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How A Community Of Writers Showed Up To Bat For Our Women In Blue!

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By Merril Diniz:

Did you know that only 9% of Wikipedia editors are women (according to a survey in 2011)? In India, the numbers are even lower at 3%.

A Wikipedia link is literally the first one that pops up in any Google search, and hence, literally the most important one, determining what we know about an individual. The result of such a skewed gender ratio impacts the overall flavour and representation of women on the world’s largest crowd-sourced encyclopedia.

Take the case of Indian women cricketers who are bringing home the trophies. The equity of women’s cricket in India is rising. But a quick Google search reveals sparsely populated wiki profiles for most women cricketers, except for prominent players like Mithali Raj and Harmanpreet Kaur. The profiles are purely functional stating names of mothers, fathers and siblings, hometown of the player and what position they play on the team, but not much beyond that.

To help shake up this bleak narrative, on Dec 15, the SHEROES Aspiring writers’ community and award-winning publishing platform Feminism in India, came together for an all-women wikithon. During this activity, we collectively researched, edited and wrote up the profiles of our Indian women cricketers, bringing them a little closer to reflecting their brilliance on the field!

Online video masterclass by Japleen Pasricha on the SHEROES app

Before getting started, our community needed training on how to become savvy wiki editors. This in itself is a skill, as there are strict rules to help keep information as authentic as possible.

In an online video masterclass, Japleen Pasricha, Founder of Feminism in India (who has been hosting such wikithons for over two years now), guided our community on how to create a Wikipedia profile, how to find legitimate sources of information and cite them when building a story, and also how to write in a gender-savvy manner.

The masterclass, hosted at the SHEROES office, was broadcast live to the entire SHEROES community, and several members joined remotely, learning and posting their queries on the go, before diving into the actual editing bit.

When I quizzed community members on what inspired them to give up their Saturday for a crowd-sourced activity, to support our sportswomen, I received interesting responses. Rashmi said it was her way of “supporting our team”.

Nandita, an aspiring writers community member edited Deepti Sharma's profileSeema Sharma, a teacher by profession, who is passionate about sports, said she “wanted to do her bit”.

Kavyashree, a budding writer, says that “women’s cricket is as important as men’s cricket.” Agree!

Riya Gaur, a content strategist articulates in more detail. She says, “I am a cricket fan but till date mostly have knowledge about our Men in Blue. Through this event, I would like to enhance and spread knowledge about our Women In Blue. It’s high time that the cricket-crazy nation, India, know about its women champions and celebrate them like their male-counterparts.” 

I myself edited the profile of Nuzhat Parween, a 22-yr old wicket-keeper from Singrauli District in Madhya Pradesh. Her erstwhile profile was very functional, mentioning a few basics about her cricketing career.

While researching, I came across FemaleCricket.com, a wonderful platform, based out of Mumbai, that features all women cricketers in detail. Here I discovered a quirky interview with Nuzhat, that revealed a lot.

She used to play gully cricket with the boys in her neighbourhood. She went on to become the captain on the under-16 football team in Madhya Pradesh, and eventually was pulled into cricket due to a dearth of players, when Singrauli was forming a district level cricket team. Her performance in these district-level matches did not go unnoticed and she was selected for our national team. Her jersey number is seven, and cricketers Mithali Raj and Sarah Taylor are her inspirations :).

Post the wikithon, I’m happy to share that 21 articles were edited in a span of four hours! Other cricketers whose stories were built up, include Gargi Banerji (currently the only woman in the running for the position of coach), bowler Sneha Rana, all-rounder Deepti Sharna and  batswoman Jemimah Rodrigues.

Travel blogger Nidhi Thawal chose to build up the profile of bowler Ekya Bisht, who hails from Nidhi’s own hometown Uttrakhand.

Post the experience, Lipsa Patro said she felt “awesome” and that the day brought with it “immense learning”. She edited wicketkeeper and batswoman Sushma Verma Devi’s profile and shares, “amazing fact about her, which I didn’t know before – she had a major contribution in recent India-Pak match, where India won by 95 runs.” 

Mommy blogger Priyanka Nair tweeted out that she was super excited to learn a new skill. That’s the spirit!

Rini Sihna, an editor by profession in the publishing space who worked on batswoman Veda Krishnamurthy’s wiki page, captures beautifully, a little of what we all felt, “participating in the edithon will be my small contribution to giving the Indian women cricketers’ team the representation and visibility which they rightfully deserve.” Touche!

Ladies, if you’d like to learn how to edit wikipedia like a pro and help take the 3% of Indian women editors on Wikipedia to 50% and more, watch Japleen’s masterclass and join this ongoing mission! 

The author is Head of Communications at SHEROES, a writer at heart, and passionate about the women’s narrative. She has been a SHEROES community member since 2012, and loves the idea that women supporting women can make for a more progressive, awesome world.

                                               SHEROES Communities for women are accessible via Sheroes.com and the SHEROES app
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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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