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“Is Losing Oneself In The Process Of Becoming A Mother Worth It?”

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The other day, my grandma was telling us about her childhood. She was the sixth sibling among the seven kids. Her mother had borne five daughters and two brothers, before succumbing to death during the birth of the eighth, a stillborn child.

My grandma was hardly four years old then and the youngest sister was around two. But the horrific part is that the people in the village pierced two long iron needles in the mother’s feet before cremation. This was done to ensure that she does not come back as a ghost or spirit to tend to her infants.

That reminds me of a story by Mahashweta Devi, “Bayen” about a mother who was declared a witch by society. She belonged to the family whose job was to bury the dead infants of the village. And as she was the heir to that tradition, she had to do the same. The job never affected her until she became a mother herself. The trouble started when she started imagining the dead child as her own.

Every parent in the world would be shattered at the loss of their child and that is what she experienced every time she had to bury a child. The torture was enough to affect her psychology and she begged her husband about quitting the job. But for society, it was not just any job- it was a duty that only she could perform. The husband followed their suit.

She cried at one such burial and since she was a mother of a six months old, her breast flowed with milk. This was enough for the villagers to declare her a witch and abandon her in the forest. She had to leave her family and could not see her child.

I always wonder as to how could people act so monstrously. I am amazed at the incomprehensibility of people to understand and respect the fact that a mother has borne the child for nine months inside and will always be worried about her children. I’m in no way saying that fathers don’t feel the same. But in a country where motherhood is glorified to divert women from asking equal pay and equal rights, how can people belittle the suffering of a mother?

A woman has to undergo extreme pain during childbirth, but still, people want her to keep on going through the experience again and again. And if that is not enough, if the child turns out to be bad, she is the one to blame. If she has undergone a loss of child or miscarriage, she is taunted now and then, leading her to feel guilty and hence, developing an unstable mind. She is declared a witch because she expressed how she felt. They won’t even let her rest in peace and declare her a ghost because she cared for her children.

This is all so confusing. If after the excruciating labour pain, people still term a mother a failure or a witch or foolish to understand the needs of her child, I think it is better not to become a mother in the first place. I am not saying that it is not a beautiful experience, but ‘traditional’ India is no place for a mother who finds strength in her motherhood; balances her professional and personal life; who, even after no contribution of the father in the upbringing of the child emotionally and physically, does not complain about her fatigue; who forgets about her personal space and loses her “self” in the process of becoming a mother.

mothers day
Representational image.

I remember how my mother had travelled alone from our hometown to Pune just for me. My mom- who has never been out of the home without my father or aunt or some relative to even a distant store- she endured an eight-hour journey just because I said that I am unable to cope with my submissions and the hectic schedule of classes and surveys on my own.

I can’t even imagine how scared she must have felt when she was on the bus with only my dad’s phone which she didn’t even know how to operate. She had the strength of steel to have fought against the family to visit me on such short notice.

Motherhood surely is a miracle! But is losing oneself in the process of becoming a mother worth it? Why aren’t their questions raised on a father about being an absent parent in the process? Why does a mother have to struggle so hard to become a supermom?

Why isn’t it okay for a mother to relax or forget the favourite dish of the child? When will the society understand that a mother is still an individual and has the freedom of choice? When we have the answers to these questions, maybe we will be able to decide whether motherhood is a boon or a curse in a woman’s life.

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  1. Surbhi Golchha Kawdiya

    Beautifully expressed true story of every mother.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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