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Obey Your Family And Wait For Your Prince: What A Patriarchal Upbringing Looks Like

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The whole of last year, most people were stuck at home with family. When they got bored of taking up challenges or ran out of topics to bond  over with family members, they started rummaging through their old things. There are a lot of memories stored in old, dusty albums, diaries, mementos and worn-out clothes. There may be some special moments and a lot may just be the everyday memories of experiences of playing with friends, having fun at school or just random stuff they can now laugh about with their siblings. I have been doing the same thing, too.

But the twist is that even though I may have had a “normal” childhood, I now realise that there were a lot of toxic elements involved. And remembering those, over this period of eight months, has caused a lot of trouble for me and my mental health. As an independent and confident woman now, it is distressing for me to know that in a class debate once, I had argued that women should know how to cook even if they are one of the earning members of the family. People would now wonder what is wrong with this statement.

The foundation of its incorrectness is that the same is not said about men. Ask any person, irrespective their gender, how hard it was for them to get food during the lockdown. Restaurants have recently opened up and food apps are delivering meals, yet, people are scared of getting Covid while ordering food from the outside. So wouldn’t it be nice if the person knows how to cook for themselves? Men are expected to dedicate so less time in learning and developing the life-saving skill of cooking.

Fairytales made me believe that if a girl is being mistreated by her family and endures it without retaliating, she would be rewarded with a handsome, strong prince in the end.

Anyway, that was not just one memory that gave me the chills. I was going through a few old books and found one fairy tale book. I don’t remember how I know the Cinderella story, but I found an Indian version of the same in this book.

There is a pure-hearted princess who is being wronged by her stepmother. Now, this is pure evil. No, not the stepmother, but the making of a narrative that stepmothers are always cruel and never treat the princess justly. A big thanks to all the feminist retellings of these fairy tales. So, basically the princess in this book is sad and a fairy appears to help her. Magically, a prince comes to her rescue because even a fairy has limited magic skills that can simply give her a chance to find and impress her prince charming.

So, whatever this story was, I could now remember a lot of similarly patterned stories. There is one where the girl had to be obedient to an old grumpy woman for a month or so, and in the end, she is rewarded by the grandma with fairness, new clothes, jewellery and also a prince charming to marry. So now you know there are so many problematic narrations we must have come across.

These stories, for a certain period of my life, corrupted my opinions. I had a very strong belief that if a girl is being mistreated by her family and endures it without retaliating, she would be rewarded with a handsome, strong prince in the end. And that would be the end of her sorrow because he would love her a lot and shower her with nice clothes and jewellery. Television serials added to these fantasies. Such beliefs made me accept myself as a silent victim of the patriarchal society and prevented me from raising my voice against injustice.

And not just that, I have an embarrassing memory of enacting such stories with my friends and moreover, of discriminating and bullying my girlfriends on the basis of their skin colour and body weight. So I would become the fragile girl waiting for her future husband to rescue and marry her and put an end to the saga of injustice and sorrow. But what I didn’t know was that it never ends. You are instead taught to submit to patriarchy and forget that you have your own likes, dislikes and opinions. You are conditioned to believe that marriage is a reward, clothes and jewellery are happiness, and someone will eventually save you from the cruel treatment.

But what if nobody turns up? What if you are unhappy even after marriage? What if clothes and jewellery don’t cheer you up? And fundamentally, why do you want to give charge of your happiness to some person or object or incident, which you don’t even know will actually make you happy? Why can’t you take charge of your life and do things that make you proud, happy and satisfied with yourself?

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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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