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My Open Letter To All Parents: Let Us Fall And Fail In Life

Dear Parents,

I am writing this letter on behalf of every Indian child specifically from the middle-class and the lower middle-class background. My letter is precisely a reflection of how I/we felt at different stages of our lives from the age of twelve, to our teenage years and in our twenties.

We are blessed to have parents who provide us with food, clothes, shelter, education and take us to fancy restaurants, cool vacations etc. All this has not just cost them money; they have also made many other sacrifices and compromises for our happiness. Sometimes owing to work responsibilities they skip meals; despite having diabetes, blood pressure or God knows what all health issues. Dear parents, we may not say it, but we do realise this, and it’s the reason we love you unconditionally.

You work hard to send us to big schools and pay for our coaching classes. Some of us go on to be successful in future while some of us don’t. But are you really investing your blood and sweat wisely? You might think you are not putting pressure on your child, but is it really true? Hmm, now begins the actual letter. Just like how life for us starts at the age of 16-17 or maybe a little early sometimes. Does the fact that you have invested a massive amount of money, makes it obligatory for us to perform well in schools and institutions? And if yes, is it fair? If I fail to deliver, am I wasting your money? And again if yes, is it fair on me?

You save a lot and buy a car finally; you take great care that not a single scratch appears on it, but if that car does not perform, what would you do? Will you ever say it was a waste of money? No, you will take it to a service station and get it fixed. You buy a filthy expensive mobile phone, but it does not work correctly and keeps getting hang right when your boss is calling, will you ever say it was a waste of money? No, never. But when a child does not perform well in education how can you say they have wasted your money? For God’s sake that is a child – a small, innocent child who has feelings and emotions. Your car and mobiles don’t even have emotions! This is just the beginning. Various issues need to be addressed here.

Let’s Talk About ‘Investment’

If you really want to invest in your child, invest time. Spend time with him or her, rather than money. Believe me; it will be worth more than your money. We don’t want you to be abused or harassed by your seniors or managers at work. Why should you suffer? For whom? If you are doing this for us, then please stop. We do not want that. We want your time, your support, your ears to hear us talk and your hands around our shoulders. Sit with us, speak to us, understand what we want, understand our mentality and our thoughts. And if you think that the child should come to you, then it means a person in their 30s or 40s, is expecting a person in their teenage years or in their twenties to show more maturity.

We Need To Talk About ‘Relatives’

Agreed they are your brother or sister, but you should not give them a license to decide what is good or bad for us or what will make us happy. We understand you grew up with them, spent your childhood with them, but, you are the ones responsible for our childhood. Please remember that we did not choose to come into this world, you are the reason we are in this world, you gave birth to us! So, what is more important – people you grew up with or a human you brought into this world?

Please be responsible for your children, decide what’s best for them, do not leave us in anyone else’s hands. Tomorrow, when you will be on your death bed, your children will be by your side, and the people you grew up with will be on their death beds too, surrounded by their children – that’s how the world works. We look up to you, so you should not let them make decisions for us. I don’t want to divide a family, but all I am trying to say is, there should be a boundary – where you should stand and say- “No one crosses this line, because they are our children”. We don’t have anywhere to go and no one to look up to, except you.

Do You Know For Sure What’s Good For Us?

It has been weeks, months and (in my case) years since you sat beside your child and had a serious conversation with them about their personal, academic or professional life. How do you think you know us then? To know someone you need to spend time with them. Living under the same roof, ‘seeing’ each other in the evening or some part of night or morning, does not mean you spent time with them. Spending time means talking to them. Spend time with them rather than with your clients in the USA or in preparing your work schedule or for a meeting at your workplace etc.

We have friends to party and to go on drives and restaurants with too. What we want is just you talking to us. And then you say we know you, how is that even possible? No, you don’t know us. I am sorry, but you never spoke to me, so how can you say you know me? You assume you know us or you decide what is good for us ( obviously after consulting our dear uncles, aunts and society) and then based on that, you take some important decisions of our lives. How do you know I don’t feel pressurised? I am asked to do something beyond my capabilities and that too with 100% success rate! As I am your child and not your car or mobile, I do not even have the luxury to fail and still not feel pressurised…

Let’s Talk About Failure And Your ‘Wasted’ Money

Someone who my parents have given a license to infiltrate my personal life and make decisions for me told me that I wasted my parents’ money, by not performing well in an exam to secure a seat in an esteemed college. Now this person, by the way, has a history of poor academic record. God’s mercy saved him from drowning. Could you imagine the level of pressure and mental stress that your child goes through? Of course, he will not perform because you chose a field for him that is beyond his capabilities. Still, the child won’t stop trying because he loves you more than his dreams, or sometimes because he is financially unable to take a call for himself.

Till the parents or ‘well-wishers’ think that parents’ investment in a child concerning money is a social service, no one will be happy. Your child will be stressed with the burden of performing well without failing and you with the disappointment of your child not fulfilling your expectations. Again, if you think that you get returns on your so-called investment then understand where your child can perform by talking to him rather than assuming what he wants or what is right for him. Please support us so that we are not afraid of falling. Let us fall, let us fail but please do not stop believing in us.

Why Is Money More Important Than Your Child’s Interest?

A child grows up seeing his parents putting efforts and money, and he decides to make his parents proud one day. He participates in events, wins prizes and accolades, goes on to have an excellent academic career. Even if he hasn’t achieved all of it, yet, he is still ambitious and wishes to reach great heights. He dreams of having a photo of him on the front page of the newspaper with his parents beside him; he tries to imagine that moment, and his eyes tear up, and then he commits to achieving it. But having high ambitions in life seems futile when he hears this statement – “You did not study to work where you have interest or passion in, you studied to earn money, and they will put you into something you don’t want to do again.”

Is it really about money? Do you realise how helpless a child feels when he wants to do something he is confident about, but you have the money but won’t invest because you think it is not good for him or that he will fail, and your money will be lost? Do you remember your words – “What we are doing is to secure a good future for you?” Well, you just contradicted yourself because after that the mental pressure of living and performing in an environment where I am not capable enough will slowly kill me from the inside like slow poison.

I will just be faking a smile henceforth. Money is not everything, and even if it is, that does not mean you take away the peace of mind of a helpless soul. Let him do what he wants. What’s the worst that could happen? Will he fail? So, what’s the big deal? Success takes time and a number of failures. That’s what you taught me – be patient and keep trying.

I am not asking parents to spend money beyond their capacity. I started the letter saying we acknowledge your sacrifices. Just walk up to us, tell us what’s bothering you and discuss the problems with us. If you think we will not understand, it is only an assumption on your side. If you do not have the finances to support us, it is completely fine. We are your children, and we will understand, discuss and even find a solution to the problem. We can always reach a conclusion that satisfies all of us. We don’t want you to sweat unnecessarily beyond your capabilities. All we want is, you not imposing anything on us before talking to us first. And if you are financially stable to support your child then it becomes your duty to help him – that’s his right!

I want to conclude this letter by telling all the parents that no matter how you treat us, you still are going to be our top most priority. All we want is that you make us yours too and in the right way. Talk to us, understand us, believe in us and give us the license to fall and fail in life!

We love you.

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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.

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.

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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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