Girls march to success!

Story based on Poonam Yadav, LS Raheja College, Mumbai

Story by Mahima Dev

When you meet Poonam, she comes across as the quintessential girl-next-door. From her warm smile, it’s hard to gauge the kind of unfathomable feats she has achieved at a very young age. She was one of the chosen few to march at the Prime Minister’s Rally Parade on the 28th of January 2017. Yes, you read that correctly! One of Vacha‘s early associates, Poonam has had an enthralling journey and come incredibly far, keeping her values intact. She shares with us her story…

Poonam is a second year BA student at LS Raheja College Santacruz and a proud National Cadet Corps (NCC) member. NCC is the Indian military cadet corps with its Headquarters at New Delhi. 

Poonam represents the naval unit in the NCC. 

When the selections for the PM’s Rally began back in August, Poonam was determined to get selected and started practicing religiously for the same. She exceeded everybody’s expectations and made the shortlist from Mumbai. The shortlisted few were then taken to Nashik for the state finals where she qualified as well. The State Finalists were finally taken to Aurangabad where they practiced for 2 months.

The 2 months spent in Aurangabad were grueling and disciplined. Everybody would wake up at 4 AM for warm up and training would start at 6 AM. Post a quick breakfast break, practice would continue again between 8-10 AM. After a half-day break and lunch, march practice would resume at 3 pm until late evening.

During these sessions more and more candidates were sent back home. But the best, including Poonam remained. Finally only 37 girls from Maharashtra remained and 3 representing the naval unit.

They had become best friends by now and proceeded on to take the capital, New Delhi by storm!

The brave girls from Maharashtra stepped foot in NCR in January and met the top qualifiers from all the different states. It was an immersive cultural experience for them and responsibility as well. Poonam met girls from Karnataka, Uttarakhand, even her own state Jharkhand and many more. In totality 300 girls would perform the march. In Poonam’s words, “At first I was representing my college, then city, now state! I felt pride but at the same time responsibility as many wanted to be in my position and I had to uphold my country’s flag.”

During the last month in Delhi, the atmosphere was tense with bursts of fun and laughter. Anecdotes from back home and contact numbers were exchanged. And of course the inevitable selfies were taken too! All midst strict practice and healthy competition.

Finally the day arrived after 4.5 months of intense preparation. It was a sunny 28th January, a huge crowd, press and VIPs collected to watch the spectacle. The chief of Naval Staff, Defense Minister and Prime Minister took front row. The parade began on time and Poonam was overcome with immense happiness because she was doing something she loved- and everything was falling right into place! She donned a speckless white uniform and held her head up with pride. The girls worked like a well- oiled machine and received standing ovations from the dignitaries.

Having fulfilled their “mission,” it was now time to bid farewell to the other girls. There were some tears as well since they had really lived a once in a lifetime journey together. Although everyone knew they would remain in touch.

 Poonam, reflects upon her enriching experience fondly and recalls how at first it felt odd to greet her seniors with a “Jai Hind” but now she embraces it with pride. She talks about how the youth is losing interest in cultural events like parades and thinks more encouragement is required. “All girls must join NCC, women are really respected there. It’s a place for true patriots,” she says.

Poonam hopes to join the army and fight at the borders to inspire other girls to do the same.

We at Vacha wish Poonam all the strength in the world and vow to support her every step of the way!

Make My Space- Ab Nahi Toh Kab?

By Mahima Dev

Hoshiyaar banoongi, sabse main ladoongi,

Arey mujhe kya rokegi yeh duniya,

Kal logo ke bandhan ko sehme main chali thi,

Aaj bandhan ko tode main aage chaloongi,

Duniya tere samaaj ka hoon ek hissa main,

Apna adhikaar lekar rahoongi!”

A pleasant poem with a strong message, recited by Vacha girls during their street plays and performances.

Every now and then the brave girls at Vacha shed light on important social issues and bring public awareness through street plays. But brazenness is not always welcome, especially in the Bastis they call home.

When the girls and Vacha mentors first started presenting these street plays in Bastis and public areas, they were greeted with dismay. Most girls’ own families and neighbors discouraged them. There was an unnerving incident wherein a brother pulled his elder sister by the arm, screamed, “How can you do all this” and dragged her home. After much pleading and persistence on the part of the girls, their parents reluctantly permitted them to perform but with the caveat that they would do so in Bastis far away from home, “Do whatever you want but we will not be party to this nonsense!”

The girls felt dejected but jumped at the opportunity of being able to enlighten the people of other Bastis. And they did. Overtime, people started speaking and praising the girls’ enjoyable and hard-hitting street plays. The girls were motivated to work harder. Eventually, there came a time when the Basti leaders, who had once shunned the girls’ plays, invited them to perform at events and occasions. They have really come a long way and we are very proud of our girls!

One of the most impactful plays by the Vacha girls is called Make My Space- Ab Nahi Toh Kab. It deals with a topic which is usually taken for granted: access to public places. Due to the obsolete social outlook towards girls freely accessing public places, amplified by the lack of security thereof, an important aspect of a girl’s developmental process gets obstructed. The girls have put it in a rather clear manner – “What is a public place? Is it a religious place…? But people of all religions are present here today. So, it cannot be. Is it an educational place? But people from all walks of life- uneducated and scholarly- are present here today. So, a public place is all these things and much much more. Public places such as libraries, sports grounds, hospitals etc. are the most essential contributors to our growth. It’s the valuable social setting where we get to interact freely with people of diverse religions, cultures, languages, ages and sexes. Yet this right is sometimes taken away from us.”

In a survey of 1000 Mumbai girls/women conducted by Vacha in 2015, it was discovered that-

1) 60% of those surveyed were scared to use public toilets.

2) 40% found libraries unsafe.

3) 40% found roads and sports grounds unsafe after sunset.

These figures are appalling.

We tried unearthing the causes of these findings and found case-specific reasons.

Public Toilets-

Public toilets, a basic necessity, are not accessible to women mainly due to the fact that places around such bathrooms have transformed into frequent meeting spots for drunkards and substance-abusers. The ladies bathrooms neither have lights nor proper doors. In some cases, no water or dustbins are available in the toilets. Women are charged more than men at such toilets because apparently women make more of a mess. All these factors mean that parents often times do not allow their young girls to use public toilets. Parents believe public toilets contribute to more sickness than open defecation.

Sports Grounds (Maidans) and Public Libraries-

These areas are often desolate and have therefore turned into hubs of eve-teasing and sexual harassment. Instances of serious sexual crimes perpetrated in desolate areas or abandoned locations, are abundant. These areas are mostly frequented by men, with little or no women in sight. This makes not just the girl but her parents very uncomfortable as well. In addition to this, girls coming out of home at night is a taboo and their parents have to hear taunts by neighbours. For these reasons, girls are not allowed to freely access parks, maidans and public libraries.

These issues need the attention of the government and local authorities, but above all awareness of the general public is imperative. We must realise that these are problems of our own and need our initiative and cooperation to be solved. If around 40% girls feel unsafe in ‘public places’ then can we truly call them free and independent. Can we call ourselves and our nation free?

Vacha has initiated the first step to help all girls reclaim public places. We have been actively involved in renovating toilets in certain wards, by putting in petitions and following up with local authorities. In addition to this, gender sensitization classes have been held with young and adolescent boys for an all-rounded understanding of girls’ issues. Awareness sessions in bastis in the form of Sports Days in public maidans on Republic Day and Independence Day have been a huge success.  The Learning Community of which Vacha is a coordinator, holds Seminars by the name ‘Reclaim the Public Place- “Ab Nahi Toh Kab”’. The next seminar will be held on the 10th and 11th of February 2017. You are welcome to attend, find details here- http://bit.ly/2jOR55C

We hope you will join us in this bold endeavour.

Gold to Gold hota hai….Chora lawe ya Chori…..

by Sabah and Saima

dangal-dialogues
                        A Dialogue from Movie “Dangal”

       शायद हम सभी ने “दंगल “ फिल्म देखा होगा |इस फिल्म के बाद बोहोत सारे लोग इस से प्रेरित हुए होंगे …..पर ऐसी लड्कियौं की कहानिया बोहोत सालो से चल रही है | यह कहानी इस लिए सबके सामने आई क्युओंकी उन्होंने अपने देश का नाम रोशन किया …पर ऐसी कितनी लडकियों की कहानी है जो “चार दिवारी “ में  बंद रह जाती है|  शायद यह लडकियों की कहानी भी इसी तरह बंद रह जाती ,जब तक वोह अपने आप को किसी के काबिल नहीं समझती | इनके पिता ने उनको अपना सपना पूरा करने के लिए देश का नाम रोशन करने के लिए अपनी बेटियों को उस अखाड़े में धकेला जिसमे सिर्फ आदमी ही जा सकते है ऐसी सोच है समाज की…उनके दंगल लड़ने पर ,लड़के जैसे कपडे पेहेन्ने पर कई सवालों का सामना करना पढ़ा पर वोह लग रुके  नहीं और न ही उनके पिता रुके …वोह उनकी ढाल बन कर खड़े रहे  …पर असल ज़िन्दगी में ऐसी बोहोत सी लडकिया  है जो समाज के दबाव से ही अपने सपनो को कुचल देती है और समाज के साथ समझोता कर लेती है |

     पर दंगल फिल्म में जब दोनों लडकियां देश का नाम रोशन करती है तब समज उनको उनके लड़की होने का एहसास नहीं दिलाता…………..क्या ज़रूरी है के हमें हमारे देश का नाम रोशन करने पर ही समाज हमें हमारे हिसाब से चलने दे ? इसी तरह समाज हमारे देश के साथ साथ हमारे ज़िन्दगी में एक पहचान बन्ने दे ..तो शायद हमें अपने सपनो को कुचलने की ज़रूरत ना  पड़े |हमने तो यह ठान लिया है के हम लडकिया  भी अपनी पहचान बनाकर रहेंगे ,फिर चाहे उसमे वक़्त ही क्यों ना  लगे|

by Sayali Ghotikar

आता तू मोठी झालीस
ऐक नीट
जोरात बोलायचं नाही
जोरात हसायचं नाही
नीट बस गं. 
नीट कपडे घालायचे
फार कुठे बोलायचं नाही
तरीही काही झालंच “तसं”
शु SSSSSSSSSSSSSS
कोणाला सांगायचं नाही
अगदी स्वत:लाही नाही’
delete करून टाकायचं एकदम

शेवटी तुझं चांगलं तर हवय ना आम्हाला

(“ती” एकच विचारते)
चांगलं म्हणजे नक्की काय ……?

I Can Do It- Sabah’s Story

Story by Mahima Dev

Story based on Sabah Wajid Ali Siddiqui, 19 years old, First Year BAF at MVM College

While interning at Vacha Resource Centre for Women and Girls, I came across a girl named Sabah. I was impressed by her confidence and gumption, she was never hesitant to put forth her view. I was surprised to learn that she was the same age as I am. She has been with Vacha for 9 years now. Just goes to show how a girl’s strong will and a little external push can create great outcomes. Here is Sabah’s story-

2
Sabah’s younger days… she has come a long way

A timid smile and resolute voice, Sabah’s personality intrigues you instantaneously. She speaks with striking confidence about her journey. Her ambition acts as the source of her morale, never mind that resources and odds are not exactly in her favour. She soldiers on. Her latest achievement is a research paper on “The Role and Contribution of Small and Medium Enterprises in the Indian Economy” which was published by her college.

At first Sabah found it hard to cope in a college environment. If being a girl of newfound adulthood wasn’t already complex enough, she was suddenly amidst fluent English speakers. Up until the tenth grade Sabah had studied in an Urdu medium school. She was usually the outspoken girl at her old school, but found herself terribly quiet here. She was perplexed as this was all she ever wanted- going to college, pursuing a Bachelors in Accounting and Finance degree. In fact she was already the most qualified person in her nine-member family. What’s more, she’d even received the Shadhika scholarship. What she hadn’t accounted for though, was the language barrier.
img_3087
After a few days and many awkward attempts at spoken English, she realised that although she was weak at English, no one, not even the teachers could speak Hindi as fluently as herself. Her grasp over economic theory and accounting too, was good. She cinched the opportunity with a speech and dazzled her teachers and classmates alike. That day she knew that she was in no way inferior, all she had to do was muster her courage and play to her strengths.

With her nascent confidence, she was determined to keep her winning streak going. She had heard, in the passing, about a study that her college was about to publish on “SMEs.” She wondered what they were. Abbreviations have always confused her, she turned to her most credible source- Google. This too, was only accessible to her at her college laboratory and at the Vacha resource centre. When she hit ‘search’ she was introduced to a new world that seemed both intriguing and elusive in parts. She delved deeper into the realm of Small and Medium industries in India. She walked through definition, marched through advantages, darted through importance and danced through economic impact. Her mind was aflame- she wanted to know more.

12
Technology can be a girl’s best friend


Sabah pulled out all stops, she elicited every source possible- teachers, mentors, family, and the ever helpful internet. Many weeks went into it. She even sacrificed a few of her beloved accounts lectures in college to gain practical knowledge outside. She says, “Research and application gave me a much deeper insight into economics and clarified many concepts on GDP. I have learned new words in English also. I think everyone should learn from books first and then apply in real life to fully understand subjects.” Many a time she found her near and dear ones concerned about her. ”Are you mad spending so much time in all this and missing classes too? The teacher said this was co-curricular, that means no marks for all this. Better forget it”, said a classmate. But Sabah knew better. She told her classmate that although the teacher would not award extra marks for her research, she would surely do better on her exams because of it. She toiled on, asking her teachers more and more questions each day. Crunching numbers and data was what she looked forward to the most every day. Because “at the end of the hard work when I get a clear conclusion, it makes me very happy.”


Finally, Sabah turned in her research to her teacher. It was a file that read “Role and Contribution of SMEs in Indian Economy.” Sabah beamed with contentment and pride as she handed it over. A few days later, her teacher asked her to wait back after class. “Sabah, the principal loved your thesis. It has been selected for the college publication. In the interest of the college students, we would love for you to present your thesis at the conference next month,” the teacher said. These words seemed like the sweetest song to Sabah. Her committed effort had finally borne fruit. In the next moment, it dawned on Sabah that she would have now to present her research to an auditorium full of students, teachers, dignitaries and international experts- in English! But she had never let anxiety and nervousness hold her back in life, and she was not going to start now. So she smiled and said, “Sure, madam.”

 

saba-symposium
Sabah hones her speaking skills

The conference day arrived quickly. Sabah had practised relentlessly, yet some nervousness remained, it was her first big address. The event started with the keynote speech by Mr. Vincent Wahrenburg, Head of Environmental Engineering, IRIANS, Berlin and a wonderful address by Mr. Chandrakant Salunkhe, Founder and President, SME Chambers of India. Next up was Sabah. She explained her thesis from beginning to end, about the importance of government support to SMEs, micro scale innovation, women entrepreneurs, and challenges in employment growth with proposed solutions. She ended on a beautiful note, “We must encourage girls to study and run their own small businesses, just like they run their households.” The content made up for any shortcomings in her linguistics. Everyone appreciated her presentation and signature confidence. Mr. Wahrenburg, congratulated her personally.

This experience has been unforgettable for Sabah, she cannot wait to start research for her next presentation. She says, “I love presenting to people because I want my voice to be heard by many. I want to become a lecturer in accounting and economics someday.”

 

Dreams…….who doesn’t love talking about them! While most of us vividly express our desires, aspirations and ambitions through our dreams, this little girl from Mumbai has only one simple wish to make. But would it always remain a distant dream?

मैं नहीं चाहती

मैं नहीं चाहती, कि कोई बच्चा

रेलगाड़ी का फ़र्श साफ़ करे

नट की रस्सी पर झूलता नज़र आये

जिस्म को गोदने का फ़न सिखाये

शेर के मुंह में हाथ डाले

तपते पट्टों की ईंटों को ढोये,

होटलों और शराबखानों में

अपने दामन से मेज़ साफ़ करे.

सांप को रखकर एक पिटारे में

रास्तों पर भीख भी मांगे,

नाच-गाने सुनकर सबको खुश करे

बूट-पॉलिश में खूब माहिर हो,

माँ के आँचल से दूर हो जाए

बाप के साथ काम पर जाए.

मैं तो सिर्फ़ इतना चाहती हूँ

कि हर बच्चा

बचपन में सिर्फ़ बच्चा हो

ना कोई काम करे, बस आगे बढ़े

मैं सिर्फ़ ये चाहती हूँ कि

सब बच्चे बहुत ज़्यादा पढ़ें

और खूब आगे बढें….

                                                                                                 —फ़िरदौस बानो रफ़ीक शाह  

Young girls in Literature

I love to dance. And sing. And jump. And speak.

These are the things most young girls enjoy doing. The last activity—speaking—which changes its nature from hushed whisperings to boisterous chattering with changing company of people, goes beyond its role of being a communication medium and weaves together our emotions, dreams, desires and even frustrations. Speaking up allows us to create a collective consciousness of ourselves, to tell others about our experiences. Speaking up – whether by talking or by other mediums of expression – allows us to share ourselves with others and thus validate ourselves.

But what if we are stripped of this basic human right of speaking up? What if we are taught not to speak up?

Maya Angelou, the famous American poet and feminist had once said—

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

She had indeed experienced this incisive pain of keeping silent. Raped at the age of seven by an uncle, she went into trauma and did not speak for a long time. But, she wrote. She wrote about the pain the girls undergo at the hands of their acquaintances but never speak about. Nobody speaks about it, in fact. The girls are initiated into the tradition of silence, they are asked to ignore and move on. Most of the women writers have talked about the instances of pain, suffering and deep humiliation they went through during their girlhood and adolescence, many years later.

It is ironical that the experiences of innumerable young girls never see the light of day owing to social shame, hesitation and the trauma of “shutting up”. However, many girls have chosen to break this silence and give words to their emotions—without waiting for years to pass, or the pain to heal.

Writing down the experiences also has a deep significance; it documents the tone of awareness (and eventually resentment) against a subordinating, humiliating or heart wrenching instance/practice. As the saying goes, “watch your words, they become your actions”, the words of resent boost the strength to question and then to protest.

Expression as the form of emancipation has been recorded in the pages of history even before the coming of modern ideas of feminism. The bhakti movement of ancient and medieval periods in the Indian subcontinent saw significant participation of women, for whom moksha (salvation) was metaphorical to freedom from the patriarchal social norms as well. Andal, an Alwara (worshippers of Vishnu) saint from Tamil Nadu, expressed her passionate devotion and longing for Shiva by openly flouting prescribed norms of conduct for women. Right from her adolescent years she meditated in the forests, roamed around in ‘disheveled’ state, sunken eyes and emaciated body to defy the norms of feminine beauty. Her poems not only express her longing for Vishnu as her husband, but also express her love for God without any social apprehension. Mirabai was another bhakti saint of the medieval period who embraced Krishna as her husband from a very young age, and continued her devotion even after getting married, much to the resentment of her husband and of family members. While many argue that these women bhaktas’ devotion was guided by patriarchal subordinating principles, it should not be forgotten that their expression of love in practice was an act of rebellion against practices which fettered the women of contemporary period. Mirabai’s famous verse, “मेरे तो प्रभु गिरधर नागर, दूसरो न कोय/ जाके सर है मोर-मुकुट, मेरो पति सोय” is a strong assertion of disassociation of her identity from that of her husband, the male figurehead who represented and ‘owned’ (and still does) the identity of woman in society.

Anne Frank, a young 14 year old Jew living in Germany at the time of Hitler led Nazi regime has penned down her experiences in form of a diary, The Diary of A Young Girl (published in 1947, posthumous) , which has been widely read across the globe. The Nazi government was carrying out mass killings of Jews and non-Aryan/Germans and Frank had to stay in exile with her family for around 2 years before they were caught by the Gestapo (German police). Although it has the gory narration of the German holocaust as its backdrop, the book is full of interesting anecdotes about the everyday life of a bubbly teenager—her aspirations, her love for the family’s pet cat, her love-hate relationship with the boy of the same age whose family shared the room with the Franks during the hiding. The positivity expressed in each of the diary entries brings us face to face with the irreversible hatred and repercussions caused by war and genocide. But alongside, it also pleasantly reflects how severities and adversity are not powerful enough to take away the zeal and dreams from the eyes of young, cheerful people.

Closer home, Sufia Kamal from Bangladesh had been a leading feminist and poet who interwove literary aesthetics with the cause of raising the voice of the marginalized women. She wrote her first poem, Boshanti (The Spring) published at the age of thirteen in 1924 which talked about happiness and joys that natural beauty entails. She often made use of motifs and metaphors from nature to express the desires and aspirations of women.

The rise of the Dalit and anti-caste movement in Maharashtra in the 1970s and 80s led to the emergence of rich literature by women writers. The inspiration interestingly was drawn from an essay by Mukta, a 14 year old student of Savitri Bai Phule who in 1868 wrote a critique of the monopoly of Brahmins and upper castes over determining the access to education. Many of the Dalit women writers, like Hira Bansode, Kumud Pawade and Urmila Pawar have written vivid accounts of their adolescent years and the struggles they and their families went through in the caste ridden, patriarchal society. The rebellious attitude and resentment to submission showed by them in their youth gave them the power to raise their voices against injustice later in their lives. It is these women’s writings that enrich and make possible sharp criticisms of Brahmanical patriarchy by connecting gender-based discriminations with caste violence. Bansode’s poem, Bosom Friend, talks about a young Dalit girl who sarcastically condemns the attitude of her childhood friend who could not free herself of the shackles of caste prejudices.

Such voices, however, are few and far between. It is important to question the reason for the dearth of young women writers in the literary corpus around the world. Denial to education and social barriers to expression are two of the many reasons behind the absence of documentation of works by young girls. Also, voices of which women and girls get recognition and respect as ‘authentic’ voices has historically been dictated by caste in India. The women’s movement in India after the 1980s has tried to deal with this issue by starting initiatives to record oral histories, where spoken experiences are documented into biographies and life histories to give words to the priceless expressions of women who could never get a chance to dress them up with eloquent words.  For example, the Black Women Oral History Project is a project to document oral histories of young women survivors of the 1947 Partition. The mainstream women’s movement, however, continues to fall short in documenting and presenting voices and analyses of women and girls from historically marginalized groups – especially Dalit women and girls in India, and women and girls of colour worldwide.

VACHA too makes a small effort in bringing out the voices of young enthusiastic girls who have never been given a chance to speak their minds or hearts out within the four walls of the family and the societal periphery. Here’s a poem written by a young girl which gives an insight into how silence and compromise is sadly glorified for women in our society.

मैं जब स्कूल से आई

माँ के साथ खाना खायी,

बासी रोटी में मेरा हिस्सा

माँ बोली ये तो परंपरागत किस्सा

ससुराल में जाएगी तो भाग्य अपने से खाएगी

आदत होनी चाहिए, नहीं तो सह नहीं पायेगी…”

(Source: Hum Sabla: Jagori Newsletter; Jan-June 2015)

However, it is not only pessimism which speaks out in the works of young girls. Amidst all the socio-cultural and economic problems, they still talk about hope and happiness. Here’s one such poem written by a fourteen year old girl from Mumbai— https://girlhoodindia.wordpress.com/celebrating-girlhood/?preview=true&preview_id=337&preview_nonce=d754105a85.

Therefore, we must acknowledge and appreciate the power of the written word.  We must appreciate the power of expression as a political right, as an act of subversion, as rebellion and as a way of creation of own histories.

Excerpts from a book on menstruation experiences by girls

Myths about menstruation are a part of the larger patriarchal structure of control over girls and women. While restrictions on girls during menstruation cut across class and culture around the world, the custom of untouchability practiced against menstruating girls and women is unique to India. Girls and women between the ages of 10-50 years, face untouchability from their own family members during menstruation.
In this book, we have documented girls’ stories of menstruation in their own voices.Puberty, Poverty and Gender

“ This is my cousin sister’s story, of when she got her periods…That day, she had felt a strong pain in her stomach, and when she started bleeding, she didn’t know what it was. She got very scared and told her teacher about it. Her teacher asked her to go home and sent a friend along with her to reach her home.
Once she got home, a difficult time began for her. Instead of placating her fear or showing her any love or even explaining to her about what had happened, her mother kept my sister alone in one room. She had to stay there, alone, for the next six days. On the following day, a pooja was arranged for her and she was given sarees by all the married women in the family. It is true that she was given a lot of good food and other things during those days…but anyone passing by her room would taunt her and harass her…she felt terrible during those days, that is what she told me…”

Source: ‘Puberty, Poverty and Gender- Girls speak about menstruation’ (2014)., A Vacha Publication

Book on girls’ menstruation experiences released

book titleYesterday, on occasion of Menstruation Hygiene Day, Vacha released a volume of girls’ own accounts of ‘the tabooed’ subject of menstruation.
Titled ‘Puberty, Poverty and Gender – Girls Speak about Menstruation’, the book is illustrated with photographs of places relevant to issues of menstruation and taboos and control of mobility that come with onset of menarche. The pictures are taken by girls themselves who have also chosen the sites. The girls are from deprived communities and belong to poverty affected families. The stories talk of pain, humiliation and confusion and also of fun and celebration of life. Hindi and Marathi versions of the book are in production and will be released soon. 
May 28 has been celebrated as the International Day for Menstruation Hygiene by many organizations in the world. It is also celebrated as the Day of Action for Women’s Health.
Do you think it is important to celebrate this day? What do you think of girls speaking out about their menstruation experiences? Have you had similar experiences of shame and silence surrounding the subject?