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Dear Sisters, These Three Ways Will Help Us With Our Misogynist Oppressors

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In the beginning, there came to be men, women and transgenders. Transgenders were a minority and soon dismissed by society. But notably, they were confidantes of women and provided them with both physical protection and moral support.

But on the other hand, men saw that women were biologically more complete, physically more attractive, intellectually malleable and emotionally more stable. Obviously, jealousy struck. Now, because men had more access to their id egos and could exercise muscle power, they soon jeopardised our freedom.

We have a long list of rigorous and heinous customary practices from the past that exist even today in diluted forms. Or actually, not very diluted, looking at the entitlement men still exercise over women’s bodies.

But it used to be worse. For instance, women were locked in iron undies (chastity belts) while men would be away at war. Then there was another, more commonly known phenomena in East Asia, where they popularised the concept of tiny feet among women and would vigorously tie women’s feet from a young age to restrict growth (foot-binding). This practice would supposedly restrict the movement of women from going too far from home, because their feet could no longer carry their own weight around.

women workplace

A more extreme case of jealousy can be seen in a nearer-to-home example of Sati. Men could not let go of their wives even after their death, and thought best for them to die with them. But these customs were, sooner or later, shunned by society due to extreme health risks it was causing.

However, even after society recognised these atrocities against women, men continued feeling insecure. Soon, they thought of a great plan! Why not indulge these women in vilifying each other? Now, their work became easy and hence came the phrase, “Women are women’s worst enemies.

As time went by, powerful men abused their power and reduced women to mere objects in need of attention. They kept us away from education, career progression and intellectual activity. Advertising and marketing campaigns drilled the need for women to look or behave a particular way to gain male attention (biologically, it is the other way around).

Even cleverer minds tied male-satisfying trends with modernity, cosmopolitanism, empowerment, and very unfortunately, even to feminism. And we have all been somewhere fooled by these marketing gimmicks. In fact, we must consciously prioritise things that are more in our control and less in advertisement, like building a career, family, good friends, self-love and self-improvement.

And as for me, this mind-blowing realisation made me head straight to a male clothing store, where I picked out a couple of sweaters and straight pants and wore them as a mode of rebellion. And that day, the word ‘comfort’ got a new definition in my head. (P.S. I continue to mix-n-match clothing from male collections every now and then.) And to complete the story, just opposite to me stood a bigger women clothing brand that was promoting skimpy clothes — tight denim and figure-hugging sweaters. I tried those too, and honestly, I could not even breathe in those and felt almost naked.

Now, of course, we cannot change most of the subtle misogyny creeping into our lives from everywhere, but I construed three very important things to help us deal with our oppressors. You neither have to make an entitled statement nor show them their place to subtly exercise your freedom.

Be honest. I mean let that be in your job interview or get mentioned in conversations with men. Communicate your likes and dislikes, your expectations and your future. And if these lead to rejection, trust me, it is the best thing that could have happened. Because keeping a job/relationship is more important than winning an interview/man. So, let rejection and/or toxic relationships never deter you from reaching your desired goals. We are, after all, not in competition with each other but only ourselves, to be our better selves each day.

Do not be ashamed of yourself. Because nobody is perfect. And nobody is a particular way. It is easy for our lazy brains to stereotype, but each person is a new soul with a different set of experiences, genetics and emotional and intelligence quotient. That being said, there is always scope for growth. I think there is nothing more powerful than being on a pursuit of self-betterment and choosing only the best for yourself. And let me remind you, if you don’t love yourself, how will you convince others to love you?

Have self-respect. The world is unjust and rude, so you may be shocked to realise that your beloved, almost suddenly, doesn’t love you anymore. But may I ask, by clinging onto that very man, job and friendship, what good did you do to yourself or to the other? Of course, it is painful, and is easier said than done. But we who can bear period cramps on a monthly basis can take almost anything.

And if men can have a well-crafted bro code, it is time we have a universal, all-encompassing sis code too. It just basically has to revolve around standing up for each other, supporting each other grow to our full potentials, helping each other prioritise our goals and most importantly, to not take men and their opinions of you seriously. Because in a world of online dating and easy access to potential partners, both of you have many options to find what you are looking for.

Let us simply pledge to respect each other today and forevermore, and be the best of friends and strike back at patriarchy with love.

About the Author: Akshita Pattiyani is Editorial Assistant with Taylor and Francis. She is a community leader for All Informa Nations initiative on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. She is an alumna of Sophia College for Women, Mumbai.

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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.

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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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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
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