This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Aakhya Isha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Do Indian Women Live Solitary Lives?

More from Aakhya Isha

Sixteen months have passed since the universities have been under lockdown. This has disrupted my recreational means such as hanging out with friends, gossiping, and indulging in an informative discussion.

And, I am left with the emotional conundrum of not feeling exalted anymore over a cup of tea.

After all, a cup of tea was merely an excuse to be with my friends even though tea has never been my preferred savoury drink. This year the essence of friendship day seemed less meaningful to me, over phone calls, as I was missing the jubilant faces of my friends.

Representational image. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Who would have imagined a world without friends on friendship day? However, keeping my spirit intact, I turned to a radio cassette to tune into songs from Bollywood playlists.

Just as I was enjoying a gust of euphoria, I was stung by a nostalgic flashback when the cassette recorder kept on a table in the corner of the room played:

“Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge

Todenge dam magar

tera saath na chhodenge

Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge…”

(We will never let go of this friendship. Even at the cost of death, we will stick together)

Is There A Difference Between Male And Female Friendships?

With a tipsy ambiance in my head, I discovered myself in a maze of ideas. Is the notion of friendship similar for a man and a woman? Why was the evergreen song was sung by a male singer? No offence to his voice, which has me smitten like it has others.

A still from the song from the film, Sholay, starring actors Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan. Photo credit: hinditracks.in

However, after 46 years of its release, what contemplation can one make of the song?

Have you ever wondered if the above mentioned popular song from the movie Sholay (1975) was enacted by female actors, would it have acquired the similar recognition that it has today?

If your answer is yes, you may say to me, “After all, who does not enjoy friendship?” You may even go on to say that, “Friendship is an abstract concept free of gendered notions.”

Forget the hypothetical situation I just asked you to think about. And, look inside your homes. You will find your mother’s friends to be either your aunt, your father, or your father’s family. Doesn’t it trouble you that her list of friends are so different from yours?

The very root of keeping our mothers alienated from their childhood friendships is our centuries-old tradition, wherein a daughter is married off from their native place. This separates her from her childhood friends.

And, she is asked to accept new friends within the matrimonial alliance. So, her husband’s friends become hers’ too.

Sometimes, this tradition is so rigidly enforced that she is asked to find a replica of her friends in her husband. Aha! So, the popular rhetoric “husband number one” is nothing but a master craft of cynical minds.

Men enjoy the privilege of having friends throughout their lives by continuously expanding the horizon of the friends circle.

Women Are Alienated In Indian Households

What does such systemic alienation of women insinuate? Does it redefine the boundaries of womanhood or codify the popular idea of friendship in our society? The structural segregation of woman pushes her to husband’s safekeeping.

A culture loaded with stereotypes confines a woman to household chores and forces her to find solace in her children or husband.

Her lack of mental rapport with the same age group becomes an accepted part of her life. She is constantly reminded about that’s how life should be because she is a nurturer! The forceful departure of a woman during her marriage places her under the shackles of patriarchy.

Her limited or lack of interaction with her sakhis (friends) places her within the parameters of being a good wife and mother, the so-called susheel bahu (obedient daughter in-law)—one who doesn’t venture outside her sasuraal (husband’s home).

Thus, begins the process of controlling a woman’s identity, body, emotions, desires, and life.

The estrangement of women gets strengthened by the notion that women do not talk or converse, but indulge in gossip, that is of a low value. Whereas, a man’s conversation is healthy and mature as per the social parameters rooted in the binary division of gender norms.

Preserving the territory of cordial relations with one’s husband is presumed to be his birthright, something that needs to be explored together only after marriage. This gives legitimacy to the conservative mindsets to shun friendships of brides post-marriage.

The keepers of social norms lock the gates of intimacy for the female partner. Thus, they reckon that the idea of a “soul mate” is the universal truth.

The cynical policing of women’s friendships arises from the fret over the character of future children, and family values. Such mothers are confined to working in the kitchen and household chores.

Women Are Forced To Give Up On Their Friends

The surveillance and constraints over her company and movement outside family, forces her to take recourse in new ways to feed her emotional needs for the rest of her life.

She does this by engaging herself in performing the rituals of an ideal wife, by participating in karva chauth, teej, jitya, vat Savitri etc. These may give her some relief from her monotonous life.

Hence, the social and political presumptions made about women’s bodies feed on their sense of belongingness.

Friendship is one of the ways to channel their claim over her in a patriarchal set-up. But, what if a woman has tasted the freedom of friendship and sees no turning back from the territory… by sacrificing her friends for her family?

She will be doomed to be perceived as a witch, sooner or later, and considered unfit to be a wife and mother!

Featured image is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: Ankit Chawla, Pixabay.
You must be to comment.

More from Aakhya Isha

Similar Posts

By Yash C

By Amar Saeed

By Olipriya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below