Change is....

Being Strong : When I was young I used to hear stories about the famous female dacoit Phoolan Devi. I used to get very scared and wanted to hide underneath my bed, lest she came. It was much later after I grew up and was a young lady, that I got to read her story and was literally appalled. While still a child, she was married off to a man twice her age who ill-treated her. After she fled from her husband's home, she was manhandled by the police ( who were acting on her estranged husband's complaint ) and later was even stigmatized with the Thakurs gang-raping her. This eventually led her to take up the gun and seek revenge. Rest of course is history.
While many women in India ( both rural+small towns ) donot go her way, they all have been through what Phoolan had been through. In many corners, though child marriage is banned in India, it is still happening. And India is one of the top countries with the highest statistics when it comes to rape. Recently we witnessed gory incidents like 'Nirbhaya', that made headlines and had our heads hanging in shame. Not every woman can become Phoolan, but raising their voices has become out most necessary.

From the same state where Phoolan came from ( the common place of Bundelkhand ), years later, another woman have come to national prominence - Sampat Pal Devi who runs the Gulabi Gang. She is Phoolan of a different kind. Her women gang is active in most parts of northern-India that goes around thrashing men who bullies or tortures helpless women-folk, thus giving justice - since real law is sleeping most the times anyways. Phoolan's tactics were perhaps wrong, but many years later this woman has sparked a change and given hope to so many. Rural women are taught self-defense and not to take bullying from men lightly at any cost. May the Gulab Gang prosper, it'll definitely make women strong.

Being Aware : While in villages, women like Sampat Pal are taking measures to spread awareness and bring change, much is needed in the bigger cities too. Many urban women too suffer daily assaults, silently. Be it while travelling in public transport like buses, local trains, roads or even in the confines of their homes - molestors, eve teasers, chain grabbers, predators are a frequent occurrence in their lives. Rather than brushing these incidents under the carpet helplessly as a daily hazard to be lived with, women need to grow courage. We women shouldn't tolerate violence to our bodies ( in any manner it may be ). Touching us without our consent should be dealt as a crime and culprits aptly punished. Women, besides taking necessary self-defense steps ( like martial arts, pepper spray, stun-gun etc ), also need to put it out for the men-folk to understand, loud and clear that - enough is enough! We won't tolerate anymore. Men on their part also needs to respect women for a change. And for this, awareness is very important.

Recently I was in a cinema hall for a movie show. Before the movie commenced, there was a public service advertisement featuring a Lady police officer. She gave a brief lecture ( in hindi/english/marathi ) for all ladies to go and complain to lady police officers ( as normally women feel uncomfortable with male police ) who are present in all police stations and local train stations. She also warned men not to trouble women, saying it clearly, that its a crime and won't be tolerated. I feel this kind of advertisements helps spreading awareness to a great extent. And it definitely is the beginning of a change. All that left is, for the women-folk to become more courageous and file complaints whenever she feels violated. Yes, even in homes. Domestic violence is not to be tolerated anymore either and thankfully these days there are lady officers to take in complaints, which wasn't the case earlier.

Being Girl-Proud : India is still a male dominated country. Every family dotes on the male child. Everyone expects the women to give birth to a boy-child. If its a girl, many people's heads hangs in shame. Thoughts of arranging dowry for the girl-child starts early on, and becomes a daily nightmare. Some goes on impregnanting the woman until they get a boy-child, thus having many children in the process. Some go extreme lengths too, in their hate for girl-child, and kills the baby even before it is born or immediately after birth. Very often the pregnant women are forced by their families, but shockingly some women do it on their own too - forgetting that they are women themselves. In Haryana and few other places, where such cases are rampant, the ratio between girl:boy has reached the danger levels. I was shocked to see a documentary, where they showed a village full of bachelors of all ages - but not a single girl for them to marry!

If this continues, can one imagine what will be the future like? Value the girl child. Many people are fortunately realizing this too, and are adopting changes in their lives. I am a girl and proud to be born in one such family too, where being girl was not looked down upon. While in the past, girl's education was discouraged, its good to see women holding top positions today. So, myth is busted that women cannot be bread-earners. Progress is slow, but change is happening. Education should be encouraged, that'll kill age-old backward customs and prejudices. Education sensitizes, creates awareness & sometimes even simply reminds us of our rights.

Being Sex-Educated : When I was in my 10th standard, a classmate of mine had committed suicide. Everything was hush hush. Nobody knew the main reason, until the news leaked. She was pregnant, but since the boy was also a minor there was no question of marriage. Moreover, he was reluctant to accept the truth that he had made her pregnant. Out of depression she ended her life. Sex is still a taboo subject. We still feel uncomfortable discussing it openly. And that many years ago, when we were in our 10th, we hardly knew anything about the birds and the bees. Maybe if that girl knew what problems she'd face, in advance via sex-education, she might have been alive today.

In this day with internet dominating our lives and bringing all kinds of banned/censored stuff right at our finger tips, it has become very necessary for teenagers to be given proper sex education as soon as they hit puberty ( or maybe bit earlier too ). Teenage years are most vulnerable, sensitive and curious times. With hormones at an all time high during this time, it becomes only logical to give proper guidance to youngsters so that they do not end up committing the same mistake as my friend did. With proper education, they may also be able to defend themselves against sexual predators, that are often from their families itself. Sex-education is the only way to bring about change and prepare the teenager for adulthood.

Being Free : Women are today independent. They are earning. Many are in top positions in their respective fields too. But how much control does a woman really have in her own earnings, personal spending & investment etc? Does she have any control at all? Does she keep track of her spending and how much actually goes away in household expenditures inspite of having a working husband too. 85% of women say that they don't have the same freedom as men, to marry by choice - including those working women who are supposedly 'independent'.

In my own case, my father was in a good managerial position, in a reputed bank. My mother was also a working woman. But despite my father earning much more than her, I always used to find her buying the daily groceries, clothes and other items for all of us - with her own money of course. She hardly had any savings for herself. My mother never asked or demanded my father to make any contribution, so I hardly saw my father making household expenses. Yes, it hurts. My mother had to be perfect at office and at home too. Because, after returning from work, she was the one who slogged away in the kitchen. The same happens in many households. From this I learnt, men has to make their contribution to the family too - be it financial or general help. Do not expect the woman to be a super woman. My mother was the timid kind, she didn't know how to demand change ( inspite of being financially independent ), but I DO! And its the change, I'll recommend all women - donot be a door-mate. If you're independent, then be truely independent and Equal! Donot just give-give, learn to take! Be Free!

Being Healthy : Health is a major concern for women. The bigger issues women face are more health related than crime related. When was the last time we women actually checked our BP or counted our calories intake. Why is there a dearth of clean public toilets for women. When nature calls, men relieves themselves on street walls/corners etc, but women have to control their bladders for hours - which in turn can create grave problems in future. Women not only suffer physical diseases but also innumerable mental pains such as stress, depression etc. These are more harmful. A person who is closed to 'enjoying life or simply having fun' might infact be facing a depression syndrome! The MSD stress factor in a woman's life - Mother, Sister & Daughter. As someone said - A woman mentally dies with depression when caged!

Women are the backbone of their families and now gradually in their workplaces as well. Hence, they have to take care of themselves. Only then they can take care of others too. Women does the most painful job in this world - of giving birth. She owes it to herself to take out-most care for her own self - by being healthy.

Being Stayfree : Being women is fun. We learn so many things. We are the most shapely beautiful creatures that walk this earth. Yes, we are. We are gifted by Nature/God the ultimate gift of giving birth. Its the women's womb that literally carries the future. Life of a women is hard though. But she can enjoy it the most being Stayfree with Stayfree!

Everything have changed over the times. During our mother's times they used folded clothes as pad during 'those' days of the month. Yes, it was uncomfortable - to use, wash, dry frequently in rotation. Their movements thus, was limited too. But over time, thanks to technology, we have seen tremendous change in choices catering to women's private needs. In my lifetime itself, I have seen sanitary napkins evolving from mere fat cotton pads to more and more advanced extra-thin ones. From small to extra-large - they cater different women for their different needs and requirements. Stayfree has been in the fore-front of this change. The brand has evolved in front of my own eyes, making it one of my most trusted brands. With women now moving out of their homes, either for education or taking up different jobs - Being Stayfree confident is the way to be!

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Winning post of Stayfree Healthy Day Contest by Stayfree India

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