International Women’s Day is about celebrating female achievements and 2018 was a good year; women can now legally drive in Saudia Arabia and were greeted on the roads by police handing out flowers; Ireland voted down the ban on abortion and there was a record breaking mid term for women, and women of colour in the USA, to cite a few.
The work is not done however. Despite advancements made by international women’s rights movement over many years, women and girls around the world are still refused access to education and political participation, they’re forced into marriage, victims of Female Genitial Mutilation (FMG) and trafficked.
But we can make a difference. I watched a powerful 20 minute documentary on Netflix called Menstrual Man about Muruganantham who was shocked to learn that as few as 2% of women in rural India have access to sanitary towels. Girls and women leave education because of the stigma of bleeding, the lack of private toilets and access to sanitary protection to keep clean and comfortable. This perpetuates the role of women and girls as reliant on a husband for financial security, and that’s not the foundation of a healthy, respectful relationship.
Menstruation is a taboo topic in India so he had an uphill struggle to make change, women are often too embarrassed to talk about periods to each other, let alone with a man. Muruganantham is uneducated, which added to his challenges and his friends thought he was a pervert as he worked on a design for affordable sanitary towels. He didn’t let any of this deter him from his mission, he created an absorbent sanitary towel and taught women how to make them to increase access and availability. The women were earning money as they sold these products, one woman reported ‘for the first time I think my husband looks at me with respect.’ The documentary describes Muruganantham’s actions as starting ‘a silent revolution, by thinking like a woman.’
The theme for IWD 2019 is ‘balance for better’ because a balanced world is a better world. Girls maintaining their education is a step towards a future we all want to be a part of. IWD isn’t about women vs men, it’s about us recognising we’re all on the same team. We’ll all thrive when there is gender equality. Equality belongs to no single feminist, wonderful man creating sanitary towels in India, or to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.
I think one of the most harmful things about inequality is erodes our collective sense of empowerment; the people who experience it directly and others that feel ‘powerless to help.’
....What does this have to do with Yoga? Well Yoga is everything, it’s not the postures you practice, it’s a way of life. I can’t fully relax and rest in my body when I know others are suffering. It’s a joke to try to strengthen my muscles, if I don’t flex them in situations which erode universal human rights.
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