppression citizens face every day.