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“I Feel Like Throwing Up At The Patriarchy Of The Society”

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I was 16 years old when people were throwing statements and adjudicating me about how malnourished I looked, how jocular my buck teeth were, how icky my hair was, and compelled that acne made me look ‘ugly’, my mom being an insightful person helped me acknowledge that criticism has to be taken up constructively. Feeling insecure about myself and being hideously unattractive have always been the bizarre thoughts I’ve had as a high schooler besides being pseudo named as ‘quirky’. Fortunately, there are quite some optimistic people who would contradict their statements.

Feeling insecure about myself and being hideously unattractive have always been the bizarre thoughts I’ve had as a high schooler besides being pseudo named as ‘quirky’/Representational image

The Delusion Of Prettiness And Happy Endings

Prettiness is just a thesis and everyone’s thesis is dissimilar. Society’s queer body image jabs that I have faced which parallelly affect my routine while looking into a mirror were on a drastic increase until lately by which my already fragile self-regard plummeted. Pondering that life just isn’t fair for many people and people are not going to feel sorry for you just because you feel bad sulked me up in despair.

Eventually, when we’re judged so much, we start preempting the judgment, and we become judgmental too and I could relate myself to it wholly because of the ‘aura’, as I broached about how I was being prejudiced and hence that made me put people into a wide range of categories. At the end of the day the only thoughts in my head were, what if I am desensitized to pain or loss?

What if I become one of those people who are numb to life? Added to that, at times I feel like throwing up at the patriarchy of the society in raising their progeny, mostly sons who just have testosterone, attitude, and flamboyance the ones who pretend it’s ‘cool’ to go around criticizing.

I was struggling to keep my head above waters but through the journey of life, I was able to shed some of the baggage that I’ve been carrying around for so long and always assumed the hypothesis – it would be a delightful ending as we see on-screen cinema being such a vicarious medium, put me into situations where I assumed my life would someday, partially be related to any of the Bollywood movies, the vapid, artificial and fast-paced.

The vibe about happy endings, joyous rollicking times, and what not? Every time I saw DDLJ or Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, (most likely Karan Johar’s movies as their main deficit is about romanticizing) I would picture myself being happy at the tail end and within few minutes, I would miss the gleam in my eyes because it’s pretty prominent that movies are dreamy. But acknowledging and being myself and accepting the way I am taking me a couple of years. The attempt to revamp myself started with a bang and I made it a compulsion to not change myself per se others requirements or needs as that would be an utter fallacy.

People encompassing are known to judge and deduce, which has to entirely be snubbed at. When I lost it all, I finally started to build a relationship with myself. Yes, this is a cliché and I never quite believed the gravity of it until recently. Most of the people around you are petrified what suits them, what comforts them, what they relate to, and what is convenient to them. I do not want to do the same with myself.

It haunts me to be somebody I am not and suppress emotions that I shouldn’t express/Representational image.

On Embracing The Tides, Braving The Waters, And Unconditional Support From Parents

We do not expect the ocean to not rise and fall. We embrace her tides. I want to be able to do the same for myself. Learning to surf my high tides and not be afraid of the solitude in my calm. It’s still a process but quarantine has given us more of a reason to do something productive in this gap of the period and so, I resorted to exercising.

It has been that one therapeutic space that has helped me transform my mind and body. I had been looking forward to the marathons this year and started it with great enthusiasm and rigour only to find my body not cooperative as I had a few health issues. Some days, I run solo but the times I run with a crew and end up running alongside someone new, there’s always interesting perspectives to share and learn from those you meet.

They’ve made me look at life in a pragmatic modus operandi, and filtering toxic people would be the basic principle as you wouldn’t give a thought about those rants anyone would pass. I am increasingly learning that it is okay to have a few people I can truly call my humans and limiting who I invest time and energy on. It teaches you that despite differences that exist amongst us there are some things that each one of us tends to seek, such as passion to learn new things, love for adventure, the love/hate relationship with distance running, and human compassion.

Growing up, I have seen so many of my friend’s parents stifle them in the name of love.

But it haunts me to be somebody I am not and suppress emotions that I shouldn’t express. My mother has given me the space to make mistakes, to learn, and to grow from them.

Despite our differences, the unconditional love and support have always been there. Our home has always been safe heaven to retreat in and express emotions freely.

Of course, we have had our fair share of chaos but it was never at the cost of stifling my individuality. From my parents, I have learned that- home is where the acceptance is – where you can be who you are without fearing being judged and shamed. So the point being, we’ve been told that we’re all different and unique and synonyms for the said words. But, I think that’s what makes us all the same. That’s the thread that connects all of our differences- the fact that we’re all unique and yet, still the same.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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