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An Open Letter To All Feminists : “Let’s Bring In The Change Together”

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With all the talk on feminism recently, we’ve had some good coming out of the nascent conversations around the topic but we’ve also had even more misunderstanding on a very basic issue. So let me define it as google would, feminism is equality in political, social, and economic rights for people of all gender. Why feminism then? Why not simply humanism? So let’s address the question that gets asked not because there’s a valid argument behind it but to shun a valid movement.

Feminism because it’s the female gender that we are striving to bring at par with the male gender in terms of the opportunities at equality. Don’t tell me “it’s the 21st century, there isn’t any disparity”, because it’s there. Right from high-tech companies in America paying unequal wages to men and women for the same work to women in rural India dropping out of school when their menstrual cycle begins, gender equality is there, very much there.

So we have talked enough about the problem, let’s for a change discuss solutions here. How you, as a man, can ensure you support a woman in bridging this gap and how you as a woman can make active efforts to progress on the path to equality.

Women, This One’s For You

It’s about making it okay to flaunt your legs unwaxed. Heck, why women undergo so much pain is beyond my understanding/Representational image.

I have read diverse literature but some of the new literature disgusts me. It’s not new to see male writers portray a submissive devoted picture of a woman as the ideal heck; our mythologies have done it for the society but to see women actively carrying on the crusade is problematic. “I’m not like other girls, “I don’t wear make-up, “She’s a bitch and a slut,” no this isn’t boys locker room talk. This is the basic plot of many of the stories floating around.

Feminism is about freedom and equality, it’s about putting on the boldest shade of lipstick for your happiness; about wearing whatever the heck you want to because surprise it’s your life. It’s the freedom to choose to become a housewife if that’s where your heart lies, to live a life on your own without getting attached to the stigma of being ‘’unmarried’.

It’s about making it okay to flaunt your legs unwaxed. Heck, why women undergo so much pain is beyond my understanding. Human hair is as natural as it gets, why the forced need, why the unrealistic standards of beauty? It’s about picking your goddamn chair and not looking for a man to do it, not if you are capable enough to do it on your own. If we are to fight for equal rights, we’ve to learn to take equal responsibility too.

I unlearned a lot of stereotypes and prejudices as I grew up and one of them was a beauty. I’ve realized I’m not going to take being beautiful as an achievement simply because I never earned it. Genetics can take all the credit but I won’t. So I don’t tell a woman she’s beautiful. I tell her she’s strong and funny and caring, and fierce as a lioness when it comes to protecting her loved ones, and free as a dove when flying towards her dreams and an amazing friend great at what she does because that’s what I would like to hear too.

So don’t compliment me about my beauty, don’t tell me my earrings look nice, do not praise me for what isn’t mine and what I didn’t create and what is but a temporary possession. But tell me that you read something of mine that ignited your soul, that when you heard my story, you realized mountains can be broken down too, tell me you look into my eyes and know there’s a soul inside, beautiful alive and ready to set the fire because that’s what I would search in you too.

So women, bring about the change. I am glad of the barriers we have broken, thank the feminists before us for we have the right to live but there’s a long way ahead. So I hope the next time you don’t settle for an unequal salary, the next time your relatives tell you short dresses are exactly what ‘excites’ males, I hope you give them a piece of your mind. I know you are strong, and we’re stronger together. So be there for each other. Let’s fight injustice anywhere and everywhere.

Men, This Is For You

Men Should Support Feminism
Dear men, fight for equal rights in your workplace. Do not settle for higher wages for the same work. Normalize menstruation./ Photo: The Male Factor

It’s amazing to see your work for the cause and even better to see you creating conversations on the topic, we need it, the society needs it. And it’s okay if you misunderstand feminism right now, we’ve got you on the side of the movement, now the movement will guide you. Feminism is equality, really actually it’s that simple.

No, we feminists aren’t on a holy crusade to harass and suppress men. Believe me, that’s exactly what we’ve been fighting against for centuries, we won’t wish it on you because trust me it sucks. We’re not here to put blames, we are here simply fighting for a change, and trust me it’s a beautiful change, one that is for the betterment of the whole of humanity and we all will benefit from it. So here’s how you can contribute towards this change because it is sure as hell is on its way.

Fight for equal rights in your workplace. Do not settle for higher wages for the same work. Normalize menstruation.

Yes, women bleed once every month, yes the period blood is red well no surprise there, just thought some advertisements could take notes here. So do not freak out of your senses if you see a pad in a woman’s bag or you see a red stain on her clothes, it’s normal. Create an environment of equality in your home. No, it’s not your mother’s job to slave in the kitchen all day, and no, just because it’s lockdown and you’re at home, it’s not her duty to make you five snacks a day.

Help out in the kitchen, in the household works, it does not make you less of a man; if anything at all, it makes you a better one. Call out sexist conversations, no it isn’t funny; no the casual remark passed in meetings intended to be taken lightly is against every professional ethics rulebook there is.

Bollywood, come on, Kabir Singh? No, women don’t like oppressive men full of toxic masculinity, I don’t think we’ve spoken loud enough for you to hear or maybe you’re better at turning a deaf ear, so here’s it, women like men who appreciate equality.

Yes, I would like a man to support me as he would expect me to in any relationship. It’s equality and trust that’s the foundation of any relationship not your romanticized cold obnoxious draining version of love. So come join in the change. Help us bring it about sooner, help us bring in a world where I can walk on a deserted street less afraid of being harassed than being robbed, where the most beautiful natural process that is the reason humanity sustains be normal, let periods not be a calamity anymore. Let’s bring in this change together.

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  1. Muskaan Awasthi

    I. LOVE. THIS.
    People need to see and understand this!

    1. malvika

      thank you 🙂

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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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