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Here’s A Long List Of Biases That Women Should Not Have To Face

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Ever since we were born, we have faced discrimination at least once at some point in time. We are celebrating International Women’s Day today, and all we can think of is discrimination against women in almost all spheres, at least in our own country India.

The day a baby is born, everyone is eager to know the sex of the baby, so that they can predict the future of the child and family. Then, in the naming ceremony, the gifts that come are binary, with certain things for boys and certain others for girls. The discrimination starts right from there. Then, more restrictions are put on a woman’s life. Parents are more concerned about her marriage 10 years later than about her career.

After school, more so in rural areas, girls are not sent to study at a University, or are sent for part-time low-wage jobs that are close by. In cities, even though one is able to study and work, options are limited for women than for men. She should look at colleges with a minimal fee, with least distance from their home, colleges that do not require her to stay in a hostel or from where she can reach home early.

Discrimination against women starts right from the naming ceremony and continues throughout school. Representative image. Source: José Antonio Morcillo Valenciano/Flickr

She cannot choose a college that is politically-charged or observes strikes. So, private colleges with a strict schedule are preferred. She can’t go out on weekends, especially in certain modern clothes, or can’t stay back in college. She can’t spend too much on trips or eat-outs… The list is endless.

Courses That Women Are Limited To

Coming to the choice of courses, science is considered to be the best, and fit for boys who can crack the JEE exam and get into an IIT college. We won’t allow our daughters to write certain exams as we don’t want to send her far. So, we won’t allow her to take science. She can probably take arts, often claimed as a stream for the least smart, and those who can mug up.

If she is so interested in science, let her take biology or maths, and try for medicine if she wishes to. They may not allow her to go for an entrance or drop many years for NEET. If she fails in her first attempt, families often say that they will marry her off or ask her to go for a parallel college.

What Jobs Are Women Allowed To Take?

Coming to choosing jobs, especially in the STEM category, people like to take shortcuts. A woman is not supposed to work in a factory that requires physical work. Her workplace should be an office, most often prefer a desk job, an IT job, or a work from home. Allowing her to go for a job far away is a rare occasion.

“We won’t allow our daughters to write entrance exams as we don’t want to send her far. So, we won’t allow her to take science. She can probably take arts.”

At the age of 23-25 years, she must be ready to get married (sometimes leave the job too), even if she’s not ready. It doesn’t matter if she has to compromise her career for it. After that, the husband’s family dictates her life. She is often forced to stay within four walls of the house. Often, the job will be a 9-5 one, or people have the answer – the job of a teacher.

Taking care of her children is supposed to be a bigger priority for her, as her husband working elsewhere may not be there, or the company may not give him paternity leave. So ultimately, a woman is (unwillingly) ready to leave her small job too, and spend the rest of her life as a homemaker.

This is the situation many of the women in India go through. At least one woman would have faced at least one of these discriminatory choices in her lifetime. In olden days, the eldest kid used to stay at home without being able to attend school, in order to look after the younger siblings. Many a times, we can see that a lot of women who had an exemplary academic life did not even attend a single job interview after school/college.

Why is it that at the end of the day, it is always the woman who has to compromise? Everyone knows how important the role of a father in the development of the child is. But half of our fathers don’t give their children as much time as mothers do. Some parents may not even have seen their son’s/daughter’s school too. Is earning a lot of money the end of our life? Aren’t we supposed to grow beyond the 9-5 job culture, not caring about a child’s future, and only caring about marriage and how society will judge you?

We have made a tremendous progress since Independence. We may rarely know a girl who had to discontinue her education in school or college based on family matters or just because her marriage was approaching. We may also be shocked to know if a girl is not able to choose the subject of her choice, because she is a girl and not because of her marks.

There are girls excelling in all academic courses, coming at par with boys, even in science, engineering or cracking entrance exams. But the stigma around her choices is still at question, especially her leaving her job for family, marriage and having to look after her kids. Dowry is still an unclosed chapter, and people still find joy in giving and taking it due to societal pressure, traditions, etc.

So, what should we do? The only request I have is to stop differentiating the life of boys and girls. Allow both of them to pursue whatever they want to, and let them become whoever they want to become. Stop putting hurdles into their lives, and stop putting the burden of your dreams on to them. Let them have their own dreams and let them pursue them in their way. Be there to support and encourage them. Last but not least, don’t accept that you’re wrong to your parents for having your own dreams. They have a lot of faith in you, and always have their confidence in you that you will triumph over the challenges you face.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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
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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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