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The Two Ps I Gave Up In An Effort Towards Gender Equality

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There are a plethora of topics that I have been waiting to write about and it has been a tough job for me to decide which one to begin with. Finally, I thought it would be best if I start with something which has had a big hand in shaping me the way I am. Kindly bear with me.

We often hear people saying that our experiences are our best teachers, I agree but there is also another neglected, underestimated mentor which can help us in staying away from such regrettable experiences/decisions. To elaborate this, I will have to take you back to 2013 when I had just completed my 12th Board exams. I was waiting eagerly for the engineering college I would get into, which I did get easily (an average private one, no merit needed, you have your 10th and 12th mark sheet, money and stupidity… congrats you have been granted an admission), just to figure out later that I would be sailing in the wrong boat. No, it was not the mediocrity of the college but the very fact that I had stepped into something (engineering) in which I had little interest. I was not the only one to blame for this wrong step – media, teachers, family, friends, everyone had brainwashed me into believing that this is the ultimate career. Still, I accept that I could have still made a call if I would have talked to myself for once, if I would have asked critical questions like ‘why am I fit for this career?’, ‘what are the other options available?’, ‘should I do what others are doing?’. Anyway, I managed to spend those four years well, made some good friends. My academics went for a toss, scored an average CGPA. Now I do have an engineering degree but I feel as I graduated in life lessons, the greatest of them being TALK TO YOURSELF, DON’T JUST FOLLOW A TREND/CROWD. USE YOUR CONSCIENCE.

The above line has elevated my perspective, brought me power to think about anything meticulously and then decide if I should do it or not. Yes, it may sound boring but it can turn out to be a panacea for all your day to day predicaments.

Here are two points that I would like to mention, two habits that I had developed during those same four years and which I got rid of soon. These are some of the most ubiquitous activities that youth have embraced without knowing the effects it has on our society. I will get into the detail of each one in separate write-ups:

1. Porn

Just as I got into engineering I got into this one too, everyone was doing it around me. Ya, it’s fun to watch but there are dark sides, it’s addictive, it’s manipulative, misleading and if all these are not enough then hear me out. Your failed attempt to control your hormones might be compelling a girl to perform those acts forcefully, she might have been trafficked or she might be doing it under some other pressure, you never know it for sure. One click is promoting a business which is based on the idea that women are sex objects. I asked myself if I should still continue watching and the answer was NO. Yes, I am a hot-blooded male in my mid-twenties and I don’t need such filthy material. What about you?

2. Profanity 

Just like the previous one this too goes against gender equality. I don’t have an issue if you swear at someone who has pissed you off but why is there a need to bring their female family members into the fight? Is that all you can do when your machismo is hurt? (NO, I am not suggesting to bring male members to maintain equilibrium, you idiot). Now many will say that they just do it for fun, without literal meaning it. Really? If something has no meaning then why should you say it in the first place? Just because all say it? You do know what it means and subconsciously you have accepted the fact that those words indicate and then you say it’s the 21st century, women are at par with men. What makes all these even worse is when women too use such words wholeheartedly. Maybe they are trying to walk neck to neck with men but don’t do something which backfires on your own gender. If I can’t respect India being an Indian, I have no right to demand respect from a foreigner, as simple as that. Heed it and leave swearing which contains women targeted words or feel proud in calling yourself a hypocrite.

These were the two things that I have successfully eliminated from my life, though there might be many other things which people from all walks of life struggle with – like alcohol, drugs, etc. Fortunately, I have never fallen into these traps. With some, if done in moderation, it’s fine while others must be expelled immediately.

My purpose behind writing this was not to blow my own horn, I am still chasing my goal. It was an attempt to tell everyone that you are in charge of your character, don’t let it get adulterated by external forces (people, situations). Yes, you can have a different opinion, you are free to live your way as far as you don’t cause harm to others. I don’t intend to debate with anyone, but if you can resonate with my story and you feel the urge to bring change in yourself, then the time spent in creating this write-up was time well spent.

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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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