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A Group Of Women Chit-Chat About The #MeToo Movement

Scene 

[5 women chit-chatting about xyz things over lunch]

Timeanytime and every time

Locationanywhere and everywhere

DayYesterday, Today and hopefully NOT Tomorrow

They are almost done eating. Half a roti, daal-chawal , aloo gaobhi ki sabzi and pyaaz – the food in their plates is almost over but the chit-chat has taken an interesting yet very ‘normal’ turn, making it intense and slowing down their speed.

From somewhere this not so alien term landed in the chit-chat of these 5 women. The word is ‘Feminism’. Neither is the world so alien nor are the misconceptions associated with its meaning [read it as feeling] – ‘anti-men-pro-women feminism/ man-hater feminism? Equal rights feminism for man-woman? Or Equal rights for humans’ feminism?’  Having known these misconceptions and after stating them for once, personal narratives started pouring out with a tinge of truth. These lived realities brought in a flavor of contemporary tone to the narration and soon there were so many anecdotes of everyday challenges of women – trying to manage home, family, work. This further slowed down the pace of eating. Such management takes its toll when a woman does not feel comfortable at home or at office. But, being a strong, independent, ambitious, and passionate woman who has her own dreams and has chosen to step outside home and work, she cannot complain as she was already warned of these earlier! And complaining about it will make her weak, vulnerable, and responsible for this discomfort!

So, what do you think a woman will do? [or mostly does]

Isn’t it simple logic – SHE WILL NOT SHARE THE DISCOMFORT!

By now the chit-chat has entered into the discussion of a ‘normal’ act of sexual harassment. So, the next not so alien term for the day [read era] is ‘#MeToo’. As soon as it took a momentum, there came a point when 3 out of 5 women were simply stating what perhaps they had been trying to bury down…deep!!! Their eyes had been holding on to the lava of anger, despite that none of their voices were trembling. However, it certainly had keenness – a keenness to scream out to the world! The time is NOW!

Every word that came out of those women’s hearts was as deep and scarred as those undesired names embarked on the barks of those old trees – standing for years, giving us shade. A scar which had sustained itself for eight long years in the memory of one of these women is very ‘normal’. Perhaps it is not ‘loud’ enough to be called a scar!

In the month of July, a 17-year-old girl is going to her tution classes at 3:30 pm on a tri-cycle rickshaw, which is being cycled by an old man. The way to her tution goes through a posh colony of ‘civilized’ humans. It’s a usual stretch of 20 minutes on rickshaw, that she crosses three times a week. On this particular hot day there wasn’t a single living being except few tress on that street. Suddenly, she feels a hand on her waist moving down to her right butt. She turns around and gets numb by looking at a person – wearing a helmet, driving a bike next to the rickshaw. By the time she comes to her senses [after 10 seconds] that person has gone away with the speed of the wind.

She went to her tution and came back wanting to share this with her mother…

But she is a brave, strong, independent, ambitious, and passionate girl who can take care of herself…who can go to tution on her own…who does not need her father or brother to drop her off [not at least in the daylight]…who can move freely…who does not want to hear ‘maine tujhe pehle hi kaha tha aur bahar ja akele…jaha dekho chaudhari banana hai tujhe’

…but SHE COULDN’T and SHE DIDN’T!

They finished their food and are standing in a queue to clean the plates which had dry remains of subzi. While standing in that queue waiting for her turn, she was wondering if her story is ‘loud’ enough to be considered a ‘scar’!

Three out of these five women either had been sexually abused by someone within the family or know someone really close who has experienced it.

Five out of these five women had been sexually assaulted by strangers on the road/ in the park/ in public spaces.

I don’t need to put down any statistics here to substantiate what I am saying. All I want to say is provide your children with spaces where they feel comfortable in sharing with you and not trying to prove themselves to you!

Opening up your heart and being vulnerable at times is the strongest act one can do!

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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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