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Dear Daughter, I Could Say You Are Beautiful But I’d Rather Not

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My darling daughter,

On this daughter’s day I could start by saying, “You are the most beautiful girl in the world,” or “You are a princess and there is no one in this world that is prettier than you!” but then I would be lying.

I am sorry, but I don’t want to call you beautiful, pretty or a dainty, delicate darling! You did not choose the way you look today nor did you work towards it. Your face, your eyes even your smile is the result of your genes and there is nothing you can do to change it.

Being called pretty is not a compliment, however, being brave, being kind, and being loving are compliments that you need to be proud of.

Your physical appearance doesn’t define you! Your looks won’t get you good grades or good friends. They won’t facilitate your career or make you a good human being. If you ever get a trophy, a job or the love of your life solely because of your looks then you did not deserve it.

A still from the Bollywood film Secret Superstar. Representational image. Photo credit: Firstpost.

You are brave… You are articulate… You are a good friend. These are better praises than being beautiful!

Strive to be a loving and kind human being, have a good heart and a warm spirit.

Be courageous, positive and determined. Let your presence, personality and empathy be the reason for your happiness and the happiness of those around you.

Find Your Own Happiness

Having said that, always remember that you are NOT responsible for anyone else’s happiness except yours. Your presence might bring happiness in someone’s life, but at the end of the day they need to create their own happiness.

A person who is dependent on someone else for his happiness will never truly be happy. Happiness is not found within, but created within! Do things that make you happy. Happiness is not always found in money, travel, a successful job or marriage.

Nor can you wait for that special someone who will sweep you off your feet and take you to your happily-ever-after.

Sometimes, the smallest and the most insignificant of  things bring the greatest amount of happiness—a small flower growing on the sidewalk, a yellow butterfly fluttering its wings over it, the warmth of the sun on your skin on a cold day, the sound of the raindrops falling on your window pane, the gushing sound of water flowing in a stream, putting a small leaf in it and watching it drift away, or looking at the vastness of the ocean, while standing under the colourful hues of the beautiful sky.

As you grow older, you will realise the happiest moments were the times you spent with your friends, laughing on silly jokes till your stomach hurt, or a picnic with your parents where you sat on the grass eating sandwiches and played with your siblings.

You will look back and remember these times fondly. Happiness is all around you and within you, just listen to your heart and follow its rhythm.

Learn to balance your heart and mind equally, do not underestimate either!

There will be times when you will listen to your mind and at other times, you will listen to your heart. However, each decision requires emotional and cognitive thinking.

As the saying goes: “Always, always, always listen to your heart unless your brain tells you otherwise.” Never dismiss that little voice inside you when it speaks to you.

Never discredit your intuition and gut instinct, our mind has the ability to sense when something is off or when something doesn’t add up. Trust your inner self.

Believe In Love

It exists but not just in that one person we look forward to meeting. Your romantic partner is not the only source of love in this world.

You don’t need anyone to make you feel complete, you are not a jigsaw puzzle with some pieces missing. You are already whole and complete in yourself.

There is love in your parents’ nagging concern. There is love when your friends tease you. There is love when that stranger in the coffee shop asks you why you are crying, and there is love in those countless memories and conversations with so many beautiful people you will encounter in life.

Love can blossom in many forms. A still from the Bollywood film Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Representational image. Photo credit: The Hollywood Reporter.

Cherish this love and take from it. As much as you take, add double when you pass it on.

Never give up on love! Love yourself deeply and let yourself be loved. You will have heartbreaks, you will get betrayed and someone you love might not love you back.

Things change, people change, but remember: you will always have your parents and family to fall back on. If you ever feel uncomfortable talking to your parents: please do talk to your friends, any elder or even someone younger to help you get through.

You will be amazed that there will hardly ever be any people who will refuse to give you a listening ear when you need it. The world is full of kind people.

Help is always ready and will be given when asked. Sometimes the kindness of a stranger helps restore our lost belief in ourselves and humanity.

When you see someone in despair or in need. Be that kind stranger.

Mind Your Language

Be watchful of what you speak to yourself and to others. Words once said may or may not be forgiven, but they are never forgotten. Be the reason someone believes in themselves, inspire and motivate people.

May you never be the reason someone cries themselves to sleep and doubts their existence. Never be the reason someone gives up what they like or their dreams, because you made them believe they couldn’t do it.

May you never be the reason someone questions their worth and feels the world is a harsh place. Always lift people up and don’t pull them down!

Don’t base your worth on what others speak of you. The only opinion you need to care about is you own. Have the courage to leave the table when you are not valued. Know that you are enough!

You are your best friend and your biggest enemy. Choose your words carefully when you talk to yourself. Be kind and forgiving towards others but first, be kind to yourself.

You will make mistakes and you might look back and hate yourself, but don’t we all make mistakes? How else will we learn? Forgive yourself, but don’t forget the lesson it taught you.

Never say “never” and never say “always” either! Life is unpredictable and it will surprise you in more ways than one.

Fight For Yourself

You are NOT a princess. There is no “prince charming” who is waiting to rescue you. Yes, you could be a “damsel in distress”, but YOU CAN SAVE YOURSELF.

You are strong and capable enough to change a car tyre and equally handle financial problems. Believe in yourself and your capabilities. If there is something that you don’t know about the read, learn and educate yourself. Knowledge is never wasted!

Natasha Narwal, a member of Pinjra Tod and PhD scholar from Delhi. Representational image. Photo credit: Natasha Narwal, Twitter.

Don’t be afraid to fight and to stand up for yourself and others. Raise your voice when you see injustice or inequality around you. Be the voice of others who can’t speak for themselves. There is no greater good in this world than one human standing up for another.

As Maya Angelou said, Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

Last but not the least: reach for the stars! The world awaits your brilliance. It is a much better place as “YOU” are in it.

You are perfect just the way you are. You are all of my heart and everything in it.

We love you forever (no matter what),

Mom and dad!

This article was originally published here.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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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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