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

“My Husband Does Not Earn. I Can’t Just Sit Around And Take His Beatings”

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A medical mask tied around her ears and a surgical cap covering her head, she walked along the hospital corridors carrying medical supplies. After all, her new job demanded her to be on her toes all the time. Lata*, a mother of three school-going children, started working at this hospital in the National Capital Region right after the Nationwide lockdown was lifted.

She needed a job badly to support her family. Her husband would roam around the streets drunk and didn’t contribute to the family’s income.

Statistics do not speak power as much as personal stories of women who have faced violence. Representational image.

Lata starts her day at 4 am. She cooks for the household, cleans up and makes her lunchbox to carry to her workplace. She leaves her house at 6 am, walking for more than 30 minutes till the shared auto stand. The travel takes 15-20 minutes and she walks again till the hospital. Her duty last 12 hours a day.

Getting this job wasn’t easy for her. It was not just for a steady income, but also, to escape her husband’s beatings at home. She ensures her children attend school and wants them to take up well-paying jobs in the future, earning them a dignified living. “My husband does not earn. He comes home drunk. I can’t just sit around and take his beatings. I want to earn and take care of my children. I want to give them a better life. I want to have a better life,” says Lata. She adds, “I am not going to wait for my husband to change. I’ll look after myself and my children.”

At her workplace, Lata spreads joy amongst her colleagues. She is hardworking and is faithful for each hour spent at the hospital. Her supervisors have been happy with her, increasing her monthly salary from Rs 9000 to Rs 12,000.

For years we’ve been hearing of stories of everyday violence that women face across the country and the world. We also know of women who have risen above the crises they face.

Statistics do not speak power as much as personal stories of women who have faced violence. But, to bring in the seriousness of the situation, did you know that domestic violence was the top crime Indian women faced in 2019? Around 30% of the crimes against women registered were those of domestic violence.

It is a hidden crime. You’d only know about it when you see a woman’s face or hands injured, or when you hear the screams from your neighbour’s house, or when your cousin hushedly tells you about her husband’s violence. And how many of us are fearless enough to intervene?

To be honest, I’d certainly think twice before coming to the rescue of someone I know. And there are women who defend their violent husbands, despite bearing the brunt, because it is ingrained in a woman that it must be her fault if the man beats her up. According to a report by National Public Radio, an alarming number of women around the world think spousal abuse is sometimes okay.

With the increasing discussions and awareness against domestic violence, you might think there’s a ray of hope. There might be! But the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have only worsened the situation. According to the official data of the National Commission for Women (NCW), domestic violence complaints have increased by 2.5 times since the nationwide lockdown began in India.

The news report reads on, ‘As per the data provided by an NGO named Swayam (based in Kolkata), there were 22 complaints on average per month before the lockdown, which increased to 57 complaints on average per month through emails and helplines.’

Its Time We Applaud The Courage To Take Little Steps Out Of Abuse

Just imagine being locked up in a house with your abuser! Imagine the mental trauma and helplessness! Also, imagine the guts the woman might have gathered to register a complaint against the abuser.

And this courage is what I applaud…the courage to take little steps out of an abusive relationship, the courage to be financially and emotionally independent, the courage to refuse to bow down to the narcissism the abuser portrays.

Today, Lata continues to work at the hospital amidst the pandemic, being one of the countless frontline workers in this battle against COVID-19. She brings a change in the lives of many who visit the hospital, knowing her own life is at risk because of the virus.

Here’s hoping the countless women who face violence are able to wriggle out of the abusive relationship. Here’s hoping the silent victims are able to break free and live a happy life. Here’s hoping you and I can help them make a change in their lives.

 

*Name changed to protect identity.

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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 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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