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Why Does Indian Society Continue To Judge People On The Basis Of Skin Colour?

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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how a person’s skin tone is really a great matter of concern for society. It becomes mythically necessary in shaping a person’s future; not only does it play a role in someone’s career, but in other aspects as well, the skin tone is a major deciding factor of one’s fate.

And as I keep thinking about skin tones; I can’t come up with a single reason that justifies people’s desire to have lighter or darker skin. There is no prestigious thing in differentiating people on the basis of skin tone. It is rather a shameful act in the eyes of humanity.

The notions that fair girls will get better boys to marry or better job offers or that boys should be fair are really problematic. In fact, this concept is so disdainful, that we are forgetting the true meaning of beauty

Recently, Sai Pallavi, a Telugu actress refused to endorse a fairness cream worth Rs. 2 crores. And her reasoning for rejecting such a huge amount of money was very valid. According to her, as she told HuffPost India. “This is Indian colour. We can’t go to foreigners and ask them why they are white, and if they know that they will get cancer because of it. We can’t look at them and think we want that. That’s their skin colour and this is ours. Africans have their own colour too and they are beautiful.”

The Black Market Of Beauty Creams!

Honestly, we are so obsessed with associating beauty with fairer skin, that we fail to realize that beauty should never be associated with superficiality. We are so plagued by this idea of lighter skin, that we tend to forget what impact it’s having on young girls and women. It’s not only making them conscious, but its also making them hide, in the closet of insecurities and uncertainties.

I have seen on many instances where girls are taught to apply haldi, chandan, malai and all other cosmetics that would hypothetically make them fairer. In fact, talking about the past, boys also suffer from something similar.

Our market is stocked with various products that advocate for fairness and beauty. We have so many cosmetics that promise a particular skin tone after application. In fact, if the new age we have so many fashion bloggers and vloggers, social media influencers, who advertise various creams, facemasks, gels, that pledge for skin lightening. And marketing strategies are luring everyone into this fallacy.

The beauty market is increasing tremendously, gaining profit immensely without showing any accountability of the consequences. Most of these creams contain chemicals that are not only harmful to our skin but also expensive.

Why Do We Continue Supporting Toxic Traditions?

In one situation, I found myself cringing as someone mentioned that they want a daughter-in-law, who was fair and beautiful.  In another instance, a lady was boasting about the girl’s lighter skin tone. In a recent incident, a guy was rejected for having dark skin tone and there was no mention actually no mention of his education, qualifications, or intelligence. The only factor that mattered when choosing an acceptable husband or wife was fairness and beauty. My question is, do dark-skinned people deserve to be considered worthless by Indian society? Does their intelligence and education and behaviour count for nothing?

Will they always be forced to try and change themselves by applying creams that are intended to make them fairer? Will all the other qualities within them, become secondary because of their skin tone? Will they be the subject to the never-ending rants, questions and the pity of people just because they have a darker skin tone?

If the answer is yes, then we as a society have failed and we need to stop carrying on with toxic traditions that do more harm than good.

Have we ever realized what a person with darker skin tone has to go through while listening to taunts about the colour of their skin? Have we ever realized what kind of psychological trauma they go through when they are constantly compared with their own friends, siblings and cousins, who have a lighter skin tone? Have we ever considered how a person with dark skin tone feels when we constantly push them to use products that have no effect on their skin?

Have we ever thought about how uncertain and insecure a person becomes when we demean them continuously? How many girls and boys with darker skin tones question their own self worth and fall into the pit of depression because of unnecessary qualms during marriage proposals?

If the definition of beauty is a flawless face without scars, with a lighter skin tone, then society is lying to itself.

The definition of beautiful holds a much broader slant then just having a light skin tone.

Beauty simply does not lie only in the face, it also lies in the acknowledgement of how a person perceives humanity and life, and in the very heart of the human, in the intelligence, knowledge, compassion and empathy that one shares.


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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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