This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Yash Tiwari. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“If You’ve Ever Been Bullied, Talk About It And Liberate Yourself”

Have You Ever Been Bullied?

Have you ever been that that fragile kid sitting at the back of the classroom, hiding away from the prying eyes of the so-called “big kids”? Have you ever been picked on by folks around you, sometimes even mercilessly, because of how shy you are, how you walk, how you talk, how you appear physically or even for who you are? Have you ever been made to feel weak even when you’re not, just because you don’t fit in their mould?

For some, these scenarios might appear to be alien, unreasonable, or even unrealistic! For others, however, these scenarios of being “the weaker one” are the story of their life.

Feeling suppressed, dominated, or bullied is never a good feeling for anyone. We as society have finally started to speak about how important it is to safeguard our mental health and our psychological well-being. It took some time for our society to start discussing it, but we finally have. What we’re still not emphasising much on is the “how” of it all. How does it happen? How is the mental well-being of our youngsters really compromised in today’s world?

Talking about my personal experience of being bullied during my early school years at my first TED talk and Josh talk felt, unexpectedly, liberating!

Many students across the world are bullied in some form. If you ask me, an 18-year-old who has had first-hand traumatising experiences of being bullied, then I’d say that if not the main reason, then at least one of the major reasons why many young ones feel weak or overpowered (physically or psychologically) is because they’ve been made to feel so by people around them. That feeling of being picked on and pushed off by those who proclaim themselves as the stronger ones shatters whatever you consider “mental strength” into pieces inside you, trust me. Being overpowered turns into feelings of fragility and shame — the shame of not being able to take a stand for yourself; and this shame, this guilt, it numbs you.

We live in a society that takes pride in itself for being modernised, for not hiding away from social taboos or letting the old and outdated customs take the better of us. Yet, when a bunch of kids in a classroom pick on a little girl who can’t read because she’s dyslexic, or when a group of college-goers publicly body shame that boy for being too thin and introverted who comes from an impoverished background, we sweep it all under the rug.

We remind ourselves that bullying is simply an exaggerated term for being teased, coined by the frail ones who cannot stand up for themselves. Not kidding. Majority of the masses still refuse to see bullying as an inexcusable, aggressive behavioural pattern involving an imbalance of power.

And trust me, bullies need not always be humongous lumberjack-like guys towering over you. Bullying can be physical, of course, but also verbal, sexual, emotional and psychological, and in today’s digitalised world, even cyber.

So, what do we all do, the ones on the receiving end? For most of us, we simply hide it. We hide the woes and sorrow of feeling like the weaker one, the beaten one, being hurt by others like a jar filling up with brownies (unrelated example, but why not?). But there are only so many brownies that can fit in a single jar, right?

My jar opened up on that day when, at the age of 17, I delivered my first TED talk and Josh talk, last year. Talking about my personal experience of being bullied during my early school years felt, unexpectedly, liberating! Really, it felt as if I was finally letting go of that breath of guilt and dejection that I had been holding on to for years. It felt as if sharing my experience of being the weaker one actually made me the stronger one, while also strengthening thousand others to speak up for themselves.

My point is, I’ve personally been through that phase that many of you might be going through right now — of feeling that you’re physically too numb to stand up to  your bullies, or maybe psychologically too weak to even think of doing so. But speaking out, trust me on this, makes things better. Be it that one person whom you consider your friend, or you mama, or anyone! Spilling it out “empties the jar of guilt” to some extent, so that it doesn’t burst. And if that jar bursts, then believe me, it would only hurt you more than anyone else — even more than the hurt you’d have felt from being overpowered in your past.

If you’re the one who’s been hurt, then it’s time for you to let it out, empty the jar, and finally exhale.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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