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6 Policies That Can Make Your Workplace Safer For Non-Binary Employees

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Written by: Anuska Roy

Workplaces in India find themselves placed in a limbo of ignorance and apathy when it comes to making workspaces safer for non-binary employees. Non-binary folks have trouble feeling comfortable in their own workplaces. This complication arises due to multiple reasons. Moreover, workplace policies are incapable of taking into account gendered experiences that do not fall under the binary of male and female.

lgbtq workplace
Representational image.

From forms to terminology to official language on paper – workplaces are still stuck with regressive language usage that shows up in policy implementations as well. A proactive redressal and inclusion audit mechanism for non-binary employees can help solve the existing gap that exists when it comes to building safe spaces for them.

Who Are Non-Binary Individuals?

Non-binary individuals are those who do not identify with the binaries of man and woman. Their gender falls within a vast spectrum. Furthermore, for non-binary individuals, their gender identity as well as gender expression is transgressional. They do not adhere to archaic modules of binaried existences.

Consequently, their gender identity and expression lead to transgressions from heteronormative structures. Hence, their gender identity or expression is not limited to the assumed categories of man and woman.

For workplaces, an inclusion audit is an essential factor in building safer spaces for non-binary employees. An inclusion audit not only provides a larger space for information dissemination but also creates a safer space for feedback as well as measures lived experiences of inclusivity at workplaces. Non-binary folks often face erasure when it comes to policy implementation at workplaces. Hence, inclusion audits to ensure a safe space for representation as well as removes appropriation for non-binary employees at workplaces.

What Is An Inclusion Audit?

An inclusion audit is a way for HR professionals to better understand how their employees have experienced diversity and inclusion policies at workplaces. At the heart of it, diversity and inclusion at workplaces must focus on identifying biases and working towards eliminating them. An ideal workspace that identifies these biases and prejudices is also one that is proactively listening to their employees. Consequently, workplaces then must have mechanisms in place that help them build conversations around these issues.

Inclusion audits not only help HR professionals learn from their employees but also places authority within the hands of employees. Moreover, inclusion audits also help marginalised groups within workplaces voice their concerns. This creates a positive and healthy chain of communication that goes a long way in building strategies for marginalised groups within workplaces.

Workplace Policies To Aid Non-Binary Employees

While the larger conversation around making workplaces more inclusive for non-binary employees require a deeper look into existing gaps and interventions – some policies that can otherwise make workspaces safer for them are:

Using Gender Neutral Terminology

Workplace culture often focuses on using binaried terms in official paperwork as well as informal conversations. Using terminology that is inclusive of all genders is an integral step towards creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Gendered terms in policies such as maternal leave can be replaced by terms such as parental leave. Moreover, normalising the usage of pronouns in internal as well as external communication helps create a safer space for non-binary employees.

Having Non-Binary Employees in Active Policy-Making Decisions

It is important to place non-binary employees within structures that focus on policy research and implementation. Having non-binary employees within advisory councils and boards is another way to ensure that their voices are being heard. Moreover, placing non-binary individuals in policymaking mechanism or advisories is essential to ensure representation as well as to avoid appropriating their space.

Representational image. Using terminology that is inclusive of all genders is an integral step towards creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Building Support Groups

Support groups are important to help non-binary individuals find their safe space especially for those who are fresh joiners for any workplace. Building support groups for non-binary individuals can aid in helping them feel welcome and safe in their space of work. Support groups are not only an important part of building integral solidarities within workplaces but also act as important spaces where people can rely on for support when it comes to redressals.

Gender-Neutral Language Usage

Being mindful of language usage as well as information dissemination is important. Invasive questions related to their gender identity or bodily functions must be penalised to set up safe spaces for them. Non-binary employees must feel safe to access common spaces at their workplace and uncomfortable questions by colleagues or supervisors can hinder the same.

Gender Neutral Spaces

A workplace that works towards ungendering these essential spaces is able to make their workplace safe for non-binary employees. Gender-neutral washrooms at workplaces are a basic start to making non-binary individuals feel safe. Normalizing the usage of pronouns in internal as well as external communications is another integral part of building safe spaces for non-binary persons.

How can Inclusion Audits Aid Non-Binary Employees at Work?

Inclusion audits are a great way to avoid any risk of appropriation. Non-binary employees can put forward their requirements and grievances. Consequently, this helps professionals understand critical junctures that need an immediate address. Moreover, this also helps professionals chalk out a constructive plan of action that would entail a more inclusive outlook towards workplace policies. With inclusion audits, workplaces can have a quantitative outlook on how their workplace culture is currently functioning as well as what needs to be revised moving forward.

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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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