This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Tanupreet Chadha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Two Men Tried To Assault Me In The Middle Of The Road, Luck Saved Me That Day

Through the #MeToo movement, the stories of women being sexually harassed and abused have gone viral on social media. The next step is to change the mindset of people through collective counselling. While it can be debated whether or not social media can bring that change, we can’t afford to sit idle. Something should be done because these crimes shouldn’t happen at first place.

Over 100 years of struggle with minimal resources at hand, got us independence. What stops now to bring a change when we have access to a plethora of technology? I propose a simplistic model of revolution- Self-help!

We have allowed society to define us (women). Even if mould ourselves according to them, it doesn’t take too long for a ‘goddess’ to turn into a victim. Soon after the crime, there are discussions on news channels. There are demands to bring strict laws and strengthen the criminal justice system. Ultimately, the outrage fades away leaving only pity and sympathies for the victim.

Adjusting to the situation is an easier option. But, it takes guts to volunteer and fight for the change. Fighting to change the situation that makes us vulnerable may leave some scars on us. But those scars would be of a fighter. I chose to fight when I encountered a horrifying situation.

My Story

I can never forget that pale winter evening when I arrived at the bus stand in Kurukshetra after travelling for five good hours from home. Kurukshetra is known for Mahabharata, an epic battle fought to bring justice to a woman.
I was appropriately dressed as per the society standards. I wore a knee-long upper and a pair of denim (not fitted). I was an 18-year-old girl who knew to be highly alert when travelling. But, still, I wasn’t mature enough to read intentions. I took an auto-rickshaw to reach my hostel which is very close to the bus stand. But since it was dark, I instead took a longer route hoping for few streets lights and people on the road. On my way to the college, two men, who sat parallel to me during my journey from home, started to follow me on their bike. It went unnoticed until they overtook the auto-rickshaw, pulled off the rickshaw driver and slapped him for not stopping at their command. I was horrified, more so when they approached me and snatched my phone as I tried to call. This moment reminded me of a childhood story where we were told that a monster would come to kidnap us if we don’t sleep. The only difference here was that I had to be up and face these monsters.

I had to do something to escape this situation, and along with courage, I needed some luck on my side. Within seconds I decided to run, hoping the traffic to either stop or crush me. I pushed that man with all my strength, jumped out of the auto-rickshaw and ran blindly to the other side. And as they say, god helps those who help themselves. I did receive help. Within a minute the traffic stopped, and people turned up to understand what’s happening. The police also came as they were on their routine patrolling. Those men didn’t give up initially and tried to convince the police. And while I was charging on the police officers for the lack of security and asked to arrest those men, those men managed to escape.

Failing to nab those men, the police offered to drop me to my destination. But I took the rickshaw, trusting on the driver who tried to save me in some way. And, I safely reached my guardian’s place.

Time To Take Action

A question always irks me, is there any justice that can heal our conscious? I find it funny when people say time is the best medicine. As time can only heal our choices and not the situations imposed on us. There is no standard mechanism to deal with such situations. We need a proactive approach for that. Those few seconds when I decided to fight the situation made a survivor.

If you aren’t trained to box a man, the mind is the best weapon you always have. Since it is the mind, where all the battles are won. I did that to change things in my favour. It happened to me and can happen to me. We shouldn’t hope for safety and luck, but should be ready to help ourselves and beat the situation.

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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.

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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.”

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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