International Women’s Day 2021

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Here’s wishing for a world without limits. In which we can walk the streets without having to carry with us a variety of self-defence mechanisms and tools (pepper spray, umbrellas, scarves, pen knives.. the list is endless), without having to be on high alert and think of what-ifs, without having constant anxiety. A world in which we don’t feel guilty for the choices we make, as women are so often wired to feel. A world in which we speak up more and are listened to. A world in which we aren’t stared at, objectified, restricted, ignored, subdued, marginalized, controlled, suppressed, groped, abused, manipulated and silenced.

Menstruation management

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Many women in India do not have access to menstrual management tools, and they resort to dirty rags, newspaper and even sand and ash as a result. Goonj works with women in some of the remotest parts of India, helping to divert material from cities to villages. Support their “Not just a piece of cloth” campaign, through which they provide affordable cloth pads. Know more: goonj.org/njpc

Independence Day: In Collaboration with CRY

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A collaboration with the NGO CRY: Child Rights and You this Independence Day. It’s been 71 years since we became an independent nation, but there are many children in India who don’t know freedom. There are about 10 million child labourers in the country and close to 15 million girls who are married before the legal age. Let’s help liberate the children of India from poverty, abuse and exploitation.

What they say

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​ It baffles me that people will always take out time and effort to tell you how fat or thin or skinny or dark or something or the other you look. We’re a completely obsessed society. That people respond to you based on your physical appearance is something we’ve unfortunately ‘normalized’ and accepted. From the playground to the corporate world, it seems like there are plenty of opportunities for these predators… Who might well be completely unaware. All these years I seem to have been deaf to these comments… You only notice what you experience perhaps. I talked about this with a friend who said “Don’t worry, you’re gorgeous” and I wanted to say hey I’m not asking for validation. I’m not asking for confirmation that I’ve passed in some sort of test. I think we just need to stand up and say that this is not okay to people who make unthinking, inconsiderate, inane comments.

When they say you’re too fat, too skinny, too dark…

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Over the last couple of years I’ve piled on the pounds due to various health issues, and evidently so. I’ve had a wide range of reactions to my weight gain – from being asked I have any “good news” to people asking if I were guilty that I ate a solid, filling dinner. And strangely, people wait for you to respond, like you’re supposed to make some apology. I find it quite fascinating that people’s perceptions change so much when your physical appearance does. So here’s a handy guide for those who’ve been told they’re too fat or dark or skinny or a gazillion other things that everybody else has a problem with.

Celebrating Women Through the 9 Navratri Colours

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Navratri is a 9-day Indian festival that involves the worship of the feminine spirit, power and divinity. Specific colours are symbolic of the rituals associated with each day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if India respected its women the way we worship our goddesses? Here is a 9-part series that aims to celebrate women through the 9 colours of Navratri. These are simple examples that probably capture a very very small percentage of the countless challenges that women face on a daily basis in our country.

Day 2: Today’s colour is green. Depending on the law, society and circumstances, the idea of freedom or even choice is a far-fetched dream for many women. For me the green symbolizes those an escape – women who’ve been able to fight the system, make their own decisions and carve their own paths. Those who’ve been able break free from everything that’s held them back, including themselves.

 

Day 3: Today’s colour is grey. For women who’ve had to fight unimaginably hard battles and are still fighting for justice.

 

Day 4: Today’s colour is orange. For all the women (especially domestic helps) who work odd jobs and long hours to be able to support their families and afford their kids an education. I think we have a lot to learn from this country’s fiercely strong didis/akkas/bais.

​​Day 5: Today’s colour is white.

In some parts of India, widows are isolated from society and abandoned by their families. Apart from wearing only white and being forbidden to participate in festivals, in extreme cases, widows are also to shave their heads and suffer psychological abuse. Last year, thousands of widowed women, who typically dress in white, gathered in Vrindavan to celebrate Holi, breaking a 400 year old taboo. While these traditions are changing in many parts of India, this comic is for all those women who’re ​still seeking acceptance, and more importantly, ​fighting for a life of dignity.

Day 6: Today’s colour is red. Female infanticide and foeticide is shockingly common even today in India, and is a desperate measure taken (usually by parents) due to financial reasons, fear of social isolation, lack of family planning, dowry costs, etc. India outlawed the dowry system in 1961 and sex determination tests in 1994. Yet we hear of female infanticide cases quite frequently. I know of a couple, who, hoping for a son, ending up having 8 daughters. All of us have heard these stories. There are a bunch of government initiatives and NGOs that are trying to prevent this act. I’d like to think that there is hope, and the situation is changing.
Day 7: Today’s colour is royal blue. The gender pay gap is an issue not just in India but worldwide. Reliable statistics are hard to come by, and some even call it a myth. I don’t think we can generalise, but what we can do is call it out if we’re aware that it exists in our workplaces. And not settled for less.

Day 8: Today’s colour is pink. Women everywhere think negative thoughts about themselves – I come across so many women who think they’re too fat, too thin, too short, too lanky — there is always something wrong. We try on a dress, and even if somebody tells us we look fabulous, we want to think otherwise. We seem to obsess when we look into the mirror. I’ve figured that the most amazing feeling in the world is to look into the mirror and see somebody who’s beautiful, confident and ready to take on the day. That in itself is most battles won 🙂

Day 9: Today’s colour is purple. Women in India face numerous daily battles – whether in rural or urban areas. Safety is still a big issue — a world in which we can walk without fear seems far away. Overcoming challenges is easier said than done. Yet we have so many women who are doing wonderful work and empowering other women across the country. Hats off to them!
I believe the true spirit of Navratri lies in celebrating not only our goddesses but also the women all around us. Who, if you ask me, are goddesses in their own right.

Women. Take charge!

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A story almost every woman in India has heard or experienced. I’ve heard this phrase – “I don’t have a choice” – from so many women when it comes to the topic of marriage. Societal and family pressure can be enormous. The issue is perhaps a lot more complex than shown here, and this depiction is an over-simplification, but I believe that making women realize that they have a voice, a choice, is the big step forward.