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Here’s How We Can Strive To Achieve The Goal Of Gender Equality

Sustainable living is something that all organisations, industrial or non-industrial, are focused on promoting. I was recently introduced to sustainable living by the institution I study in, and I can say that I have learned a lot.

The United Nations has adopted Sustainable Development Goals known as the Global Goals as a universal action towards addressing and working for important agendas that need the people’s attention as it can be considered a disaster waiting to happen. Starting from 2015, the aim is to achieve these 17 goals by 2030.

Sustainability is a way of life that protects our natural resources and protects the environment without compromising our lifestyle and being innovative in ways that are beneficial not only for us but also for the planet. And as for contributing to living a sustainable lifestyle, there are many things we can do on an individual level, like carpooling perhaps, going plastic-free or being water-wise (12 Ways to Live More Sustainably).

Happy Woman
Representative Image.

Out of the 17 goals established by the UN, I resonate with the most is Goal 5: Gender Equality. I have always been a strong proponent that there should be equal opportunities for females as there are for males. I feel that it gives females the opportunity to try out new things and helps them grow and be empowered.

My mom is a working woman, and the way she handles both her job and her family inspires me to be just like her because if she can do it, then anyone can.

Goal 5 addresses Gender Equality and targets nine issues that take place in society today. It focuses on ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Women are faced with many sorts of discrimination based on different grounds. Discrimination against women has not changed despite all the rallies and awareness programmes conducted. We need to stand united as women, speak up when an event like this occurs and raise our voices in unity. After all, we girls need to look out for each other.

The goal also focuses on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation. Now, this is something we should be talking about.

Just the other day, I came across a video wherein a man who called himself the “husband” of the victim stabbed her multiple times until she died in the middle of the road just because she allegedly refused to quit her job to be a housewife. All the people on the road dared to stand and witness and record the incident but couldn’t call the police or at least the ambulance for her because it was their “personal matter”.

Is this what they call humanity? How do we trust anybody? One or more cases of violence against women are reported in the newspaper every day. It breaks my heart to come across such cases daily. Is this the progressive world they talk about? The world is nothing but threatened by the upliftment and empowerment of women and can do anything to pull them down as crabs do to each other.

Representative Image.

Another goal they focus on is eliminating all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Even today, teenage girls are forced into marriages with older men, or sometimes boys of the same age. Practices like forced female genital mutilation are practised in some parts of India.

It is alarming to a point where people commit such horrendous acts despite awareness and do not face the consequences. Every time I think that the world might be changing into a better place to live in, such cases occur and I lose hope in humanity and the world that it is capable of not changing.

At this point, I would like to question people in higher political positions. Why aren’t they concerned about such things and why aren’t they doing anything to stop such malpractices.

Another focus of this goal is to recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate.

Women these days are taking up jobs everywhere, be it at a professional workplace or in their houses. It is considered these days (according to orthodox Indian households) that a woman’s job is to take care of the house and family. And have you ever noticed any woman getting credit for keeping the house in such good condition? No.

Well, I can proudly say that after all the work my mom does at her job and home, she deserves a lot, and my dad makes sure of it. Families should respect and take care of the women in their households. Women should be provided with the benefits for every work they do and should help them feel empowered and deserving in the role they perform.

Representative Image.

The goal also focuses on ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

I read somewhere that women are born leaders. I say that being authoritative but caring about your peers is what makes a good leader and we as women are capable of doing much more than that. And when we take up such responsibilities, whether it be a political responsibility, an economic or a public one, it makes us independent. Nothing in the world can then stop us from becoming what we want to become.

So, if you’re thinking about taking up such a position, go ahead with it because you may not know it, but there will be many people who would love to see you grow and who will always be there to support you.

Something which is very important and needs attention today is to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and knowledge about reproductive rights.

Even though technology has developed so much today, certain backward areas in India do not have access to sexual and reproductive health products. As a result, some women still use unsafe cloth pieces instead of safe sanitary products.

This is something that the government should be paying attention to and should be implementing and executing plans, drives, campaigns and awareness programmes that somehow cater to these needs, therefore, ensuring that no woman in any rural area is deprived of necessities.

Another issue that the goal focuses on is undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources and access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources under national laws. Changing laws have helped women to inherit their rightful ownership over land and other properties.

Enhancing the use of enabling technology, particularly information and communications technology, to promote women’s empowerment is another focus of the goal.

women work
Representative Image.

As I have already cleared that I am a strong proponent of all things related to women empowerment, I think that this is a very important and wonderful step taken by the United Nations to give women a chance to grow and be independent. More opportunities should be available for women other than information and communication technologies to feel empowered.

We need to be role models to each other to inspire and be inspired by women. That’s what would be called women empowerment. So we need to start by empowering each other.

Last but not least, the focus of this goal is adopting and strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at all levels. The more we promote gender equality and women empowerment, the more awareness it creates among the masses and the more this notion will be practised.

Awareness campaigns play a vital role in educating people about such issues. The only contributing factor is that we have to be comfortable with talking about it. We have to take the initiative and start the conversation regarding promoting gender equality and women empowerment.

As said earlier, we women need to start supporting each other, inspiring each other, empowering each other and looking out for each other in every way possible. I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many supportive, inspiring and empowered women because it makes me feel empowered and makes me feel that if I want to achieve something and work hard for it, there’s nothing that can stop me from getting it. Period.

And lastly, I would like to thank all the strong women in my life. It’s because of their constant support and motivation that I have been able to transform into my best, headstrong and confident self. So I owe all of it to them. And if we stand united and take small steps, even that will help.

Go one mile at a time and we will be able to achieve this goal of gender equality.

References

  1. 12 Ways to Live More Sustainably. (n.d.). Retrieved from Centre for Biological Diversity.
  2. Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from Google.
  3. Goal 5: Gender Equality. (n.d.). Retrieved from United Nations Development Programme.
  4. Pathway to Sustainable Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from Pan American Health Organisation.
  5. Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia.
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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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