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The Seeds Of Gender Inequality Are Often Sowed At Home

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 Article 15(2) of the Indian Constitution says, “No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to, access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads, and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.” We talk and read about equality, but do we think about it?

Blue or Pink? This seemingly simple choice can significantly limit a child’s skillset and worldview. Image only for representation purposes.

Do you know that inequality starts from our home itself when the parents select pink coloured items for the daughter and blue ones for the son? A Barbie and kitchen sets for a girl and bike and a Batman toy for a boy. When a girl or a woman drives a car, people say, “Dekh ke bhai, ladki gaadi chala ri hai” (careful, a woman is driving), though they also know about an astronaut, “Sunita Williams”.

In Indian society, people still think that only a boy can carry forward the family lineage, even when they know that the daughters take care of their parents even after marriage. Why do parents always advise their daughter saying, “you are a girl, and you have to manage your sasural, family, and life”? Why can’t they advise the same thing to their son? Or, why can’t they say managing the family is not just your responsibility, it’s your husband’s responsibility too—because both of you tied the knot.

Gender Discrimination In Society

As per a study in 2018, about 2,39,000 girls under the age of 5, die each year in India due to gender discrimination. According to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) researchers, states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan account for two-thirds of total excess deaths of infant girls under age five. If they identify the sex of the fetus as female, they kill the child before birth.

It’s not about a particular state; it’s about the mentality of our society where a girl child is treated as a burden, and they have no qualms about killing them at birth. While a male child can become the source of income for the family and carry on the family lineage, a girl child has to get married off to another family ultimately.

In villages, parents prefer to provide education to the boy rather than a girl, even if they agree to provide education, a girl has to drop out of school either to support her mother in the household chores or due to menstruation-related issued.

Nowadays, when an educated, working woman gets married, then after marriage, the responsibility of cooking and other household activities, caring for a baby are solely expected from the wife. Why? Just because she is a woman! If a boy is working till late at night, the family never objects, instead, they say, “My boy is so hardworking”. But if women do the same thing, then the thinking of the family and society gets changed, they taunt her for working till late and for not taking care of her family. Why does society discriminate between men and women?

Gender Discrimination At Workplace

Image for representation purposes only.

At the workplace, because of gender, employees are treated differently, less favourably, evaluated more harshly or passed over for promotion. We can see this discrimination at all stages of employment, including recruitment, workplace terms & conditions and dismissal.

In job profiles such as facility administrator, field worker or driver, employers prefer a male candidate. They feel a woman won’t fit into the traditionally male workplace. If a woman is pregnant, either she forced to leave her job, or her promotion gets passed over. This shows the sick mentality of a male-dominant society.

As per an article, more young women experience sexual harassment, job insecurity and low pay as compared to male peers. According to the Young Women Trust, 23% of females aged between 16–30 reported sex discrimination, out of which only 8% reported about it and about 31% sought a new job.

In Microsoft, a renowned company, 238 complaints were filed by women with the HR department between 2010–2016. Out of the 238 internal complaints, 108 were for sexual harassment, 119 for gender discrimination, 8 for retaliation and 3 for pregnancy discrimination.

In Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), a former high-level female executive complained about the pattern and practice of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. She was told to quit the company, and when she did not, she was fired.

Gender Discrimination In The Film Industry

In India, we can see a gender pay gap in Bollywood. In films, both male and female actors put equal efforts, but still, actresses are paid less than the male actors. Due to this pay gap, no Bollywood actresses have ever made it to the Forbes List of highest earners.

In his autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy”, Karan Johar mentions an incident where he paid Kareena Kapoor less that Shahrukh Khan, and later, he chose another heroine. This incidence shows the stereotypes in the film industry. Actresses like Kangna Ranaut and Priyanka Chopra have also talked about being paid less in comparison to their male costars. They were told that they were too proactive or that being sexy is their strength. This clearly shows that the Bollywood industry just objectifies women rather than respecting their capabilities.

Now, the actresses are changing this mentality by leading a film alone like Kangana Ranaut’s Queen, Priyanka Chopra’s Mary Kom, and many more. These actresses are breaking the stereotypes of Bollywood by showing their calibre to get equal pay.

Gender Equality Begins At Home

We must strive to make work-life balance a priority for all. Let’s sow a seed of equality in our soil and see the plant of equality grow. The change should start with an individual. When you stop differentiating between the colours and toys, household responsibilities and career, only then can the mindset of society change. We are society, and when we change our thoughts, our country will enjoy the Freedom of Equality.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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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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