Women in Bihar are passing on a curious item – safety pins – to raise a clarion call for dignified healthcare.
As part of the 'Pass the Pin' trend that has gained traction on social media and otherwise, women are sharing their stories of gendered-discrimination while accessing medical care – to voice a collective demand for the creation of safe spaces where they can seek treatment without judgment.
Gurpriya Singh, one of the leaders of Khud Se Pooche, told The Quint:
"Dignity is so intangible and individually experienced. Women are passing the pin and forming a chain of those standing for dignity in healthcare and speaking up on the issue. The campaign has moved much beyond Bihar and there has been resonance with the issue across India."
But Why Safety Pin?
Gurpriya Singh divulges that the safety pin was chosen as the face of the campaign because of its accessibility for women from all walks of life.
"The safety pin is something that is very accessible for all women, it is found in their purses, it is something that women are connected to in their everyday lives. The safety pin also draws metaphorically from dignity and experiences of women in healthcare."Gurpriya Singh, Campaign Lead, Khud Se Pooche
21-year-old Meena (name changed), a resident of Chhapra, shared through the campaign her experience of sexual harassment by a medical professional when she went for a check-up as a teenager.
Speaking to The Quint, she shares, "I heard about the campaign when it came to my college. Seeing other women sharing their accounts of harassment in healthcare gave me the courage to speak about my own for the first time. As I was able to share my story, I see other girls also getting more aware through this movement. Like a safety pin keeps us women safe in all situations, this campaign is doing the same job."
In Menstruation, Vaginal Exams & Delivery: Women Share Stories of Discrimination While Seeking Healthcare
"When I had to get my fourth delivery done, I had to give birth at home with a nurse under difficult circumstances, as we had no money. And, on top of that, when I was groaning due to labour pain, I was told by the nurse that I must have enjoyed when I was having sex so I should not be making so much noise now," Rita Devi, 50, a participant in the Khud Se Pooche campaign, tells The Quint.
"Through this campaign, I was able to speak about my experience for the first time without being embarassed, that too in front of my daughter and daughter-in-law," she notes.
Several other women who participated in the movement had similar tales to tell.
"My friends and I did not know about sexual health at all. It was not spoken about around us, where we lived in Patna. If we missed our period or it was delayed, we were asked if we had a boyfriend or some relation. This programme covers what the schools, doctors, ASHA workers, and angwanwadi workers don't. Even if services are available, they do not offer dignity," shares Priyaswara Bharti, 21, who has become one of the spearheads of the campaign on the ground in Bihar.
Dr Trinetra Gummaraju, who is an advocate for the health rights of gender minorities, has shared the stories of some women's experiences of discrimination on her Instagram account as part of Khud Se Pooche.
Some other prominent persons have also passed the safety pin to encourage conversations around dignified healthcare.
Why Was Bihar Chosen for Passing the Pin?
While the movement is slowly spreading across the country, Bihar – which is one of the more populous, underdeveloped states – remains its epicentre.
Asked about why Khud Se Pooche was initiated in Patna, Campaign Lead Gurpriya Singh remarks, "It was a mix of NFHS data, some indicators that we were seeing around access of quality care and counselling, data on quality of care, and wanting to start the campaign in a tier-2 city with a Hindi-speaking population."
"What has been a really critical outcome of women speaking up in is doctors in Bihar recognising the issue. Considering the gender norms and infrastructure in a state like Bihar, the healthcare system was initially largely dismissive about the issue. Now, more doctors have started responding."Gurpriya Singh, Campaign Lead, Khud Se Pooche
Anani Bharti, a healthcare worker in Hadipur who also participated in the campaign, told The Quint that it is helping more women feel confident about seeking medical advice and talking openly with doctors about their issues.
"When a woman goes to a healthcare facility with a problem, she expects that she will find a solution to it there. If a doctor or a healthcare professional says discriminatory things, then they are not respecting the woman's sentiment. I think this programme will definitely help better communication," she said.
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