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Dear Elders, Can You Please Stop Comparing Your Child With Other Kids?!

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Sharma ji ke ladke ko dekho kahan padh raha hai.” (See where Sharmaji’s son is studying)

Unki ladki ko dekho Doctor ban gai hai.” (Their daughter has become a doctor)

These kinds of lines have been heard by almost all children. Relatives, neighbours do it all the time. When there are siblings, they always being compared.

Arey uski badi behen toh chhoti se zyaada sundar hai!” (Oh, the elder sister is prettier than the younger sister!) “Uska chhota bhai bade bhai se zyaada lamba hai!” (The younger brother is taller than the elder brother!)

Do they even realise how these lines affect a child? During these times, children look for their parents’ support. They want their parents to object to these remarks. But, have you ever imagined what happens when even parents start comparing? That is the worst situation.

Comparison cannot do anything good for children. Instead, it will demotivate them and raise doubts in their minds about themselves. It will fill them with negativity and hatred. Not only that, but they might feel detached from the people who compare them and they might actually start withdrawing themselves. This is a dangerous situation, especially with parents and family members.

Representational image.

Children should not be compared, especially with their siblings because they live together almost all the time. The constant thought of comparison will affect them more adversely than any other situation.

I have also been in that situation. There was a time when I would just refuse to attend any function or party, and I used to run away from people. Trust me, being compared is a very bad feeling, I can’t even begin to say how much. It really hurts.

Even teachers also do this. My teacher once compared my marks with a student in front of the whole class. He said to that student, “Iske sirf do number cut huye hai aur tumhe sirf do number mile hain!” (She only lost 2 marks, and you only got 2 marks!) This must have been very humiliating for him.

Children need praise and motivation, not these words of demotivation. To all the elders who compare children, I just want to ask – How would you feel if a child will compare you with others? Obviously you will not feel good. Then, why you do not think about this while comparing children!

Elders never realise that children also have feelings, self-respect, emotions, and dignity. When people compare, bad thoughts start invading children’s mind. Am I not good enough? Why has god made me like this? Why can’t I be like him/her? What can I do to get love from my near ones?

Imagine a child having these thoughts! These thoughts are very depressing. Even adults will not be able to cope up with these thoughts, how can we expect children to do the same?! According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which was released in 2017 on the occasion of World Health Day, 1,311.1 million people in India are depressed, of which, 75.5 million are adolescents (13-15 years). That is why it is said that depression can happen to anyone, of any age, of any gender!

According to the WHO report, 7% of adolescents were found to be “bullied” and they felt disturbed due to comments by their peers, family members, or teachers. The report also said that 25 % of adolescent were “depressed” and “sad or hopeless“. Let me remind you that those comparative remarks definitely be counted as bullying. Those remarks definitely will make a child depressed, sad, anxious, and worried.

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Representational image.

But, many people still think that depression is just a phase, depression is not a problem, depression is not real, and so on. They should know that depression can lead to suicide, which is the second-highest cause of death among people of the age group 15-29 years in the South-East Asian region.

For you, it may be just a joke, it may be just a casual remark, but, for a child, it is not!

People must never forget that every child is special. Comparing a child with other children is like comparing the fingerprints of two different people! Robert John Meehan, an American educator and author, once said  “It shouldn’t matter how slowly a child learns. What matters is that we encourage them to never stop trying.” Majority of successful people have a similar story. Most of them were not according to the “set notions of the society“.  They could achieve so much in life because they were not compared but supported (at least by their parents).

We should remember that a child can only be compared to themself and no one else. Every child is special. Children are not robots but humans. They cannot be expected to fulfil everyone’s expectations.

Whenever you think of comparing children think about this line by Albert Einstein,  “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life thinking it’s stupid.”

You must also think about this quote by  Tori Amos (American singer-songwriter), “Some of the most wonderful people are the ones who don’t fit into boxes.”

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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