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Blogger Series #9: Health Over Stigma

Continuing our Blogger Series as a part of our Health Over Stigma campaign unmarried women from all around India are sharing their stories/experiences related to the stigma we face in regards to our body, sexual health & desires. It is only through starting an open and safe dialogue can we end the stigma and normalize these conversations. Read more about our Week of Action here.

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Once at a party when I was in school me and my friends were playing a drinking game ‘never have I ever’. One of the guys said ‘Never have I ever masturbated’ he sneered it at the girls. Every single dude sitting there chugged a shot and so did I because as a normal 17 year old I of course have and quite enjoyed masturbating. To my shock my other girlfriends just sat there and stared at each other. I felt betrayed & bemused. I could not fathom the fact that none of them had masturbated before or maybe that none of them would admit to doing so in public. To be honest it pissed me off because I felt like I was being ostracised and singled out as overly sexual – I gaffed “none of you have ever touched yourself before?”. I was met with a staunch & collective ‘nope”.  
I think that experience was important because I knew that women have desires as everyone else. I never questioned if I was ‘normal’ or not. However that day taught me that my school friends wouldn’t judge me nonetheless they would not be open to expressing sexual desires the way I was. I had to find a community of women who were like me & through Health Over Stigma I finally have.

Re-thinking training spaces: learning, sharing and capacity enhancement!

The Rise Up! Campaign, founded to make women’s voices heard in the upcoming Delhi State Assembly Elections, was launched last week with an onboarding training for 40 excited captains and leaders. We were inspired to see the diversity of our Rise Up! Team, made up of citizens from different areas, religions, states, classes, and belief systems, all rising up together to make change in the Assembly Constituencies where they live. By working in their home neighbourhoods, the team organizes on a hyper-local level where community volunteers are motivated into sustainable action by shared values and commitment.

During the three days of our onboarding training in Delhi, captains and leaders learned how to apply the framework of community-based change to their work in their constituencies. The team members practiced digging deep into their networks’ stories, engaging people based on similar experiences, and using narrative and enthusiasm to build their teams of volunteers.

As the captains and leaders applied their new skills through talking to citizens in a nearby marketplace, we saw the power of our training to cultivate dialogue and exchange. Led by values, we all learned to listen deeply to people’s stories, journeys, and struggles, and pick out a common thread of togetherness. As the captains and leaders crafted poems and stories that brought the voices we heard together, we committed to organizing for change by incorporating all the voices we heard.

Are you ready to add your voice to ours? Sign up to join us today at www.haiyya.in/riseup and help grow our work into a roar. Watch the video below to hear from our Team Leaders and Captains on how to make women’s voices heard this election!

Rise Up! Campaign launched in Delhi – here is how to make women’s voices heard this Election

The Haiyya team in Delhi has launched our Rise Up! Campaign. The campaign is geared towards getting women’s voices heard in the Delhi State Elections, which are scheduled for 4th of December. The Rise Up! campaign will be implemented in 4 constituencies in Delhi – Malviya Nagar, Kasturba Nagar, Karol Bagh and Model Town. Over 40 team captains from these constituencies have been trained by the Haiyya team. training

These team captains would be working on-ground, training more volunteers who will go door-to-door talking to women about their issues and urging them to come together. The teams will work on preparing a list of pressing women’s issues in each constituency and presenting them to the MLA candidates.The women in each constituency will be organised based on their own issues and would engage with the democratic process. They’ll meet with the MLA candidates, present their issues and make an informed choice about who is the best candidate. They will vote en mass  on the election day and make their voices count. This campaign wants to prove that women’s issues can not be ignored anymore, that women have the power to decide their own government, that women can push for better governance in our country.

The work in Delhi has just about started. Stay tuned to hear about the inspiring stories from the field.

Organising women to vote on their own issues this Election!

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Next year almost 800 million Indians would get the opportunity to cast their vote. This will be largest democratic election in the world till date. We as a nation will decide who should govern us. But do we actually decide? Do we really exercise our Right to Vote? Are we able to use the power that is vested in our vote?

Sadly, the answer for more than 40% Indians would be NO. Lesser number of women than men voted in the last general elections in 2009. It means that an astonishing 8.4 crore women in India did not vote! However, there were 6 states where women set the trend and outnumbered men. It is this trend that we at Haiyya want to further this election. While women’s issues have often been ignored by the politicians, we want to build a movement with women across the country to pledge to vote. In the current climate of the country, it has become more imperative than ever before that women’s issues take center stage. We believe that women need to come out in huge numbers. Women need to show that are not mere spectators of the democratic process. They need to affirm their power and they need to send out a strong message to the politicians that their issues cannot be ignored.

To bring the attention to women’s issues, Tata Tea’s JaagoRe initiative launched the Power of 49 campaign. Haiyya has partnered with JaagoRe for the on-ground action. The past 3 weeks Haiyya team worked hard on the field in Delhi to recruit citizens for this campaign. We started work in 4 constituencies of Delhi, Greater Kailash, Mehrauli, Model Town and Patparganj, where more than 60 volunteers joined hands with us.

These volunteers went to colleges, market places and door to door to spread awareness about the Power of 49 campaign, collect issues of women residents, register women to vote and to encourage them to come out and vote in the Election Day. The drive was hugely successful. Our teams in 4 constituencies, engaged more than 10,000 people across Delhi in conversations about women’s Right to Vote and encouraged more than 5,000 people to become a part of this campaign.

The team leader in Mehrauli, Ramani, says about her experience, “When you first start talking to women it appears that they are not interested in the issue. But 5 minutes down the line, you see a spark in their eyes, you know they are thinking that they are important too, that their issues are important too, that there should be a difference. You know you have begun to make a change. That is what made my work so satisfying.”

Another team leader from Greater Kailash, Shivaranjini, recalled her experience of engaging men in conversation, “Sometimes men seemed more interested in this campaign and that was such an encouragement. They were passionate about women’s issues and they really wanted to help with the campaign. In fact, one such guy whom I met while street canvassing became one of the most dedicated volunteers we had on our team.”

All the teams had several such inspiring incidents, where men and women, young and old, rich and poor, left enthused and feeling optimistic that they can do their bit to change the situation. A wave has already started, where women recognize that their single vote makes a difference, that if more and more women come out, together they will be a power to be reckoned with.

We need more people to join this campaign and support women’s issues and their Right to Vote. Our work in Delhi continues, with an increased intensity. If you want to support this cause too, please join us. We are looking for people who can inspire their community into action. Follow this link if you would like to work with us in Delhi as a Team Captain or as a Volunteer.