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‘I Stopped Vlogging And Posting Because Of My Dark Skin’

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I am a Keralite, born and brought up in Mumbai. My skin complexion is somewhere between fair and dark, so I can safely say that I am a brown citizen in my country. With the recent outrage in the United States against racism, its tremors have also hit India. But, I personally feel that we Indians are the biggest hypocrites when it comes to skin colour.

We always cry foul, when we are treated as inferior in foreign countries due to our skin colour, but never cry and fight against the same when some of our people are treated the same way in our country. There are different factors that amount to the skin colour of an individual, and none of them are in the hands of the person.

Arranged marriages are the biggest torture scheme when it comes to skin colour, only next to beauty salons. I stopped going to parlours because the staff started harassing me a lot. I do not blame them, but maybe, playing with the fear and insecurity of people is the necessary for their survival.

We talk about body shaming and racism when it happens to someone abroad, but in our own country, we openly encourage the same. If you think I am lying, try going shopping if you are a plus size woman. The salesman will drown you to tears and give you a dress by doing you a favour, and charge you a bomb for the same. Once I committed the mistake of undertaking a skin treatment from someone who was a self-proclaimed skin repairer, or some crap like that.

woman getting her eyebrows threaded
Representative image.

It was meant to be eight sessions and I would go there every Saturday, post my office hours. I was around 24 years old, and trying hard to build my career, which meant sleepless nights and long working hours. I was ready to undertake the treatment because I was tired and wanted to relax. I reached her salon one evening, tired and weary, and almost slept through the treatment.

The next time when I went there, she started telling everyone that last week I was so dead and tired that it was only after her treatment that I became alive. When I arrived, my face looked like someone had slapped me. That was the last day I went for that treatment and within a couple of months, I heard that she had shut down the parlour and gone away for good. I mean if you are going to break down a person’s confidence, nobody is going to come to you.

I’d like a parlour where the beautician just asks me what I would like to do and quietly starts doing it. Yes, I would encourage a small talk with them about general things like the weather, their families or the latest trend in hair colour. But, alas, I could not find any one parlour as such.

I thought this happens only in small parlours, so I went to a big parlour in my locality. I had gone to the market to buy vegetables and was done with my chores, so I thought of getting my eyebrows done. I walked into the parlour, tired, and asked her to do my eyebrows. Firstly, the attitude of the beautician was such, as if she was doing a favour to me by treating someone so ugly.

Her expressions literally said that. Then, when I was done and about to leave, she started pitching to me her different packages, which they usually do, but adding her arrogance and attitude. I politely declined. She ended the conversation by saying that no wonder my face looks the way it does. I threw her a dirty look and walked away.

The stories are many, but the bottom line is the same. I was harassed, but that is the reason why I learnt to do my own facial and waxing. Trust me, it is much cheaper and more relaxing than getting it done from a parlour. Because you can do it at your own spare time, and the parlour people literally loot you. They use the facial pack meant for one person for atleast three or four people, and  does not give you the required effect on your skin. This is why when you do facial at home, it lasts longer and you feel much better. And of course, it is much cheaper.

Probably, it is the karma for those millions of beauticians who broke the self-respect and self-confidence of millions of women and little girls, that today, beauty industry is one of the most-affected industry due to Covid- 19.

Our media and society has also played a major role in encouraging this skin colour sham. Our dusky Goddesses are misrepresented on television. We barely have anything left to discuss. Women during the olden days also used to take care of their skin, but they were never publicly mocked for the same; there was no beauty industry then to tell them that they did not have the right to live.

I used to vlog about law on Youtube. Firstly, it is a technical subject, in which content and the way it is explained should ideally matter. But whenever I have shared it with people, somehow, instead of giving me feedback on my content, I’ve always received feedback on how I look. That is something that recently hurt me to such an extend that I haven’t been able to vlog again, and neither am I able to put a fancy post on Instagram to do brand promotion. When the video is about a technical subject, why should it matter how dark my skin looks? I still fail to understand the logic.

I am personally not a big fan of Sonam Kapoor. I know she is a product of nepotism and wouldn’t have been where she is if not for her father. Her acting skills are pathetic, yet, whenever there are memes on her, I see people commenting more on her skin colour. She is the who had once commented that people who do not look good are the only people who can act.

Sometimes, I do not understand what people expect me to do — roam around like some Ekta Kapoor serial’s heroine? The more I try to be comfortable in my own skin, the more I get comments on how I look. But now, I have reached a stage where these things do not hurt me a lot.

Probably, it is the karma for those millions of beauticians who broke the self-respect and self-confidence of millions of women and little girls, that today, beauty industry is one of the most-affected industry due to Covid- 19. It is nothing personal, I’m just sharing what has happened with me.

I have two children, a six-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl. Every time someone meets them, the first question they ask is whom they resemble the most. Sometimes, I feel like I should walk around with a DNA report of my children’s parentage. It is painful and frustrating when people do not even leave a chance to burden these two kids with their judgment.

I am trying my best to stop people from judging each other, but I think it is much easier to make my kids stronger to resist this kind of bullying. The sad part is, this bullying is mostly practiced by the so-called respected elders of the society.

I would like to know if the same has happened with you.

You must be to comment.

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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.”

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.

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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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