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“What’s Been Shunned Is Not A Brand, It’s Communal Harmony And Gender Equality”

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A still from the deleted ad.
A still from the deleted ad.

It’s been a few days since this news has drawn substantial public attention and has been one of the most discussed topics lately. Yes, I am talking about none other than the infamous boycott of the popular and premium jewellery brand, Tanishq (a Tata group subsidiary), for releasing an advertisement that promotes the concept of unity. The new collection of the brand has been named ‘Ekatvam’.

This has been done through an inter-community marriage wherein a Hindu woman is married into a Muslim family. On the day of the baby shower, her in-laws, especially her mother-in-law organises a grand function as per the Hindu rituals. It ends with the message that every family must prioritise the happiness of the daughter-in-law over anything else.

Well, does this entire concept sound offensive or derogatory towards any community in any sense? However, as soon as the ad went on air, Tanishq faced massive backlash and contempt from our highly coveted nationalists, or may we call them Hindu extremists, as they believed that ad significantly promotes ‘Love Jihad’. Awesome terminology that has potentially replaced ‘Communal Harmony’ in the new India.

The Tata group brand was trolled so badly that they eventually had to pull the video down from the internet. The shocking part was that the harassment was not limited to digital attack, but a Tanishq showroom in Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat was made to put an apology board in the display for hurting the sentiments of the Hindu community. However, the Gujarat Police has denied any threat or attack on the showroom that was reported earlier. Ah well! The irony.

So here comes an important point: who was actually trolled? Tanishq? Tata? The fun part is all of those who are promoting cyber trends like #BoycottTanishq; we don’t know how many of them can actually afford it. Yet, Tanishq’s response was unduly submissive as if they had really committed a crime by creating that ad. So in my opinion, this move to appease the religious majority cannot be justified if you really intend to promote secularism.

It is not the jewellery brand that has been criticised; it is communal harmony, which is so colossally disliked. It’s the idea that the two communities can actually coexist in peace despite certain differences that enrage a large percentage of people in India. The message is unmistakable—we want a country where the religious majority can rule. So what was more disturbing? A Hindu woman happily married into a Muslim family or that a woman was getting so much of love and care from her in-laws?

Is communal acrimony preferred, or is it patriarchy that has found a potential threat in this ad? Many argued that “why can’t they show a Muslim woman married into a Hindu family? This is because Muslim men marry Hindu women and convert them to Islam, and thus, they increase their population”.

Honestly, there cannot be a statement worse that emphasises objectification of a woman as she is looked upon only as a baby-producing machine. The question is, how does it matter whether a woman or a man is Hindu or Muslim? More importantly, why should it even matter? If we want to live in complete religious concurrence, how could it be bad in any respect?

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A still from the Surf Excel Holi ad

What enrages me more is that this has not happened for the first time, a similar treatment of boycott was faced by the top a detergent brand, Surf Excel after their Holi ad was aired. The ad was an innocent depiction of how the festival of Holi can unite the children, who don’t really care about religion.

Even that ad, which features children below 10, was termed as an attempt to promote Love Jihad!! The worst part is that such outrage and blatant support of communal discord is not limited to common people, even those in coveted administrative position reinforce such ideologies openly!

The latest example of this is when the governor of Maharashtra mocked the CM, saying, ” When did you turn secular?” So in a country that has secularism written as a part of its constitution, how can such questions even be raised so irresponsibly? This is not new, this disease of looking at interfaith love and co-existence as a bad omen has aggravated to the extent that people are blatantly harming, abusing and killing each other in the name of religion.

The most important and critical question that arises here is: is it dangerous to be secular in India? Does it call harm to promote women’s interest in this country? Well, the answer is left to you.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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