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Men, Please Don’t Preach About Divorce If You Haven’t Heard HER Story

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I’ve never understood the fuss over Bill Gates and Melinda Gates divorce in a country where divorce is normalized. But, we cannot say the same for our country, India, where divorce is still taboo in 2021.

What makes it even tougher is when you have sexists all over the place and in your face, spreading their tentacles like monster green creeper plants across all sections of our society.

Indian billionaire Harsh Goenka recently made a deeply problematic and sexist comment on Twitter.

Bill Gates divorced.

Jeff Bezos divorced.

Moral: Don’t earn so much money that the wife finds divorce alimony more appealing than the husband. Keep spending money on yourself.

Unfortunately, this tweet by Goenka is no joke. The man’s preaching to his fellow countrymen to be wise, not to trust their wives, and spend their money on themselves. Goenka’s moral of the story is a lie in a country where we put our goddesses on a shiny pedestal, and we literally and metaphorically rape our women daily.  

Harsh Goenka’s tweet, which he later deleted after receiving backlash

If Goenka’s message is aimed at all poor and naive countrymen, then perhaps he could ask them to develop some ‘aatmanirbharta (self-reliance)’ and stop asking for dowry. Maybe he could tell them to stop treating their daughters like pariahs and giving them away like a commodity in marriage as free labor. Perhaps he could tell them not to treat their women worse than their ‘gaumata (sacred cow)’. Maybe he could tell them not to be a rich arse like him, who can buy everything in the world except grace, fairness, and empathy. 

The divorce rate in India is 1%, and it gives the illusion of successful marriages here. The credit for these figures goes entirely to our rigid patriarchal system, which has thwarted the freedom and dreams of millions of women by relegating them to their kitchen and caregiving duties for life for their spouse and family. If the woman brings in dowry and a working woman with no financial charge, that’s hitting the jackpot for our men. 

Who Are The Real Gold-Diggers Here, Mr. Goenka?

Don’t play innocent and give a long rope to your gender for their misgivings. There is persistent discrimination against women, denying them equal land and property rights as they own less than 20% of the world’s land.

So, What’s HER Story? 

Both Melinda Gates and Mackenzie Scott are as ingenious as their ex-spouses, if not more.

Melinda Gates is an American businesswoman and philanthropist. As a child, she was brilliant in academics and put in the advanced math class, and her first job was tutoring children in mathematics and computer programming. She joined Microsoft in their product development team in 1987. 

Image Credit: Russell Watkins/ Flickr

Melinda Gates played a pivotal role in many of the products that Microsoft has released over the years.

Melinda Gates was responsible for the development of various multimedia products such as Cinemania, Encarta, Publisher, Microsoft Bob, Money, Works (Macintosh), and Word. She was later appointed as the General Manager of Information Products in Microsoft but quit the company to focus on family and philanthropic work.

Let’s also not forget that Mackenzie Scott is the co-founder of Amazon. She built the company from scratch, literally from the couple’s garage, including putting her finances into it. She contributed to the company’s name, business plan, accounts, and shipping early orders. 

Scott was always a writer at heart, with her first book at the age of six, The Book Worm, a 142-page book destroyed in a flood. Her first job was at D. E. Shaw in New York, as a research associate where she worked to “pay the bills while working on her novels.” Jeff Bezos, the then vice-president at D. E. Shaw, took her interview, which also happened to be their first meeting. 

When Amazon began to succeed, Scott took a less active role in pursuing her writing career and concentrating on family and philanthropy. She wrote her debut novel in 2005, The Testing of Luther Albright, which won her the American Book Award (2006). It took her 10 years to write her debut alongside building Amazon with her husband, birthing three children, adopting one child, and raising four children. Her writing mentor, Toni Morrison, had this to say about her debut book – “a rarity: a sophisticated novel that breaks and swells the heart.” Scott is currently married to Dan Jewett, a high school chemistry teacher.

It’s extremely callous and in poor taste for Harsh Goenka to dismiss the achievements of two highly successful and powerful women in their own right and insinuate that they are gold diggers.

But that’s not the only bone of contention here. A woman doesn’t need to be a Melinda Gates or Mackenzie Scott for her to be respected, heard, and given the empathy she deserves.

Do Men Like To Have Their Cake And Eat It Too? 

It’s also an eye-brow-raising concern that while Harsh Goenka dismisses women as gold diggers, he doesn’t prescribe divorce as the solution, thus further propagating the stigma around divorce in our country.

Goenka’s marriage advice to men reminds me of a friend who’s currently in a live-in relationship with a married man. The man claims he’s been forcibly married to a woman who’s his parent’s choice. Both his parents are no more, and he’s left his wife alone and moved cities on the excuse of work. He met my spinster friend on Tinder and started living with her.

He’s convinced his girlfriend that divorce is a long-drawn procedure that might take several years, and he’s trying to find legal ways to escape alimony since he claims he doesn’t have much money with him. So, he doesn’t want to hold back his girlfriend, who’s madly in love with him, and she’s free to move out and find another partner whenever she feels like it. Isn’t it a classic case of having your cake and eating it too?

I hope Goenka didn’t mean not spending money on alleged gold-digger wives and instead on alleged gold-digger girlfriends. 

Man, why you so complicated, huh? And then we women are accused of being complicated beings?

Don’t Presume Why Anyone’s Marriage Fell Apart!

Coming back to Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or whosoever’s divorce, how can anyone be sure of what transpired in these marriages and dole out a highly judgemental “moral of the story” blanket statement?

Bill Gates had a “disturbingly close relationship” with Jeffrey Epstein.

While I don’t want to speculate on matters I am not sure about yet, I’ll conclude with what journalist Rohini Singh had to say in response to Harsh Goenka’s tweet.  

It appears Bill Gates was preying on women in his office and was also had a disturbingly close relationship with a pedophile. New York Times says the relationship with the pedophile is what bothered Melinda Gates. You don’t think those are serious issues?

I want to add, isn’t it ironic for a billionaire like Harsh Goenka to blacklist the female gender as untrustworthy gold-diggers?  

If you’ve not cared to listen to both sides of the story, man, please don’t preach! 

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

Bidisha was selected in’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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