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Sexual Harassment At Work – What To Expect After You Speak Up

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Speaking up against harassment is the best thing to do – but, it’s only one of the first things to do.

Everybody asks you to speak up, but no one tells you what to expect after that.

The Real Battle Begins After Your #MeToo Complaint

Dear fellow women,

The ones who didn’t want those horrible things to happen and the ones who didn’t even dream of it in their worst nightmares.

I am not writing this post for those who want to learn how to prevent such acts of crime; I am writing for the ones who are victims of such crimes.

The dust-storm may have settled at your workplace by now; but how will the dust in your mind settle? This ‘settled dust’ may have even formed a shape you don’t recognise now, a shape you didn’t expect.

But remember, this world isn’t fair. It never was.

The first step would always be to believe in yourself and trust your instincts. It may sound clichéd, but it’s probably the best thing you could do; because it’s better to trust your instincts than anyone else’s. And keep in mind the possibility – that you might have to fight this battle alone.

You are the only one who would know what you want and how you want to fight for justice. People would suggest their points of view – which they might do based on their moral beliefs, but you are not under any obligation to follow their advice. Do not seek their approval; only seek yours. Think about what you want, what needs to be done and what makes you feel safe, before taking any decision.

Do not forget- it doesn’t depend on how well or how bad you have been performing at your workplace. I have heard concerns from women like – “I am not performing very well at work, they might think it’s an excuse”. I have also heard comments such as, ‘only people who are not very good at their jobs – try to bring the famous and successful ones down’. It never should be a matter of what people might think – as they didn’t face the harassment, you did.

Understand that whatever happened was not your fault; never be afraid to speak up or ask for help.

People might remind you again and again – how brave it is that you have spoken up, as many do not, but don’t let those words steer your mind. You chose to speak up because it is necessary, because it is the right thing to do, and women who don’t find the courage to do the same aren’t any less brave.

Speaking up is not a thing to be celebrated – taking action is.

If someone is calling you brave for speaking up, they are just stressing on the underlying fact that they do not expect employees to speak up. Such words from a few people are enough to plant a seed in your head – that people who are not speaking up are doing it as they find it a convenient option, and not because they are not in a position to speak up – due to other reasons.

There will be people willing to listen to you, but just for the gossip that is served on a plate to them. If you decide to tell someone the details, do not confide in them thinking they will keep it to themselves. However, you cannot hold yourself responsible for the consequences if they spread the word against your wish. Speak to someone you are comfortable sharing the information with and trust completely. Always try to find and speak to those who can help you.

If you are the listener and not the victim, make sure you support the victim in every way possible, and avoid saying anything that may come off as victim-blaming.

Never let people tell you that you need to be “stronger” to talk about these issues and seek justice. Remember that you are already strong.

People may question you, “how did you allow such things to happen?”. You need to remember – you did not “allow” it to happen. Never be bothered by the thinking capacity of such individuals. You can explain your situation to them or you can try to correct their thought-process, but do not feel bad if you fail. After all, you have more significant battles to win.

You may not get proper counselling at your workplace. I would suggest you book your counselling sessions yourself from a third party.

Remember, people will be eager to settle the matter soon and move on. Nobody wants extra work or worries on their plates – despite all their public speeches and appearances. But, just because ‘the case is closed’ – doesn’t mean you got your closure.

Take ownership of the case, think of it as your responsibility to close it, and only you can decide the related course of action. Let that ‘dust’ settle; one grain at a time.

Never feel helpless, never let others sit on the front seat of this vehicle because they would just stop the engine when they would have other places to go and other things to handle.

Know what you want, believe that you will get justice, understand how to get justice and act on it. You have always been strong enough and you will be strong enough for this.

Sometimes, justice may be simple; sometimes, it could be harsh. Sometimes, justice could just be the closure of the gates, the end of the storm in your head.

You would want the world to be set right, and the offender’s behaviour to be corrected. You would want the offender not to repeat this so that the world becomes a little safer than what it used to be.

Do not feel sorry if that one offender doesn’t change his ways even after being punished heavily. The world isn’t a fair place, and all you can do is try to be the best version of yourself and make the world better in whatever little way you can.

And when you have done all you could; believe that the real battle is won.

Stay Strong.

Image source WomanToday.ph

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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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