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15 Things That Indian Parents Should Start Telling Their Daughters

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There are so so many things Indian parents need to teach their daughters but they don’t.

This makes the daughters literally face life and its challenges with naivety – and fall into many mental and physical issues and traps!

I’m listing down top 15 of those for now:

  1. Menstruation is normal and happens to all girls: This is like the biggest ever conversation which all Indian parents need to have with their little girls.
  2. None of the menstruation taboos are medically or scientifically true: This is a social battle! You shall have to win yours first and then help your daughter overcome her own social battle ranging from “don’t touch the pickle jar”, “don’t wash your hair”, “don’t pray or go-to a place of worship” to name a few.
  3. Explain what sex is and what the value of ‘NO’ is: Given the fact that sex Education is absent in entirety in India, it’s almost impossible for parents to get correct and age appropriate literature in their language of choice. Further, it’s imperative that girls be taught the value of NO! And the fact that no one can violate their bodies.
  4. In ‘being pretty’ vs ‘being strong’ – ‘being strong’ wins hands down! Parents spend an inordinate amount of time and energy and many a times money encouraging girls to be “girly” – beautiful, can sing, can cook, can dance, etc. They do not teach girls how to be physically strong. They don’t encourage girls in outdoor sports and defense techniques like karate, etc. In today’s world it’s imperative that girls learn self defense. It’s more important than Math and Science and English!

  5. Parents need to save up for their girl’s education and not dowry! And tell the girl’s that! Despite dowry being illegal, Indian parents save for a girl’s marriage and dowry. They don’t save for her Education and help her find a job and make her economically independent! Many parents teach their girls that even if they are doing a job, it shall be subservient to her to be husband’s job! Parents have to stop doing that!
  6. Parents need to push their girls into Maths and Science for better job prospects. For some reason parents want their girls to study art and learn to be good homemakers. The roundness of the rotis matter – her choice of subject doesn’t. Parents need to go to career counselors and seek advice for their Girl’s future. And share with the girls.
  7. Parents need to teach their girls that they are second to none – very emotively. In a society such as ours, we have women being treated as second class citizenship on a regular basis. Parents need to reverse this and also show in their behavior towards their girls.
  8. A girl’s body isn’t “ghar ki izzat” – it’s a human body and nothing more. She is to be given basic human rights over her mind and body and self! If girl falls in love, or decides to have a physical relationship with someone, no family name is being slighted! It’s her choice!
  9. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, if a girl is raped, her izzat isn’t lost – the rapist’s izzat is lost!!! We have to overtly encourage our girls to know and believe that! And also the fact that they are protected by their families and the law. Many a girl commits suicide due to social pressure and victimization, after the rape.
  10. It’s not ok to be beaten/ hit by your husband. And you have the right to walk out of the marriage. You also need to tell her that your home shall always be open for her, if ever she needs help.
  11. You shall not be doing “kanyadan” and you shall not be asking her to “move our of the house”. This concept of Kanyadan as being mahadaan in the Indian cultural context is ever permeating. This needs to stop! And girls need to be told by their parents clearly that they shall not be doing this “ritual” in name or hear and soul. This might give the girl a lot of strength.
  12. You are in no way inferior to boys. Social taboos and social restrictions always have a situation where the boy is considered superior. The parents of the girls need to enforce this into her mind that that’s not true. And that all girls are equal.
  13. Girls need to play contact sports. Parents need to encourage little girls to run, climb trees, play kabaddi etc. They need to tell their girls that its fine and acceptable behavior. Many girls give up running when elders in society start asking them to “behave like a girl”.
  14. Parents need to tell their girls that the prime reason for this existence is not to just to get married and have babies. Gender stereotypes have “good women” being portrayed as married with babies and lots of maternal instincts. But this isn’t true always. And parents need to teach their little girls that it’s ok to be different. And “she” as a choice!
  15. Make your girls independent financially and encourage them to take decisions. Most Indian women when they grow up are unable to make decisions as all their social and financial decisions were made by their husbands/ brothers/fathers, etc. You need to assist them! And teach them.

I hope that you too shall add to this list after reading this piece.

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Taking a moment and putting down a line about my book “A Normal Indian” which has 18 short stories around social issues faced by young people in India today.

A lot of them have young women and girls struggling with social ills and taboos – you may wish to “catch a look-see” A Normal Indian – Short Stories from the Heart of India

I also write about relationships and people on my blog Malavika Sharma – Social Entrepreneur & Activist

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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.

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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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