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Even In 2020, Awareness About Abortion Seems Like A Privilege

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Abortion, despite being an essential health service, is treated as a taboo in most societies. The source of this stigma is often our immediate surroundings – families, friends, and the media. As part of The YP Foundation’s commitment to tackling the stigma around abortion, we asked young people in our network to describe the first time they heard the word “abortion”. Here’s what we got!

A New Addition To My Vocabulary: Abortion.

Gee! When was the first time I heard this word, I wonder? Just like any privileged Indian millennial, I could have heard it in a movie, on the internet, or maybe in a conversation with friends.

After pondering on this thought for a while, it clicked. Suddenly, I was a kid again. Not even a teenager yet. It must have been like any other evening after school, sitting in front of the television, watching some much-awaited cartoon. The advertisements start to flash. I usually didn’t pay much attention to them, but this was a peculiar one.

A lady wakes up to take a call in the middle of the night. She moves to the bathroom and is trying to calm someone down. She asks a question that catches my attention “Without protection?” I remember being confused. The ad cut to the product name which pulled me out of my thoughts. It was an emergency contraceptive pill. It had a disclaimer stating that the pill prevented pregnancy and wasn’t an abortion pill.


Abortion pill? I got what a pill means, but what is an abortion? What protection did the lady mean? These thoughts started to intrigue me. But I was still a child, curious as ever. I wanted to ask my mother, an Ob-Gyn, but I was too shy. I could have used the internet, but an intuitive voice inside of me stopped me.

I realised what abortion meant as I grew up. Advertisements for contraceptives, movies, TV shows, adolescent conversations, overhearing my mother talking to her patients and having a talk with her about it, all together helped me understand what abortion means. Initially, the whole concept felt otherworldly.

But as I grew up, I started to understand it better. The inhibitions I had towards abortion seemed to fade. As I marched into adolescence, I came to understand the importance of abortion. Not only that, but I was introduced to various other ideas revolving around abortion, with pro-life and pro-choice arguments doing the rounds over social media. These shaped my opinions on the topic as well.

I believe it must be the same for most people my age. As we grew up, a large number of mainstream movies started mentioning sex and abortions, as did shows on TV. And with the dawn of unlimited internet access, there were no limits to knowledge. And this knowledge feels like a luxury. Imagine the generations before us or the disempowered sections of the present-day society. Who knows when they will ever be introduced to abortion, let alone a safe one?

India, being largely a conservative country, never provided a conducive environment for teenagers to be introduced to matters revolving around sex over the last few decades. Even in 2020, promoting sex education in schools is being seen as a revolutionary, if not rebellious, notion.

The positive thing in these times is that the current generations are being born in an era in which the world wide web has reached to even the remotest corners of the world, thus opening up a vast gateway to unlimited sources of knowledge. The challenge remains, however, to make sure that these vibrant youngsters with impressionable minds are enlightened about this issue in a manner which takes into account their thoughts and beliefs, corrects their misconceptions if any, and allows them to take well-informed decisions.

The mention of this issue by the young future of this beautiful world shouldn’t bring a frown upon our face or fear in our minds – rather, it should make our eyes light up with joy and our hearts dance with glee. We should be able to rejoice over the fact that we have been able to create an open, non-judgmental, and unbiased environment for a healthy discussion on such sensitive issues, without the interference of the prying eyes of stereotypical taboos holding us back.

As I write this article about my first acquaintance with the word ‘abortion’, I’m sure a school child somewhere in this world is listening to the same word for the first time. I can’t help but hope that they’re hearing it from a responsible source which introduces this term to them purely as sound knowledge and not a stigma or a taboo.

This story is one of many submissions that we received. The YP Foundation’s Abortion Campaign works towards destigmatising abortion and increasing access to safe and comprehensive abortion care services. We engage with young people to advocate for abortion as a reproductive right, especially among marine fisherfolk in Kerala and tea plantation labourers in Assam.

Want to join the conversation? Send in your experiences of hearing about abortion for the first time to Read all the stories in the campaign here and follow us as we strive towards destigmatising abortion!

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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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