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“It’s Been Five Years Since Then, Yet A Mixture Of Intense Unhappy Emotions Engulf My Mind”

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Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

The year 2015 was a turning point in my life. I shifted from a small town of Uttar Pradesh to New Delhi. Adjusting here wasn’t easy, I was a shy person. Communication was a major issue as I carried ‘zero’ self-confidence with me. I could not talk to new people and crossing a road was a daunting task. I was all alone. Getting used to an alien place is always challenging. Homesickness haunts you and all you want to do is go back to your family. But I couldn’t do that, I had dreams to achieve.

The place where I stayed was not too close to my University, thus, I used to travel in the Gramin Seva. Being a newbie, I didn’t know the risk this mode of transport posed to women. As days passed by I was getting accustomed to this new place. I had started to gather confidence but soon, something horrendous happened and it destroyed my mental peace.

One evening while I was travelling in the Gramin Seva, a man sat beside me. This mode of transport is usually crowded with lots of people, and sometimes it gets really uncomfortable as the seat can accommodate only three people but the driver is reluctant in adjusting to four. We were four people sitting on one side. Suddenly, I felt, as if a hand was trying to approach my waist. I moved a little and ignored it. As it was crowded, I thought that someone might be trying to adjust themself.

Rape sexual assault violence against women
But why do we lose all the courage in such situations? No matter how much I claim to thrash a molester the next time it happens, I know that I never will.

I was wrong. My nerves suddenly went cold, and I froze. I felt a hand moving from my waist towards my upper body. I was shocked to the core. All my senses stopped working. I didn’t know what to do or what to say, I wanted to scream, hold that man’s hand, and throw him out of the vehicle – but I couldn’t. All the anger I had in me seemed useless. I couldn’t move an inch. I wished that someone would help me but no one did. Within a minute a person from another seat got down and I quickly switched my place. I was so scared that I couldn’t even look at him, I kept looking at my feet, they were shaking. I felt so weak that sitting there seemed like a huge challenge.

Finally, the man reached his destination and descended from the vehicle. When I reached home I wanted to cry but I could not. Tears refused to come out as if they were scared to leave my eyes, the way I was. I didn’t eat that day. Attending classes the next day was not easy.

Days passed by and I went back to my normal self, but things do not end here. It’s been five years since then, yet a mixture of intense unhappy emotions engulf me when that incident crosses my mind.

The only question I ask myself is why didn’t I do anything? Why didn’t I shout or scream or hit him?

For a very long time, I could not understand the reason for being silent that day. But now I know. Indian women are never told about this. I was never explained how I should react when such a situation arises. But why do we lose all the courage in such situations? No matter how much I claim to thrash a molester the next time it happens, I know that I never will. It’s because we have been asking Indian women to stay quiet. It is time that they raise their voice against offenders. Silence is not an answer to this menace.

Looking at the current scenarios of this country, we can’t rely on the authorities. I am pained by the constant news on Hathras. It’s not easy to follow up on these issues and stay mentally healthy. I am frustrated and angry. But sadly, the authorities do not seem to care. All that’s left to say is women should never stay silent when such incidents occur. Whether it’s a matter of eve-teasing or stalking, don’t ignore it. Raise your voice, save yourself, and be fearless. We need to give a strong message that women are not weak. It’s not going to be easy but clearly, we are done with all the atrocities and pain being inflicted on us. Silence and ignorance are no longer a solution to this problem.

Featured Image Credits: Aasawari Kulkarni/Feminism In India (Image used for representational purpose only)

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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.

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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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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.

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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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