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?
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Fight it out they say….. really is it always that easy?

The article ‘Fight your attacker Tooth and Nail’ appeared recently in Hindustan Times on March 8th, 2014. You can access the article here http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/viewer.aspx (bottom right corner). The article was an excerpt from a recently released book Fit to Fight by Vesna Jacob. This book seems to have come out in an opportune time, with rising media coverage of and public attention given to crimes against women.

From what could be gleaned from the article, Fit to Fight is meant as a guide for women to protect themselves from attackers. It has self defense lessons for women and girls and also a section that advises women on different ways to save themselves from attacks. One example is – ‘..Ask him if he has a daughter or a sister, and how he would feel if they were in your shoes..before you get to the physical part of the attack try to use every single thing that comes to your mind that can make your attacker hesitate..’. The book seems to have many more such lessons for women.

This book is only one among many such self-defense books, which focus on ways that women can use to prevent attacks against themselves. Also, in recent public debates about crimes against women, there has been a recurrent argument about women needing to know how to protect themselves from attackers. Well meaning films, articles, and other media have focused on how women need to be strong and fight against violence. However, such arguments leave me disturbed at some levels, because they put the responsibility of preventing violence against women, on women themselves.

What kind of message does a book like Fit to Fight give to women and girls facing very real threats of violence every day? What do we think of teaching self defense to girls as a way of protecting themselves? Does such focus on girls and women give them a sense of agency to fight violence, or does it put additional burden of preventing violence on the victims/survivors of violence?

11th Edition of Newsletter by girls and youth released!!!

Every  year on 26th January and 15th of August, girls and boys from  Vacha centers in Mumbai & Kalyan in  Thane  come out with a community  newsletters .

They voice their thoughts & concerns about issues in their locality. It is also a platform to share their experiences    and  creativity. They form their own committees for resource mobilization, Writing articles, photographs, creative page as well as editorial and dissemination.

Each release is inclusive of community event and action such as street play, rally, public speech, poster, photo exhibition, slide presentation with power points on issues like education, gender equality, ration etc.

We share with you some glimpses of the newsletters and accompanying events. Do write back to us about this.

Newsletter Glimpses- January 2014                                                   newsletter glimpses-2014

In support of Arpita Phukan Biswas’s protest against Palash Sen’s sexist remarks

Don’t worry guys, you will find the best looking women when you leave this campus. Aur woh tumhaare liye roti belengi

This was the remark made by Palash Sen, lead vocalist of the band Euphoria, at this year’s IIT-B fest to the men in the crowd, making a reference to the lesser number of women in IITs as compared to men. Instead of expressing concern about this fact (which is a manifestation of the gender divide in higher studies), such a remark justified the higher presence of men in the crowd and successfully ‘othered’ any women that were present. There were many cheers from the audience, but also some jeers from both women and men in the crowd. The jeers got drowned out then, but opposition to such blatant sexist remarks did not. One of the students at IIT who was present at the concert, Arpita Phukan Biswas, posted in her blog about Palash Sen’s remarks and the post went viral. Many supported her views of not suffering sexism silently, while the post also got some negative comments.

Such a remark is condescending not just towards women, but men too. It not only assumes that women are for “beloing” rotis, it also assumes that most men would expect their wives to do so.

Palash Sen also sends the message that “beautiful” women cannot be intelligent and vice versa, and perhaps that “intelligent” men are not beautiful? Such remarks by celebrities have a significant effect, because they are followed and admired by a lot of people. Be it songs, movies or comments on such concerts, they become a part of common and accepted discourse. People take it lightly and if one opposes such remarks, it is said that it was “just a joke”. Arpita Phukan Biswas was one of the first to oppose Palash Sen’s remarks and we support her. Sexism is not funny, period. Having a good sense of humour does not mean laughing at sexist jokes. There surely are many other ways of healthy laughter. There should be zero tolerance towards sexism just as there is towards racism and casteism.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Palash-Sen-faces-the-music-for-sexist-remarks-at-IIT-fest/articleshow/27810021.cms

 

You don’t have to be a boy to dream big

When you go to a toy shop and ask for a toy, the shopkeeper has one question ready- “For a boy or a girl?” It seems that for the shopkeeper, it is very difficult to show toys without this information. Girls can’t play with cars and boys can’t play with dolls, as if the toys refuse to be played with by them. and we follow this blindly. Do not give equal opportunities to both girls and boys to experience wide variety of play materials and games.

Recently we went to a toyshop to buy games for the girls of Vacha. It was a little difficult for us to even see the toys that are “meant” for boys according to the toy companies and the shopkeepers. Hence we decided that we won’t mention the gender. The shopkeeper was keen to know whether it’s a boy or a girl for whom we wanted the games. We just ignored his question and it was indeed easy for us to select games without any shocking reaction from the shopkeeper. You really don’t need to look for a game on the basis of the gender of the child. Just choose a good game or a toy which you think is best suited for a particular age and is engaging. That’s all that matters.

Same goes for jobs. Go for a job that you think will define you. Gender shouldn’t matter because what you can do is not because you are a girl or a boy. Let people stare, criticize and blame you for doing something that only guys are “supposed” to do. Dream big because dreams don’t know you are a girl or a boy!

Tushita Mukherjee

This does not happen only in India. click on the link below to see these powerful girls.

http://www.upworthy.com/watch-a-bunch-of-little-girls-sing-a-power-ballad-shattering-what-little-girls-are-supposed-to-like

Poem on ‘Women’s Right to Pee’

लोकहो! दिवसांमागून                                                                         

दिवस लोटले                                                                                    

पण महिला मुतारीचे                                                                                          

प्रश्न नाही सुटले 

 

अभियाने,मोर्चे,निदर्शने                

करुन आता भागले                                         

मात्र कोणतेही मान्यवर                                                   

या प्रश्नास नाही जागले

 

कधी खोटी यांची आश्वासने                                                        

तर कधी नुसती पोकळ हमी                                 

मात्र प्रत्यक्ष हालचालीची    

पाहिली नेहमीच आम्ही कमी

 

महिलांसाठी अगदी शेंगदाण्याच्या        

साली एवढा हा जेंडर बजट 

मग कोणाला काय?महिला मुतारीचा  

प्रश्न कोप-यात पडलाय भिजत

 

महिलांचा मुद्दा खरंच आहे का ?            

 एवढा शुल्लक वाटण्यासारखा              

की याला नुसती उडवा उडवी      

आणि निव्वळ तारखां वर तारखा

 

करार,नियम आहेत का? या बी.एम.सी 

आणि शौचालया दरम्यान         

का कोणी उठवत नाही सवाल ?        

या प्रश्नाबाबत ब-या होतात हं                                     

सर्वांच्या भूमीका मवाळ

 

न्यायालय ठोठावेल अपराधीला    

ही सजा पाहा                                                                    

की एक दिवस जाउन     

महिला शौचालयात राहा 

 

काही क्षणातच जीव                                                            

सोडेल कदाचीत अपराधी                                                        

कारण एवढी दूर्गंधी आणि अस्वच्छता                

त्याने पाहीली नसेल कधी

 

स्वतंत्र मूतारी असावी महिलांना                    

ही संकल्पनाच नाही                            

मुंबईतील प्रत्येक शौचालय                               

देतोय याची ग्वाही

 

रोखून, लघवीसाठी महिलांकडून                          

मागीतले जातात पैसे                                   

पुरुषांसाठी फुकट आणि                  

आमच्यासाठी विकत हे चालायचे कैसे?

 

नाही पाहिली मी विकलांग महिलेसाठी 

विशेष सुविधा 

लघवीला बसावे की नाही 

याची पडते तिला दुविधा

 

कोणी आम्हा सांगीतले की,                             

मोफत मुतारीचा सुचनाफलक लावू प्रत्येक शौचालयाबाहेर                      

पण आता वेळ आली अशी की             

सुचनाफलक द्यावा लागेल यांना आहेर

 

शौचालयाच्या कांउटरवर असतो               

पुरुषांचा घोळका              

जाणा-या प्रत्येक महिलेस       

शौचालय वाटतो परका 

 

याकारणाने मुली महिला       

जाणे टाळतात येथे                

तासं-तास लघवी तुंबवून         

आरोग्य समस्येची सुरुवात होते.

 

कळत नाही किती दिवस                                                           

प्रशासन चालवणार हा खेळ?      

हाताळावा हा मुद्दा लवकरच    

अजुनही झाली नाही वेळ

 

नगरविकास खात्याने या प्रश्नाची 

आता तरी दाद घ्यावी 

स्वच्छ,सुरक्षित,मोफत,स्वतंत्र 

महिला मुता-यांची बांधणी करावी

 

– दिपा पवार (वाचा)

Book Review: Rights of Adolescent Girls in India: A Critical look at Laws and Policies. Author Saumya Uma. Published 2012, A Vacha Publication.

‘ This is a timely publication on the most neglected segment of our society, adolescent girls. perceived as a burden by parents, neglected by policy makers, subordinated by patriarchal system, adolescent girls in India hImageave to tread a tight rope walk. The author rightly avers that in India, that experiences of adolescence for girls are greatly different from that for boys…..’ Prof. Vibhuti Patel reviews the book in Indian Association of Women Studies (IAWS) Newsletter of January 20013. Click on the link for the full review: http://www.scribd.com/doc/128199909/IAWS-Newsletter-January-2013