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#YKASummit2018- Patriarchy Seeded The Desire In Me To Be A Feminist: Aditya Gupta

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Our boys love to cry, our girls love to take up space. And it’s not because it’s some form of rebellion or some sort of stereotype but because it’s a part of who they are.” – Aditya Gupta

Patriarchy is something that we face in our day to day lives and it has become an irremovable part of our culture. To tackle it and to speak about how ‘Patriarchy Can’t Be Our Culture’, Mr. Gupta begins his talk at the YKA summit on gender inequality, discrimination and gender based violence. Mr. Gupta is a young social entrepreneur, who is the founder of ‘People For Parity’, a non-profit organisation that has educated 20,000 young minds and trained 700 activists in facilitating the transformation of existing gender-related cultural biases. For his work, he has received fellowships and recognition from Ashoka, UN Habitat, International Youth Foundation, Pravah, and Unltd.

If we want to build a culture where we want everyone to coexist peacefully, then patriarchy can’t be our culture “. Mr.Gupta started off by connecting with the audience by narrating his life’s journey and how it all turned around one day. Leading the life of an ordinary youngster in Bombay (Mumbai)  as a consultant , reality struck him when he was confronted with a personal problem in his family and to handle that, to fight the suffocation and emptiness he felt, he bought his first pack of cigarettes.What hit him hard also led him to think about the culture of patriarchy, the culture we all live in. “Silence is one of the most powerful tools of the violent culture”, said Mr. Gupta. The biggest lesson he learnt was that “Gender based violence is not an event, it is a culture. It is a way we live our lives.”

Furthermore, Mr.Gupta brought out some facts on the gruesome reality of female infanticide and foeticide in our country. He believes that  patriarchy is deep-rooted in our society, be it homes, offices or any other place. It is impossible to tackle this problem by going to every village and every town, every house in those villages and towns to bring about change effectively.

It’s funny, how the same patriarchal culture that trained my dad or mom or all of us also seeded the desire in me to be a feminist”, he said. The patriarchal system is something that made him question the beliefs and norms, our day to day activities and taught him to be a better person. Talking about feminism, he emphasised that it’s not only a fight for equal rights but also a way of life where no one gets hurt for who they are, and no one has the power to hurt anyone without repercussion or reflection.

He faced a lot of hurdles as a man fighting gender based violence, as people mostly tend to assume that it is women who should be fighting for women. If the focus is truly on culture, on power dynamics, difference of agency and decision among the people, then everyone could be helped, leading to overcoming some of the biggest issues the country faces right now.

He further spoke about the need for men to be more expressive and open about their emotions. “Men struggle to acknowledge, understand and express their emotions”, he adds. A lot of men suffer from mental health issues because of this. There is no way of leading life with pressures of responsibility that can sometimes lead to substance abuse as well. “This happens because we misunderstand trauma. Trauma does not flow through gender. Trauma flows through human connection”, he said with reference to patriarchy and the people blindly following it.

His first workshop, which only had women, wherein he was trying to facilitating a healing space, he felt it wasn’t a great idea. He thought how women can feel safe with someone who looks like the source of their anguish, but it actually turned out to be a successful session.  Social construct end up creating a major as well as an interesting possibility around gender. One should unlearn in the right environment and space, as it can make you realize that creating a differentiation on the basis of gender, is not a genuine reflection of who we are.

He shared his experience of working with young people, centered on helping them understand their true self and unlearning things patriarchy has taught them while growing up. He focused on helping these young minds imagine a life that they would find interesting and inspiring, filled with diversity in a non violent way. Thousands of young people in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana are experimenting with this new radical way of life.

Mr.Gupta talked about two young women from Rajasthan and MP, who participated in his workshops, were being forced to marry against their will. These women could now understood what they wanted and how they weren’t getting it but they still could not help themselves. A harsh lesson was to be learnt from there, that individual growth and empowerment can only take us to a certain extent with a culture like ours.

Violence is like a virus. Any act of violence triggers a series of acts of violence in return, spreads itself unlike peace which needs to be worked on, built and consciously developed.” With this he ended his talk.

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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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