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Housewives Don’t Work? This Special Mother’s Journey Breaks The Taboo!

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Ask any man “What your wife does?” and there is a possibility that you will get one silly reply if she is a homemaker. “No, she doesn’t go to work, she is a ‘housewife”. And this very statement is enough to create all kinds of barriers in our minds and trick us into thinking that being a “housewife” means ‘no work’ because at the end of the day, no matter how much effort you put, how much time you invest while taking care of your family, literally working 365 days without breaks; if you don’t get paid at the end of the day, it is not considered as work. 

Many people think that housewives are not enough capable to get success. They are not celebrities, they never become viral on social media. But my MOM’s journey reflects how being a simple housewife, she became an achiever and now a successful Special Children Counsellor, Stress-Free Life Coach, Numerologist, Acupressurist, Woman Social Activist. It is true that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger and my mother is one such fine example.

Meet this “special mother of a special child”, Dr Shila Dasgupta, who is not just a world record holder but she has also perfected the art of acceptance.  

While her father, late Probodh Chandra Chakraborty was a Guard in the railways, her mother, late Umarani Chakraborty was a classical singer, she got the best from both of her parents and it is no surprise that apart from being a singer, she gives motivational speeches too. It is because of her mother, that her voice has reached millions of hearts. 

How being a Special Mother made her a better person, you ask? She says, “It is sad, that most people in our society have shown me sympathy and not love. What they don’t know is that not a single day goes by when I don’t cherish being a special mother. I feel blessed to have a son like Dr. Sai Kaustuv, who is 90% disabled but a 4th global icon now.

“Sai is suffering from a rare disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which is an extremely rare condition and is also known as Brittle Bone Disease. He identifies himself as a happiness coach and his only purpose is to bring back smile to people’s faces. It is him who taught me how to be patient and his work is like worship. Even though he is going through excruciating pain inside, he doesn’t let it take away his smile,” said Dr. Shila.

When people close to you pull you down, it becomes very difficult to move forward. She says, “It is strange how people mock us. Some of them have even told me, why are you so healthy and your son is so thin? Do you eat all his food?’ Insensitive remarks like these make me understand the ignorance of society. We need to understand that differently-abled children need more love and not sympathy from their family and society.”

After marriage, people refer to you not by your own identity but as someone’s wife or daughter. She feels that a woman’s real identity gets lost in all this. It always feels nice to have or achieve something of your own. My father Dr. Kaushik is very supportive in this case as he has always pushed mom to do new things and showcase her strong spirit.

Her younger son Dr. Kushal is a young filmmaker and Guinness world record holder. He is a multimedia guy and serving the nation through innovative films. He inspired my mom to achieve National and World Records. By chanting Hanuman Chalisa (spiritual verse) in 1 min 45 seconds only, my mom made a new record! Wow!

Spirituality, in her words, is a way of living. She personally believes that spirituality can counter stress and tension and take you in the right direction. Through the Art of Spirituality, she also completed her research on stress-free living and also received an honorary doctorate degree from The Diocese of Asia, Chennai. She is now a facilitator for a stress-free healthy life.

It is her grit and determination that have helped her to make impossible things possible. In a time when taking care of ourselves has taken a back seat and earning money has become our priority, mom asks all of us to slow down and think about the priorities in our lives.  She believes crisis brings opportunity with themselves and one should never lose hope in difficult situations and embrace it with all their hearts. 

Her life and works have become a source of inspiration for many girls, mothers, housewives across the world. 

It’s a great fortune to be her son and on the eve of International Women’s Day 2021, I salute her for empowering thousands of women around who are ready to fly together in the pink sky.

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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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