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Misogyny, Oppression And Inequality: Gender Politics In A Patriarchy

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In a patriarchal society such as ours, women have been oppressed for a long time. Here, we unfold and understand how patriarchy works and affects women differently on the basis of their socio-economic background. Certain communities are oppressed more than others, due to lack of privilege. The intersectionality existing on the basis of caste, class, gender and religion leads to a creation of different kinds of inequality within women as a gender.

The place where you come from is a major factor that decides the amount of privilege you hold in society as compared to others. When we generalise women as a gender, we fail to acknowledge intersectionality and the problems that arise from it. Through this systematic oppression, misogyny and oppression often becomes invisible. This article lists down some concepts and communities that are not part of the mainstream discourse.

The Commute Gap

Commute gap refers to the gender gap between the place where the person lives and the place where they work. According to a research by Uber, three out of every five Indian women limit their opportunities to only a kilometre from home. Commute gap influences major decisions of a woman’s life.

As a student, she is put into a school close to home. When she grows up and has the liberty to work, she looks for jobs that are nearest to her home, so that she doesn’t waste a lot of time travelling, and rather, comes home soon and look after her family. A lot of working women turn down great opportunities just because they are at a greater distance from home.

migrant labourers
Women farmers working on a field

Double Labour Of Working Women

Women who come from the lower economic strata, who have to work in order to sustain their living, perform double labour. Majority of them also come from lower castes. These women work outside as house help or at construction sites by undertaking physical labour. After work, they go back home and provide for their family.

They look after the child, cook food, and take care of household chores. In this way, woman labourers perform double the labour, out of which one becomes invisible due to its lack of recognition. Such women face oppression at multiple levels of class and caste. They are not provided any kind of relief from neither the government nor society.

Emotional Labour: The Unrecognised Labour That Women Provide

Emotional labour is the exertion of energy for the purpose of addressing people’s feelings, making them comfortable, or living up to social expectations. Women are always the one to provide emotional labour to men. It is very rare that they receive the same sense of emotional support from their male counterparts.

It is always expected of women to be calm and composed; they’re expected to not express their anger or frustration, but put up a smiling face and show up at their jobs. If a woman does react in a ‘socially unacceptable’ way and displays her anger, she is perceived as a ‘bad woman’. Emotional labour is highly invisible in romantic relationships, wherein it is often a one-way road.

Impact Of Climate Change On Women

Women who come from tribal communities are dependent on nature for their livelihood. They have the responsibility of bringing water for the household. Therefore, they are dependent on natural sources of water, but due to climate change, water is becoming scarce. Similarly, they need wood to light fire to cook food, but due to deforestation, the number of trees is decreasing day by day.

Women are more vulnerable to climate change because women form the majority of the poor population. UNDP figures indicate that 80% of the people displaced by climate change are women. Climate change results in natural disasters. Research on this indicates that women are more likely to die in a disaster. This vulnerability is not talked about in the status quo.

Suicide Of Women Farmers

Suicide among farmers is not a new phenomenon in our country where agriculture is a major occupation. Male farmers either migrate to cities in search of jobs, or commit suicide due to the financial burden of loans. Afterwards, it is women who are left behind to look after the farms, take care of the family, and do household chores. They are indebted with loans of their husbands.

When women fail to fulfil all such burdens, they might succumb to this pressure. There is no data available specifically for women farmers’ suicide. Women committing suicide are not registered by government officials as suicide. Their families report the death of the women in their house as caused by some illness, in order to save the reputation of the family due to cultural factors. Hence, the oppression and death of women farmers is not even counted and included in data.

Steps Towards An Egalitarian Society

In order to discuss these issues, we need to start a discourse at the local level, i.e., within families. Whatever little discussion is held about these topics, is limited to the elite circles of the society or academia in general. This discourse needs to seep down to the bottom of the hierarchy. We should question the system that normalises this oppression and fails to acknowledge it.

There should be gender sensitisation classes in school to talk about gender inequality. Moreover, within the structure of families, men should be held accountable for doing household chores, and women should be included in policy formation that directly impacts them. The discourse needs to be inclusive only then we can expect to change the system.

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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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