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What Does India Need? Gender Sensitization And It Needs It Now

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Have you ever wondered why, despite some progress in gender equality, we as a society still hold regressive views towards anyone who is not a cis-het man? As we grow up, we are instilled with several negative notions about gender identity, the “appropriate” ways of performing gender, and rules about who we can love.

Representational image. Except for Cis-Het men, society holds a regressive view towards everyone else.

“Boys can’t wear make-up!”

“She was asking for harassment wearing that outfit!”

“I’m not homophobic, but don’t rub your love life in my face, yaar!”

But are these rules the only way to conduct life? Who set these rules? Whom does it serve when we collectively follow them? And why must we shun anyone who strays from them? Following these patriarchal views only strengthens the hate that develops for people from marginalized communities. There is an increasing need to destroy the illusion that there is only one acceptable way to be.

Unfortunately, unless addressed actively, views that we imbibe over time can be challenging to overcome. Throughout our lives, we tend to not only accept but also perpetuate these beliefs. We need a drastic mindset shift in our society, and this can be done through gender sensitization.

What Is Gender Sensitisation?

According to SheThePeople.com, “gender sensitization is a basic requirement to understand the sensitive needs of a particular gender. It helps us to examine our attitudes and beliefs and question the ‘realities’ that we thought we know”. It is an awareness that cultivates a sensitivity to create a more inclusive and safe space for all. One can be sensitized through self-education, workshops, art, and more!

 

Gender sensitivity can help root out negative attitudes about gender and sexuality; it helps us de-condition ourselves to make way for more progressive values. Indeed, it is also a long process – it can take weeks, months, or even years to unlearn some beliefs truly! But it is the only way for a society to collectively and genuinely advocate for gender equality.

We still have a long way to go – although the law mandates gender sensitization workshops in any workplace or educational institution, not everyone takes it seriously. They are still viewed as an accessory rather than a crucial stepping stone towards a discrimination-free, inclusive organization.

In a world preoccupied with assigning the onus of safety to survivors and marginalized groups, an effective gender sensitization session should raise awareness among everyone. It should target all co-occupants and highlight their role in ensuring that any space they inhabit is free from violence, discrimination, and harassment.

Durga India And Jhatkaa.Org’s Gender Sensitisation Work

Durga India is an organization that works in the field of gender equity and safety against sexual harassment. They have several initiatives that create a safer world and help us understand cues to protect ourselves in any given situation. One such program is their Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) Engagement program.

They helped install panic alarms in over 150 BMTC buses through their program, but they did not stop there. As they worked towards the safety of commuters, they also engaged service providers like BMTC staff, bus drivers, and conductors as part of their sensitization program. The program recognizes that this staff would be the first to intervene in a crisis and that the responsibility of a safe space does not lie solely on the passenger. The workshop attendees emerge as active bystanders, well-equipped with the knowledge of appropriate conduct and safety protocols.

At Jhatkaa.org, we appreciate this holistic approach to gender sensitization and support Durga India by supplying our Right the Wrong toolkit to complement their workshops. This toolkit aims to democratize access to legal information about sexual harassment and domestic violence, recognizing that an in-depth understanding or even access to this information is a privilege not enjoyed by all. From a basic introduction about behaviors that constitute harassment to a detailed explanation of the steps survivors can follow to access legal aid, this toolkit is a valuable reference for anyone looking for a simplified yet comprehensive explanation of the law.

Our partnership with Durga India is only the beginning – we are constantly looking to expand our reach and help more people access the toolkit and Durga’s insightful workshops. Help us amplify our Right the Wrong toolkit and continue our gender sensitization work by making a small donation.

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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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