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I Got Involved In The #MeToo Movement After Listening To Painful Stories Of Survivors

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Where is actor Amitabh Bachchan at the time when there’s so much being said about the recent #MeToo wave in the country that has called out many big names in the entertainment and media industry? Is he still indifferent or has he started to recognise people around him as Tanushree Dutta and Nana Patekar which means survivors and assaulters respectively?

However, I’m not very concerned about his opinion because the when people of such high reputation in the society choose silence on such sensitive cases they cease to be worthy of being heard. Amitabh Bachchan’s response to Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against Nana Patekar was a selfish act, shunning to take any social responsibility.

These incidents outnumber or hush up any possibility of women opening up about transgressions against their integrity even when everyone is aware of the prevalence of hostile workplace realities of B-Town. The intentions behind the silence do not matter, you are either with the justice, or you aren’t.

When high-profile people choose to keep mum on sexual assault cases, I feel their patience level is excellent. However, as a character in some of the stories, the patience level of same famous people touch shameless nadirs when they play down upon life of a woman with their stigmatising behaviour. Now when they have been named, a very few of them are apologetic for their behaviour in the past. Many have come up with unreasonable excuses such as they were under the influence of alcohol. Disturbingly, few have even claimed that blamed those who have called out the harassers and claimed that these people are being paid and are ruining the peace in the country. I would like to tell these people that country was anything but peaceful before this movement kicked in. This poison has been running into our system for so many years. At best this ‘peace’ can only be described as Sannata (horrific silence).

The story of Vinta Nanda has yet again highlighted our inability to choose correct people to put them into admiring frames. I feel disgusted with the fact I once used to laugh at jokes made by AIB people. Chetan Bhagat, fortunately, I haven’t read him, has reaffirmed the fact that no noble profession is noble enough to stop a person from being a misogynist and abusive by virtue of power position. As they say, power corrupts and absolute power corrupt absolutely. However, when we hear about sexual misconducts by the people we admire, like, and look up to we grow suspicious of anything and everything in the world. The trust dies a sad death. People like Gowhar Geelani from the Kashmir valley, who claim to be human rights activist and engage in constant rants of consensus on television screens, in face of accusations by a couple of women remain a living testimony of two-faced pseudo characters.

I really appreciate the beautiful hearts and courage of all the women who have come out and shared the stories that shattered their dreams, threatened workplace survival and made them feel terrible. In a conservative society like ours where patriarchy is deeply ingrained in our culture, it’s commendable of these women to speak up and expose the society.

In my view, three reasons prompted India for its very own #MeToo moment. First, the constant poking of the patriarchal system at all levels notwithstanding the fact that everyone is aware of the ill-treatment of women. Second, the online and offline solidarity among women, particularly independent journalist Rituparna Chatterjee’s sisterhood thread and campaign that helps women in finding a job, has been successful in creating an environment which encourages women to speak up and call out assaulters. The sense of such solidarity gives women a hope that there is someone who’ll believe what they say. It has resulted into creation of a situation like ‘now or never.’ Third, interestingly, as it seems to me, the evolution of #MeToo movement in India is so powerful because of its investment in the idea of Ahimsa (non-violence). Its main aim is to name and shame, and not physical harm these abusers or molesters. It asks for an unconditional apology with acceptance for the loss, if any. A belief in non-violence, mass support, and due process are all high virtues of Ahimsa. However, a few cases of physical violence inflicted upon women survivors, no less than rape, demand legal scrutiny and punishment following a ‘due process’.

I owe my indulgence in the movement to the pain that has occurred to me because of sad and sorrowful stories that women have shared. The movement was never supposed to be an exciting, energetic, or a beautiful experience. In fact it has turned to be an extremely disturbing, exhausting and heart-wrenching movement. I see more agony coming our way as even thought of every woman coming out with their stories shakes my whole inside. I hope that happens but not sure if we’ll be able to take that all. All I know at this juncture is that this is not even the first layer that the survivors are peeling off. It’s just a tip of a big iceberg or not even that.

But, no more staying silent! #TimesUp. If you are a survivor then open up. If you are a fortunate being, then keep listening to all this and encourage others to call out assaulters by promising them help. And, to all men- shut up and listen for a while, for this is an essential class on how to behave and conduct yourself. We hope that #MeToo movement is not stopping anytime soon, if anything is to stop, now, it is harassment of women at the hands of unaccountable society.

Your life is of gospels in public but with demeanours of only lust in private,
Your writing pad read human rights but disrespecting consent is your only fundamental right,
Your inappropriate touch was a story of whispers in office but stories just remained sad whispers,
You got away with that each time, right? But wait, no more because #TimesUp.
Each cry of #MeToo points to “trash out there,” together we gonna thrash it before it makes up for another #MeToo,
Every tear rolling down the cheeks is not worthless because no longer are they silent,
They are as heavy as rocks, they speak, they take names, they smash chains,
Now listen, you already are a bane, if you are left with some shame apologize unconditionally for being so insane.

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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 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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