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Suppress Instincts, Kill Desires: What It Takes To Be Born A Woman

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I am not quite sure about the other countries, but in India, you suffer if you’re born a woman; in one way or the other. Yes, it is a blanket statement, might not be true for every single woman out there, but it is nevertheless true for the majority of us.

Being a woman, you are supposed to suppress most of your natural emotions and instincts, and if you don’t want to, you are expected to fight, fight for your right to express them.

It also depends on the kind of emotions/instincts you are trying to express. Some are acceptable, some aren’t. For example, emotions of love and care are romanticised, sacrifice is considered a glorified quality of women, no doubt, because these are the features a man gets benefitted from (not all men, though).

Talk about other aspects of a human being such as sexual desire or being selfish, being social with the opposite gender, all of which are aspects on which the human race has thrived and survived, but then, these are the bad qualities when in a woman Be ready to be bullied every time you try to express them.

Woman On Balcony
Representational image.

These fights aren’t as simplistic as they might seem. In their journey, losing people around you and battling morality is a given, irrespective of how close or dear they were to you or you were to them.

It starts from your early childhood, when you help your mother/sisters in household chores while your brother plays outside with his friends. While you get up a hundred times while doing your homework to help in the kitchen, your brother sits next to your mother in the kitchen, studying, without any disturbance. It is also when he drinks milk for breakfast while you drink tea, when everyone knows his favourite dish but nobody knows yours. Nobody even cares to ask or feel the need to know.

It starts when your cousin brother can take a gap year in his education to score higher and get admitted wherever he wants while you are not allowed to do the same because you are a girl. You are rather encouraged to take courses like D.Ed or nursing. Just get any degree, who cares? Or become a teacher, a nurse, a good prospective bride for the future.

Education is not actually to educate you, dear women, but to make you a saleable commodity in the market of marriage. Then, you would be an educated wife educating his kids and taking care of his family using your education. You use your skills or knowledge to cook artistically, change the nappies scientifically, and teach Maths or English, for that matter, by talking fluent English to your kids.

Let’s talk about the topic less talked about.

Women and sex.

Every time you help a male friend or are kind to them, you are looked down with the suspicion of being a men-pleaser, whoever that man be, as if you are dreaming to sleep with every single man who crosses your path. A bus driver, conductor, vegetable seller, delivery guy, the minister, professor, whoever, it doesn’t matter, being a man suffice.

Be yourself in front of men and be ready to be tagged as “you invited it for yourself”.

You are not even allowed to roam around braless or wearing shorts in front of your brother or father. In your own so-called home. Body hair are looked grossly at. In case you haven’t shaved them, wearing clothes that might reveal them from under your arms or legs is a total no-no.

You aren’t allowed to have so many male friends and reveal it to society, else you are a slut. Have consensual sex with the man you like (and I’m not talking about cheating) and you’ll be called a loose woman having no control or having extra, uncontrolled sexual desire. A characterless woman.

Do that before your marriage and you bring down the pride of your entire family. Do it after marriage and you still bring down the pride of — now two families, yours and your husband’s, all extended families included. It’s not only in case of rape when they feel ashamed, it’s also when women of the family exercise their sexual rights when men and women of the family feel ashamed.

The pride of the family lies in the vagina of a woman (there is no scope of any discussion on why and how. it’s just unacceptable under any circumstance. Nobody cares to ask the man, that’s not even necessary).

Representational image.

Or is it that they feel at loss? A loss of control over women? And undoubtedly, their male ego of supremacy that gets hurt? But for how long? How long will you keep women under your rule?

Superficially, you may behave and portray yourself as the adviser of equality, but underneath, you don’t want women to raise their voice and be themselves, be it your wife, sister or daughter. When will you accept that all f them are humans, too? They have their own dreams, their own ways of living life, their own set of emotions.

For how long will you make them seek your permission to be themselves?

Cutting off ties is an easy way out because you don’t want to accept it. You don’t have the audacity to listen to their stories or even accept your own failure as a male, a father, a brother, a son or a husband. You failed to treat her at par. You failed to accept her as a complete human being.

Not all men are alike, but it’s rare to find one who practices equality. And those who do try to get bullied as well. They are called less of a man, impotent, mamma’s boy, an effeminate boy, and what not.

To break out of this system, one has to fight with n number of layers, starting from within oneself because patriarchy and sexism are so ingrained in us right from our childhood. For most of the time, women don’t even realise that they are being oppressed by the households we grow up in and the morals of society.

Some give up, choose to suffer silently, be happy in the false glorification of their roles; some fight back, losing their loved ones in the way, losing their support systems, losing so many people — but only to find a new set of people who are more liberal and accommodating,  and who accept you and let you be you.

The journey isn’t smooth, but the destination is alluring, seemingly worth the sacrifices. Who knows?

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  1. Prakrity Chatterjee

    Your above post is so true, related to this, everybody says that we treat our boys and girls equal but when it comes that your girl is the only member to earn, then the parents start saying others that she is not my girl she is my boy and we are proud of her. I can’t understand why we need to be a boy to do these

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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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