Dear India, You Must Rebuild on the Foundation of Gender Equality

Activists spell out the goals for gender equality for India in 2021.

4 min read

(On the occasion of Republic Day, The Quint relaunches its campaign ‘Letter to India – Ek Naya Start’ and invites readers to send in suggestions for rebuilding India after a tough 2020.

Gender and trans activists share how India can start afresh after the COVID-19 pandemic. The views expressed are their own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)

As the coronavirus pandemic continues unabated, economic and societal shocks to countries around the world are well-documented. For women, the psychological effects are manifold – rise in domestic violence, economic upheaval for migrant workers and the burden of unpaid work at home, to name a few. The pandemic has only exacerbated these challenges.

Activists – Poonam Muttreja, Sohini Bhattacharya, Priya Babu, Suhani Jalota – tell us why gender equality should be at the heart of recovery for India in 2021.


Sohini Bhattacharya, CEO of Breakthrough

Sohini Bhattacharya, CEO of Breakthrough India, an organisation that has been working for a violence-free society for women and girls in India, wishes that 2021 ends the ‘psychological, social, sexual and physical violence’ women face.

“Women and girls in India face violence in every way of their lives. From not being allowed to be born to bearing the burden of unpaid domestic work, from being taken out of school and getting married much before the legal age, from dying in childbirth and facing domestic violence... This must come to an end, and for it to come to an end, all of us must intervene when we see incidents of violence around us.”
Sohini Bhattacharya, CEO, Breakthrough India

Bhattacharya adds, “If we want our country to be a 100 percent country, then 50 percent of its population must be able to thrive and reach their full potential.” She further hopes for gender quality to become a part of the curriculum of every government school, so that the value for women and girls is inculcated at a young age in every child.

Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India

To highlight the institutional inequalities exposed by COVID-19, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, Poonam Muttreja refers to a UN Women’s report which states over 100 million women can be lifted out of poverty if governments invest in health services for women.

“Here, in India, I look forward to a 2021 which will ensure an interrupted supply of and access to maternal and reproductive health services for women and menstrual health services for the young, especially, girls.”
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India

Muttreja further says that damage caused by COVID-19 to women’s health and their essential needs can serve as both a lesson and opportunity, and therefore, the country must build capacities of frontline and health workers, as they are the avenue through which rural girls and women can access the public health system.

“I hope we welcome a 2021, in which the government, the private sector and the civil society step up, as they always have to help communities and vulnerable people across society.”
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India

“For our citizens in India, I hope that post COVID, we will reimagine a strong public health system that will provide Universal Health Coverage to all our people, not only during the pandemic but always thereafter,” she adds.


Priya Babu, Transgender Activist

Priya Babu, a transgender rights’ activist and Regional Program Manager at Swasti, an NGO, hopes India realises the rights for the transgender community this year.

While highlighting the social gap between cisgender and transgenders, she bats for reservation for the transgender community under a new law.

“Trans persons have to face stigma and discrimination when it comes to education, employment and health. In the new year, we have promised ourselves that we will break the stigma and provide them with equal rights and opportunities. Our main concern is education. If they receive quality education, only then can they get employed and become economically developed.”
Priya Babu, transgender rights’ activist, Regional Program Manager at NGO Swasti

Speaking of the problems faced by transgenders in the pandemic, Babu adds,

“During the pandemic, many trans people got back to where they started in terms of economic status. Many were even forced to come out on the streets to beg. I hope that in the new year, we all will try to uplift them and provide them with a good life full of equal rights and opportunities.”

Suhani Jalota, Founder, Myna Mahila Foundation

In her letter to India, CEO and Founder of Myna Mahila Foundation, Suhani Jalota hopes the country reorients focus on women who don’t have access to basic necessities like health, hygiene, education and rights. To prosper, women must be supported as decision-makers, she says.

“We have more than 300 million women in India without access to even basic hygiene services. We are talking about toilets, we are talking about sanitary napkins, we are talking about education and awareness around their bodies and themselves. This is largely missing and is holding us back. We need to change the scenario for our women, today.”
Suhani Jalota, CEO and Founder, Myna Mahila Foundation
Activists spell out the goals for gender equality for India in 2021.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More