Safecity Emerging Leader: Ayesha

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Safecity is celebrating the journey of people who have emerged as leaders as our campaigns progressed in their communities through our blog series “Safecity Emerging Leaders“. Read the inspiring stories of these individuals who are passionate about making their neighbourhoods safer with Safecity and have taken action in their own special ways. 

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Ayesha Mehrotra is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Bangalore. She is passionate about the environment and various social issues. Through her writing at this platform, she hopes to encourage the millions of unheard voices to speak out.

 

Safecity Emerging Leader: Ayesha

My name is Ayesha Mehrotra and I have been a part of  Safecity for the last three months. As a part of a rigorous college program along with handling two internships, Safecity was my go-to stress buster. This organization has helped me develop into a new and better individual. The last three months have really given me a boost in terms of perspective, knowledge, and interaction with different strata of the society.

As a blogger for Safecity, my primary purpose to be here was of importance: self-development and sharing knowledge amongst the masses. A lot of people preach ‘Women Empowerment’ and ‘Feminism’. At Safecity I have truly realized the value of these two terms, and what it means to define an individual as a feminist and a supporter of Women Empowerment. The articles I wrote helped me gain access to innumerable resources on topics from climate change to gender equality to entrepreneurship. The topics weren’t just related to women, but to gender as a whole. I have gotten a better understanding of gender equality, rather than a discriminating and disrespecting one. We need to give equal weight and importance to both.

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Safecity believes in overall development and growth in a positive direction. This attitude, I must admit is something which is  highly infectious. It motivates you to move towards your goal in a positive way. It has made me believe that change can begin from just with ONE individual, you don’t need anything else to bring about change except for a positive attitude and a willpower to create impact. This has allowed me to fight for my right without fear of being withheld at someone else’s cost, and surely developed me into a courageous and active individual.

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Safecity has given me a platform to showcase my talent, to voice my opinions and to even create change, in my own way. It has enlightened me with a plethora or information and opportunities and made me believe in myself as an individual. And for that, I am thankful to Elsa, Renita, and Jessica for being a part of my wonderful journey at this brilliant organization.

‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.’ – Steve Jobs

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My Marriage, My Prison

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Ayesha Mehrotra is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Bangalore. She is passionate about the environment and various social issues. Through her writing at this platform, she hopes to encourage the millions of unheard voices to speak out.

My Marriage, My Prison

I put on my bindi, a bright red, just like the lehenga I was wearing. My nails were painted a beautiful golden, my body bejewelled with glittering necklaces and bangles. I was the happiest girl in the world. At the age of 23, my dream had come true. I was getting married to the man I had secretly been in love with for the past 3 years, 2 months and 24 days. I had gotten lucky, his parents approached mine and it just happened. I was living my own fairy tale. The wedding was just as I had imagined it. I was over the moon.

Things were fine for the first three months. He took such good care of me, or so I thought. He showered me with gifts, got home cookbooks and John Grisham novels, my favorite. I kept myself busy with gardening and cleaning. I was hoping to join a design studio after settling down in our home.

My husband started coming home late at night, often smelling of alcohol. That is when I realized he was having an affair with his colleague at work. When I confronted him about it he denied it and then beat me. Against my will, he forced himself upon me, bad mouthing me, calling me names and manhandling me. He apologized the next morning, saying he would never hurt me again and that the affair would end.  He mumbled that he didn’t know what he was doing. I forgave him and tried to start afresh. But things just started getting worser by the day. For 3 months I was being sexually and verbally abused in my own home.

I felt hopeless now bearing the brunt of the fairy tale that I had always wanted to live. My family had no clue about my life as I lied to them every time they asked me something about my marriage, saying I was very happy. What would society think? I didn’t want my family to be ashamed because of me. He never let me step out of the house thereby shattering my dreams of working in a design studio. He didn’t even give me money to run the house or buy things for myself. As a result I was confined within the four walls of my three-bedroom house, I was in a prison.

My mother came to visit me once when everyone at home was away. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw how withered I looked. My eyes had sunken in and bones protruded from my arms and hips. She immediately asked me to pack my bags and leave the house along with her. When I looked at myself in the mirror that day, I couldn’t believe that it was my own reflection. What had happened to me in the that one year of my dream marriage! That is when I decided that enough was enough! I wasn’t going to let that man destroy me. I wasn’t obligated to him. I am my own hero, and I will fight my way out of this.I  fought a long drawn battle for divorce at court along with my family who were very supportive. They gave me comfort and hope and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Today I am 32 years old, the head of an NGO for destitute women and running my own design studio alongside this. I am sharing my story with you today so that you know that there are people out there who love you. Don’t ever settle for something lesser than you really deserve. You and you alone can make this decision, to FIGHT BACK and build a happy and healthy life. Don’t let anyone or anything tarnish your spirit.

In 2013, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported over 118,000 domestic violence cases, which made up a third of all crimes against women, far ahead of molestation (70,739) and rape (33,707). The number of reported domestic violence cases also shot up from a mere 50,703 in 2003 before the passage of the Domestic Violence Act of 2005.

Women have been victims of crimes like marital rape and domestic violence, often blaming themselves for these cruel acts. In recent times, where the general public is fighting for equal rights, be it in any sphere of life for both men and women, the rate of crime against women is proliferating. No one deserves to be mistreated in any sort of manner. Marital rape is a crime due to which women everywhere, are suffering. This isn’t acceptable and we MUST take these allegations seriously.

The delay in the acknowledging of marital rape and domestic abuse as a crime is a fault on the part of the Indian Judicial System. There is urgent need to criminalize marital rape in India. It violates the basic rights of women guaranteed by the Constitution of India. We all need to fight this together, we need to stop blaming the victims and guide them in times of need. Empowerment of women in society is a key role in increasing and strengthening and building an abuse-free system and society.

If you know anyone or you yourself need help, please don’t hesitate to come forward. Fight for your rights, fight for your freedom.

Time to Speak Out and Break the Taboo

So true, brilliant stuff! 🙂

Logophile

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Menstruation, also known as Periods is a regular natural cycle that occurs in the female reproductive system but girls particularly in Pakistan dread getting their periods. Unfortunately in Pakistan, menstruation is a hushed matter due to cultural constraints. Therefore, many girls face a lot of obstacles when it comes to sanitation.

According to UNICEF report, only 20 percent of girls have access to sanitary napkins in school whereas most of the girls reported that they can’t go to schools if they can’t find pads to wear or a toilet in which to change them in the school premises.  Girls also reported a lack of adequate facilities in school bathrooms while some schools don’t have running water so that girls can keep their hands and bodies clean while menstruating. There is a dire need to break the silence on this topic, so that millions of young girls every year…

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SGD 6- Clean Water and Sanitation: A Must for Women

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Ayesha Mehrotra is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Bangalore. She is passionate about the environment and various social issues. Through her writing at this platform, she hopes to encourage the millions of unheard voices to speak out.

 

SGD 6- Clean Water and Sanitation: A Must for Women

Gender is generally associated with unequal power and access to choices and resources. The different positions of women and men are influenced by historical, religious, economic and cultural realities. These relations and responsibilities can and definitely change over time. Inadequate access to safe, hygienic and private sanitation facilities as well as clean water is a source of shame, physical discomfort and insecurity for millions of women across the world.

Why are women more vulnerable to this situation?
Research suggests that women and girls in low-income countries spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water. In Africa, 90% of the work of gathering water and wood, for the household and for food preparation, is done by women. Providing access to clean water close to the home can dramatically reduce women’s workloads, and free up time for other economic activities. For their daughters, their time can be used to attend school.
Cultural norms frequently make it unacceptable for women to be seen defecating—forcing many women to leave home before dawn or after nightfall to maintain privacy. When women have to wait until dark to defecate and urinate in the open they tend to drink less during the day, resulting in all kinds of health problems such as urinary tract infections, dehydration, kidney failure and stomach infections. Due to unhygienic sanitary conditions women can contract bacterial and fungal infections in the vaginal area which can be painful and result in other problems such as infertility.

One of the many problems that have been observed is that the latrine designs, especially for primary and secondary schools, are mainly prepared by male masons.  This has resulted in girls staying away from schools when they are menstruating, even when their schools have latrines. In the case of small boys too, the urinals are often too high. Latrines should be constructed which are sensitive to the special needs of girls.

Why must women be involved?
It has become increasingly accepted that women play an important role in water management and that this role could be enhanced through the strategy of gender equality. Sanitation facilities and women’s safety go hand in hand.
The importance of involving both women and men in the management of water and sanitation and access-related questions has been recognized at the global level. It is stated explicitly that women play an important role in the provision, management, and safeguarding of water.

How can the problem of unequal access to water and sanitation be overcome?
The differences and inequalities between women and men influence how individuals respond to changes in water resources management. Understanding gender roles, relations, and inequalities can help explain the choices people make and their different options. Involving both women and men in integrated water resources and sanitation initiatives can increase project effectiveness and efficiency. India is facing a massive sanitation-access crisis.

There is a need for gender responsive budgeting and planning in the toilet initiative. Women and girls should be consulted and involved in the planning process of sanitation policies and programs to ensure that their needs are incorporated. There should be promotion of improved sanitation and hygiene that incorporates gender concerns. Interventions that include women and men and address gender concerns can go a long way in promoting improved sanitation and hygiene. Policy initiatives that promote safe sanitation for the poor should be strengthened. Efforts should lead to increasing the subsidy amount for toilet construction and ensure that it reaches the vulnerable populations.

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Keeping the Sustainable Development Goal-6 in mind, it is high time we do something about this and spread the word. Awareness and implementation are two key areas where we, as responsible citizens HAVE to focus on.

Voices that Need to be Heard

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Ayesha Mehrotra is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Bangalore. She is passionate about the environment and various social issues. Through her writing at this platform, she hopes to encourage the millions of unheard voices to speak out.

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Voices that Need to be Heard

She was trying to scream, but her words were drowned by the grunts of the man on top of her. She tried to push away but the brutal force kept leaving her effortless.The excruciating pain was ripping her soul apart, a piece of her dignity being snatched away. She tried to fight back, but nothing seemed to ease the weight. He left her unheard and broken. 

Sexual abuse is a sensitive and urgent issue that is facing India. It’s a topic that is considered ‘unholy’ and ‘wrong’. Many are trying to come to terms with it, but the people who were brought up in a ‘conservative’ or ‘respectful’ atmosphere recognize sexual abuse as a black mark, a topic which can never be discussed unless behind closed doors. Sometimes, they even remain oblivious to this, despite it happening right before their own eyes.

53% of children in India face sexual abuse and harassment. In most of the cases, it is committed by people known or close to them such as relatives and even their own parents. Let’s recall the numerous cases registered recently across both urban and rural areas. Go ahead and google sexual abuse, you will find a long list of articles and blogs on this topic EVERY DAY. So, when more than half the population is facing heinous crimes like these, why is sexual abuse still a social stigma in our society?

This blog post isn’t about putting statistics and facts out there, people have read enough about that on the internet. This blog is to spread a message, to make people aware that there are millions of women, children, and even men, facing such unjust acts. It is time we stand up to sexual violence, be it for ourselves or anyone we know. We must fight this together and strengthen the society.

Sexual abuse isn’t about the clothes you are wearing or the expressions on your face. It is something which can happen to anyone.

Many organizations and self-help groups encourage victims to interact with trusted or loved ones and share their experiences, in order to create awareness about and promote defense against and justice for victims of sexual abuse. It is both a difficult and bold thing to do. The trauma experienced by the victims is unimaginable. Many of them could take years to open up and talk about it. Sometimes, they do not talk about it at all, which could, in some cases lead to suicidal tendencies, withdrawal, fear and trust issues. In several cases, victims also undergo stress disorders, anger and mental health issues.

It is not only something that no one should ever have to go through but also something which can be prevented if All of Us are well aware. Together we can combat this, so raise your voice and let it be heard.

Education for Girls: A Vital Path to Success

‘A girl who is educated is able to make choices. Choices like when to get married; have children; what kind of career she’d like to have.’ – Bonvitha from Tanzania. She is one of the women who resisted child marriage to get her education.

Despite progress in recent years, girls continue to suffer severe disadvantages and exclusion in education systems throughout their lives. An estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest proportion of countries with gender parity: only two out of 35 countries. Many countries, especially in the African continent have still not have reached gender parity in terms of education. Recent estimates show that one-third of girls in the developing world are married before age of 18 and one-third of women in the developing world give birth they turn 20. If all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64 per cent, from almost 2.9 million to just over 1 million.

Girls’ education is both an intrinsic right and a critical lever to reaching other development objectives. Providing girls with an education helps break the cycle of poverty. Educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will which results in fewer occurrences of dying during childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school. They are also less vulnerable to contract diseases including HIV and AIDS. When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a lasting effect of opportunity that influences everything, including our future generations.

Educated girls acquire information and skills that lead to increased earning power, thus generating an additional income to their households. Evidence shows that the return to a year of secondary education for girls correlates to a 25 per cent increase in wages later in life. Investing in women’s and girls’ education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty.

Barriers to girls’ education

Women and girls experience multiple and intersecting inequalities. While gender parity has improved, barriers and drawbacks around gender disparities and discrimination remain in place. This is happening especially at the secondary school level and among the lower strata of society.

There are various barriers to girls’ education throughout the world, ranging from supply-side constraints to negative social norms. Some include school fees where a family is unable to afford quality education leading to cultural norms favouring boys’ education when they have limited resources. Inadequate sanitation facilities in schools such as lack of private and separate latrines is also a notable issue. It is also found that negative classroom environments, where girls may face violence, exploitation or corporal punishment deter them from attending school. Moreover, schools often lack sufficient numbers of female teachers which sometimes creates an intimidating environment for girls.

Adolescent girls also face economic and social demands that further disrupt their education, spanning from household obligations and child labour to child marriage, gender-based violence, and female genital mutilation.

Women are significantly under-represented in decision-making at all levels. Across much of the world, either by law or custom, women are still denied the right to own land or inherit property, obtain access to credit, attend school, earn income and progress in their profession free from job discrimination. Inadequate or discriminatory legislation and policies often inhibit girls’ equal access to quality education. In countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, formal or written threats to close girls’ schools or end classes for girls have fuelled gender-motivated attacks on schools.

A structural hurdle in the economic, social, political and environmental spheres produce and reinforce these inequalities. Obstacles to women’s economic and political empowerment and violence against women and girls are barriers to sustainable development and the achievement of human rights, gender equality, justice, and peace.

What can be done?

Empowerment means moving from enforced powerlessness to a position of power. Education is an essential means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to fully participate in the development process. Sustainable development is only possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunities to reach their potential.

Women have the potential to change their own economic status and that of their communities and countries in which they live yet usually women’s economic contributions are unrecognized, their work undervalued and their promise undernourished.

Unequal opportunities between women and men hamper women’s ability to lift themselves from poverty and secure improved options to improve their lives. Education is the most powerful instrument for changing women’s position in society. Investing, contributing and encouraging women around you in all walks of life can make a difference towards a well-developed and prosperous environment. Here are some platforms you can be a part of, to really create an impact in girls’ education.  It is up to us to make a trenchant change. 

‘Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.’ Malala Yousafzai

Women Entrepreneurs- The Development of our Nation

Successful women entrepreneurs are not only matching their male counterparts – in several ways, they’re even outperforming them.

According to a recent research, it was found that almost 90% of women entrepreneurs expected their companies’ gross profits to increase or remain stable in the next year. More specifically, 61% expected profits to rise, compared to an average of 58% among all entrepreneurs.

Though the changing role of women in business is being acknowledged gradually, the journey is still setback with tedious challenges. The woman entrepreneur faces a plethora of problems when it comes to embarking upon her own entrepreneurial venture. Moving in and around the market is again a tough job for women entrepreneurs in the Indian social system because the lack of motivation and vote of confidence is always due to gender inequality. Many industries don’t take women seriously because they are assumed to have a dearth of financial knowledge and expertise, therefore making them ‘unsuitable applicants’ for entrepreneurial ventures.

One also cannot ignore the impact of family and society on women in India during their formative years. Socialization of girls in the Indian society continues to have elements of repressive methods of upbringing of the girl child, hence affecting the aspirations of women. Young girls are seldom encouraged to take up higher studies as their parents believe that their daughters will ultimately get married and look after the family and have little to do with economy or commerce. There is basically no other future set ahead of them except for being home-makers. It is often perceived that highly qualified girls don’t get marriage proposals easily. Boys are sadly disinclined to marry girls who are more qualified or educated than they are or will potentially earn more than them.

Yet another common misconception is that educated women are less willing to adjust with her spouse and his family. Young girls are encouraged to take up hobbies which would keep them home-bound, as a result of which, their understanding of the external world such as banks, utility services, manufacturing, commercial activities etc. are seldom imparted to them through the experiences of their fathers, brothers or any other male members of the family.

Women are generally perceived as just ‘home-makers’, they are restricted to just doing daily chores at home. However this picture is slowly, but surely changing. In modern India, more and more women are taking up entrepreneurial activity especially in medium and small scale enterprises. Today, when businesses are facing a severe crunch in entrepreneurial talent, if women don’t play a meaningful role in business, then half of the country’s potential talent pool will remain under-utilized.

There is a need therefore for policy makers, Institutions and Social Organizations to project a clear cut outlook on the psychological and social factors that affect the success rate of women entrepreneurship. There is a need to support and facilitate many more success stories of women entrepreneurs before this can gain momentum on a much larger scale. Besides this, the entrepreneurship development agencies should create awareness among them regarding various facilities available to women entrepreneurs from time to time. Some organizations have taken up initiatives to provide an apt environment and funding for women entrepreneurs to develop into entities of success.

Encouragement at both the local and international scale should be provided along with providing special training to women entrepreneurs for harnessing their creative energies into successful entrepreneurial establishments. Be it small-scale industries or large-scale initiatives, both should be given equal consideration and importance to flourish. Keeping the versatility of women in mind and the various roles they can take up without any hesitation, our industries and economy can go a long way.  Here are a few women that made it large by fighting against all odds, broke stereotypes and accomplished milestones in their respective fields, to outshine many other male counterparts running alongside them in the same race.

Girl power all the way! 🙂

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead