Rethinking feminine hygiene with jute based sanitary pads

Compared to other females in their early mid-twenties, I have a fairly manageable period cycle. I was a tad early and started to bleed from the green age of 12. So far I have roughly used up 3000 pieces of disposable sanitary pads. All of which are made out of materials that include plastics, chemicals and not 100% biodegradable and environmentally friendly components. This is the solitary contribution of one sole person to the never-ending global pollution.

Now, as a person who’s concerned about the planet (because, duh! We only live here!), this calculation alarms me. A big chunk of the world’s population bleeding on any menstruation product every 6- 8 hours is creating this huge pile of junk that we don’t know how to permanently get rid of.

Menstruation Cups have been introduced as a solution to all this, but let’s face it- its basically the luxury like our government thinks menstruation products are. And it’s not accessible to the female population of a country where only 11% of the menstruating population uses safe hygienic products.

Jute to the rescue

After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi included it in one of his public speeches, jute based sanitary pads has become the talk of the town in our neighbouring country. People from all sides of India, as well as from this side of the border, are congratulating the IJIRA (Indian Jute Industries Research Association) on this breakthrough.

Rethinking feminine hygiene: Jute based sanitary pads

It’s a breakthrough because, with this, the cost per pad is down to 1-2 Rs, whereas the cost of the regular pads is 8-12 Rs/piece.

It will also dissolve in the soil after dumping, which removes a huge concern for the environmentalists along the way. Not to mention the boost it will give to the dying jute industry of a country that used to have jute as one of its primary crops.

But is this the first time?

Here comes the interesting part. It’s not. 

In Kenya, JaniPad was introduced to keep girls from dropping out of school. It was made of Water Hyacinth which was chosen because of its high water absorbency rate. But the project got shut off due to lack of funding and proper management.

Bangladesh had its efforts too

Afterwards, JaniPad sparked the idea to use Water Hyacinth, along with Cotton, as raw material for pads into a student of BRAC University, Naziba Nayla Wafa.

It dissolved within two weeks of discarding and water hyacinth keeps the absorbency up to the much-needed scale. She had a team of 10 female workers who made these and distributed them among 2000 women in Mohammadpur Geneva Camp.

She used it herself, along with 2 other team members to test it. Naziba wanted to work on it more, but could not due to a number of reasons.

A late limelight

The IJIRA project, Saathi, started more than a year ago. But it only came to light as Modi mentioned it himself. Saathi is even getting fund from the Central Government because the then Minister of Textile, Smriti Irani pursued it herself to save the Jute Industry and promote female hygiene at the same time. So the chance of failure for this project is slimming down. And if it gets to zero, then this will prove a little involvement from the authorities is enough to ensure a safer and better tomorrow for all.

The planet we live in and the womb we come out of- both of them deserve the utmost care. But somehow these are the two things we treat in the most careless manner. We are polluting the Earth knowingly and unknowingly on a daily basis. We are not providing proper accessible hygiene and medical care for the female reproductive system. This is a step that shows it is possible to do both without even taking a dig at the economy. All it needs is the willingness to do so.

I wish the best of luck to Sathi and fingers crossed we learn something from this.

Why we need to start taking sexual harassment accusations more seriously

Have you ever wondered what goes inside the mind of a serial sex offender?

People don’t wake up one fine morning and think, “you know what, let’s try to molest someone today.” No, they build up an appetite for such behaviors through years of internalized, devious narratives. Like Ted Bundy, they work on gaining the trust of the people around them, making sure that no one else notices when they indulge themselves.

Perhaps, these offenders feel that they are entitled to behaving like this because they are good looking, charming and/or belong to certain strata of society. Most of all, they do this because they feel like they have the power in such situations.

No two sex offenders are alike. However, most sex offenders are experts in rationalizing their behavior. They often commit crimes in situations where sexual violence is more likely to go unpunished. Trying to fit an accused sex offender into a typical profile is also foolhardy, because, in all honesty, no such profile exists. Ted Bundy, for instance, was not only an A student but also someone who volunteered for his university’s suicide prevention centre. Does that sound like a typical serial rapist and killer?

Why we need to stop accepting excuses

In the recent spate of allegations, several victims have mentioned how the perpetrators used their position and organizational power to both coerce women for sexual favors and also to evade scrutiny when official complaints were raised. They have engaged in actions that border on the verge of paedophilia. Only a small percentage of survivors ever come forward. If the accusations are this grave, then you have to wonder what else has been done that will never see the light of day.

Also read: The case of Nusrat and our “rape culture”

Some of the perpetrators have used their (allegedly) frail mental states as an excuse for their behavior. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, let me be categorically clear: anxiety or any other kind of mental illness does not give you license to be a sorry excuse for a human being. Nothing does.

Sexual harassment survivors rarely come forward, but when they do, they find a litany of obstacles blocking their way to justice.

There is victim blaming, yes, but there’s also fence sitting, stonewalling and gaslighting.


These are the reasons why Me Too still hasn’t picked up pace in places like Bangladesh. Instead of diligently investigating accusations, matters are swept under the rug. We shame the victim, accusing her of not keeping quiet about her shame. Sometimes, close relatives also blame the victim for speaking out in the first place.

Also read: Let’s dare to debate about harassment

On the other hand, a bevvy of options is made available for the accused. We create excuses for the individual. “He didn’t mean it. He was young. He was misguided. He can get better.” We refuse to indict the accused, while mounting piles of evidence continue to grow. But then again, does evidence really matter when the “she was asking for it” mantra still reigns supreme?

Why sex offenders go free

Only 2% of rapists are convicted. It’s not difficult to see why that’s the case. Of course, rape and molestation aren’t the same things. But they stem from the same mindset: the kind of mindset that objectifies women to the highest degree. And they aren’t alone: in closely knit communities, they are often aided and abetted by various kind of facilitators.

One recent survivor recounted in her Facebook post how others helped the accused in getting her alone in a room, and how afterwards, many tried to persuade her from taking the matter to the authorities, because ‘it would make life difficult for her’. This kind of gaslighting is shocking but not entirely surprising.

Legal recourse is rarely pursued, and even when it is, the onus is on the victim because the benefit of the doubt goes to the defendant (which, in this case, is the accused). And that kind of doubt can be easily created. Gina Tron of Vice wrote about her own assault story, discussing how the defence attorney used photos and drawings from the Internet to construe that Tron liked ‘rough sex’. Her case was eventually thrown out, because “they apparently thought I hadn’t fought back enough and I wasn’t bruised enough and I didn’t go to the police soon enough.”

With such a bleak outlook, it’s no surprise that so many survivors choose to remain silent. They have to put their reputation on the line, with so little to gain. It’s fortunate, then, that brave souls still come forward in the hope that other’s do not face the same fate.

On the other side of the coin

Of course, not all accused are equal. Some are, in fact, wrongfully accused, but historically, that number has proven to be very small (2-8% of all accusations). There is a danger that Me Too accusations can destroy a person’s life before he/she can dispute the claims made against him/her; however, in most cases, the accuser has much more to lose by coming forward.

Making sure such events do not happen again is no mean feat, and makes for a conversation that’s best left for another day. But it’s a conversation that we need to have frequently and more often. Otherwise, these stories will continue to slip through the cracks.

Let’s dare to debate about harassment

With the recent events uprising, from a mere t-shirt logo to Nusrat’s death, the idea of the existant rape culture in our society has finally settled in and exposed more topics of discussion.

Read more: The case of Nusrat and our “rape culture”

While some are still educating themselves on the idea of sexual consent and how it can be minimized to a level where there is control over these issues, the recent uprise of survivors of harassment is taking a toll on certain communities of the society.

It is important to realize that sexual preferences followed by harassment, has become a case which is often not given enough priority to, which leads to misinformation and rise to similar problematic behaviours.

Why the #metoo and #talkaboutit failed to beam minimization on sexual harassment

Given light to many cases of sexual assaults and non-consensual incidents from the entertainment industry to communities as important as debate events, have shed light to the people that even the safest places may bring about cases like these. The idea of understanding how sexual harassment does not only limit to non-consensual penetrative sex is necessary to be known. The idea of hiding behind curtains about cases like these forms more problems in further investigation, however, it’s important to realize that the rate of socially educated members of our society is very less in number.

Read more: Why we need to start taking Sexual Harassment accusations more seriously

Coming out and the victim-blaming culture

Facebook itself is an open platform which single-handedly gave space to both the survivors and common people to view cases and bring forth their statements about cases like these. However, as said before due to the lack of understanding of the degrees of sexual harassments, often survivors are forced to delete their confessions and stories because of fear of being misunderstood furthermore.

Often many forget the true message of what these movements hold. The idea is to shed light on the existing rape culture and everything surrounding that idea. The motive is to degrade the predators and bring justice to the cases in order to avoid scenarios like these and bring more caution to people. The cultural and social construction of women coming out in one word brings lojja in the family as the stigma in our country keeps pushing these cases in the box.

Lack of understanding

“#metoo in Bangladesh shouldn’t be just about calling people out, it should include forming and updating institutions that are equipped to dealing with these complaints. It’s equally important to understand the cases and analyze them from a logical view point given the facts are all being said to light”

Says Antara Islam, an International Relations student from Dhaka University.

The lack of responsibility from the respective institutions, groups and head of events raises a question of partial judgement. It is evident that often cases like these when addressed takes time to be judged however, only empathizing with the situation should not be the only way to address cases such as this. A diplomatic stance on serious harassment or any sort of non-consensual cases is an unprofessional approach and often problematic for the victim.

The art of consent and why it is important now than ever

Let us first understand that there is no single definition to identify and understand the concept of consent. There should be three ways to approach this which are affirmative consent, freely given consent and capacity consent. It is crucial for us to analyze and ask ourselves if the person expressed affirmative responses to the action. Further questions follow if the consent was offered from the point of free will, without being induced with fraud, violence or compulsion.

Not only that, it is important to keep age, the idea of intoxication, physical and mental disability and most importantly the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator is also highly necessary to keep in regards. Consent itself is a step by step process let that fact be known because a simple ‘yes’ does not open doors to every action. As the recent allegations from many debaters who have faced harassments and became victims of non-consensual acts, it is evident that cases like these will happen despite the knowledge and full understanding of what sexual harassment is, because the idea of consent, often times becomes a blurred concept many still lack to grasp.

The time is now

The rise of confessions of cases like these on the internet shows us how important it has become for survivors to speak their truth.

Bangladesh has already been stamped a label which is hard to remove but not impossible. This is our time to address the toxic movements of non-consensual acts masked by casual approaches by the perpetrator.

For the proper safety of women, it is important to not only address the situation rather take actions for proper justice. Cases like these needs observation, legal approach and most importantly acknowledgement. It is time for us to rise to the movement, yet again.

It’s time to talk about teenage pregnancy in our country

We say that we want to be supportive and we want to help the women in our lives overcome obstacles. But at the same time, we want to shut down discussions about topics like teenage pregnancy. There is a reluctance to broach taboo topics and we want to save ourselves from all the backlash that follows. However, this is not an issue that will go away if we put our head in the sand.

It is time we stop being afraid of society; we need start being afraid of the repercussions we will will inevitably face as a society if we continue to ignore sensitive topics.

So, who are are the ones facing teenage pregnancy issues? Teenage pregnancy issues are felt by young women–married or unmarried. They are either sexually active, they plan on being sexually involved in the future or are currently pregnant.

What the problems that sexually active women have to overcome?

Protection is inaccessible

Well for starters, women fear social stigma and fear people finding out about their choice to be sexually active.This fear makes men and women so afraid of society that they feel hesitant to buy protection before engaging in intercourse. Women are afraid of being so they avoid going to the store to buy condoms. Condoms, one of the most accessible methods of protection, becomes inaccessible to women. This leads to men and women engaging in unsafe sex and putting themselves at a risk of STDs,

Lack of knowledge

The problems don’t end there. Most young women in Bangladesh do not know how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. They do not how to get protection and what kinds of protection are available. They are also unaware of the signs that their body displays when they are pregnant. The stigma is so ingrained in their minds that buying a pregnancy test is almost impossible. They end up not even taking the test and going into a sudden panic attack when the baby bump starts to show.

The vicious cycle that is being driven by social stigma goes beyond shaming and creating conditions where misinformation is rampant.

Society ignores sex, but what about happens after? Society also stigmatizes abortion. Most teenage women in Bangladesh are unaware of the steps that could be taken after unprotected intercourse. Steps include things like morning-after pills or going to the doctor during early pregnancy stages and getting an abortion.

Doctors are inaccessible

Teenagers fear society and their perception so much that they refuse to seek help from doctors. They think the doctor will violate confidentiality and tell their parents or hand them over to the police. This forces teenagers to suffer in silence from the traumatizing effects of teenage pregnancies. Young girls have to turn to random YouTube videos about how to conduct abortions on their own. Some young women go through the pregnancy; then they are traumatically forced to give up the child for adoption and spend the rest of their lives in shame. In the worst-case scenario, teenagers end up taking extreme alternatives like self-harm or suicide to avoid facing their parents or neighbors.

What options do teenagers have under such circumstances?


Seek Help

Get help. Teenage pregnancy can result in complications and even lead to death if the mother is not taken care of properly. If you think you might be pregnant, take the test. As much as we would love to say that you should find the courage for going to the stores and buying the test for yourself, we all know that it might not be possible for everyone to all of a sudden face all these stigmas at once. Resorting to online stores might be a good alternative. Many online shops have the option to order pregnancy tests that will be delivered within hours. Chaldal.com, Daraz, and bdfamilymart are a few examples of such websites from where you can buy a pregnancy test.

Go See a Doctor

In terms of contraceptives and morning-after pills, you could buy those too from online shops. But what is even more important than this is seeking help directly from doctors. Most doctors aren’t allowed to disclose the information of the patient to anyone other than the patient.

…Or, Opt for Online Healthcare

However, if you still don’t feel like you can trust them then you can always opt for online health care services like bdhealth services. But none of these solutions will work out if teenagers themselves don’t try to seek out help if teenagers don’t themselves seek out knowledge about maternal health and sex education.

What can we do as a society?

We can start being more inclusive. Changing our minds about sex is probably not going to happen in a day. But this is a change that is necessary for the better of the next generation. Even if we can’t find it in ourselves to be more accepting about sexual activeness of youth, we can at least try and not criticize sexual health for teenagers to a point that they feel like it is something they should be afraid of.

We as a society have to create an atmosphere where children learn about sexual health and teenage pregnancy during their early age.

Children need to be provided with sex ed and not just the generic version that only scratches the surface and does not get into details because of the social stigma. Comprehensive sex ed that includes lessons regarding how to take a pregnancy test or how to take contraceptives is what is required to help teenagers get better equipped about how to handle teenage pregnancy.

The case of Nusrat and our “rape culture”

At first, when I was told to write about Nusrat, I was very keen on doing it. I was very eager to voice a wave of scream towards all the men and women who are defending the rapist. I was excited to talk about the girl who, with a body 80% covered in burns, wanted justice. She used what little breath she had left to demand justice.

Justice for all the time she’s been molested. Justice for all the time that pervert Siraj-Ud-Doula got away with it, not just with her, but with plenty other people before her as well. Justice against all those puny perverts who grew to power under his careful guidance. Justice for all the blatant abuse of power for personal gain and coverage.

How many of us can say the same for ourselves? How many of us stayed strong in the face of adversary, threats and in the end, literally death?

The culture of denial

Remember how I said, just a few moments ago, that I “was” keen on writing about Nusrat? I am not anymore.

Because even now, there are marches going on demanding the release of a man who’s been accused of sexual harassment multiple times (by multiple I mean countless times) throughout many years. Because there are still people everywhere, who are defending a system that’s producing generations after generations of repressed youth. Because even after this gruesome death, there are people who think she deserved it. Because she had to be burnt alive to have her allegations be taken seriously.

What exactly is wrong with us?

We are straight-up denying the rape culture that’s been nurtured within our society for as long as I can remember, or for as long as my mother can remember, or even for as long as my grandmother can remember. We think marriage is a ceremony where the father hands over his autonomy upon his daughter to another man. We believe women owe men their body whenever, however, wherever they ask for it.

So we end up getting triggered over something as basic as a t-shirt that says “don’t stand too close”– because who’s a woman to tell a man where he can or can’t stand? Isn’t a molester’s freedom to let their body parts roam far greater than the discomfort and molestation of a woman?

The blame game

Then comes the part where we are blaming “no-orna” for rape, then we are blaming not wearing hijab for rape, afterwards, we are blaming not wearing burqa, and then lastly, we are blaming Bollywood for rape.

Seems like we are blaming everyone and everything but the rapist for the rape.

This is rape culture.

When we are victimizing the criminal and criminalizing the victim, that’s rape culture.

When we are presenting reasons behind a rapist’s intention, we are stating the rapist’s action as reasonable- and that’s rape culture.

When we try to demean a man for stepping up to his peers against their sexism by calling him gay, impotent, trans. pussy, not a man– that’s rape culture.

Well, think about owning an alpha male cat. He will litter on your bed, or on your study place (wherever you spend the most time in) to prove he’s the number one of the house, not the other way around. Not because he couldn’t find any other place to litter, not because he had sudden diarrhoea- because he needed to assert dominance.

It’s the same with rape, or as we educated people like to call it “non-consensual sex”.

A toxic society

When someone has to force themselves onto someone else (usually vulnerable individuals of the society- females, or young boys), it means they’ve been denied their dominance over their prey at first. And in a patriarchal society, where dominance equals to power and strength, being denied means being weak, being defected (ladies, that’s why all the men you said no to think there must be something wrong with you or them to be rejected, not because you have free will).

Sometimes when I’m talking about this (who am I kidding, most times) I feel so tired as if I’ve been battling the Hydra for centuries, like two heads are sprouting from where I slayed one a moment ago. That’s not even completely metaphorical- you’ll know what I’m talking about if you just give the comment sections of these news a go. Or if you talk to any stranger on the road. The number of people saying “not all men” is far greater than the number of those actual men.

But then again, we think non-consensual sex and rape is different. Maybe we deserve this toxic, dying out society after all.

The cost of being a female consumer: ‘Pink Tax’

The term pink tax may sound harmless to many. But it is the root of all the discrimination existing in the system that is alone a barrier to the progress we think our society has made towards establishing equality. But what exactly is a pink tax? A generic definition would say:

“The pink tax is a phenomenon often attributed as a form of gender-based price discrimination, with the name stemming from the observation that many of the affected products are pink” – Wikipedia

For people who have little or no idea about this weird tax that weirdly connects to gender discrimination, it can be a little too much to take in.

Pink tax is basically an unfair price hike for products that are used by women.

We all know how the wage gap is still a thing worldwide and how women are perceived as the ‘less efficient’ gender. And then capitalism says hi as it always does in crisis and suggests an illogical pricing strategy for corporations to wipe off their bank accounts with products that have the same utility as men’s.

The actual scenario

There has been a lot of research on the pink tax that found that overall, women were paying more than men 42% of the time. How much more? About $1,351 more a year in extra costs. This may sound a bit weird but we have all been paying this pink tax to sanitary napkins as well. Even some years ago, sanitary napkins were considered as ‘luxury items’ and a handsome amount of tax was imposed on it. Later, word went out and the tax was said to be removed from it but companies still sell it with higher prices with no logic behind it.

Why are we paying more?

It is found from multiple research that products for women are priced higher even though it serves a very neutral purpose. From makeup to hygiene to clothes and even toys, anything pink or feminine is pricey. Companies are known to have a phrase for justifying their price on a product that goes like ‘Shrink it and pink it’ – which implies the product can have a higher price if it is pink and small. Research and development, following trends, meeting trends, advertising products on television and in magazines are not cheap. Companies are willing to spend more money advertising to women than they are toward men, contributing to the price discrepancies.

The average expenditure of a girl will always be higher than that of a man not because girls are always high maintenance, but they are charged more than they should have and there’s not much they can do about it.

Old Navy got busted for charging more for women’s plus-sized clothing but not for men’s. The plus-sized women’s jeans were $12-15 more than the standard sized ones. But there was no such difference between the prices of men’s plus and regular sized jeans.

Pink tax in Bangladesh

Till date sanitary napkin is considered a luxury cosmetic item in many parts of Bangladesh. Majority of the sanitary napkin prices range from BDT 70-145/pack. It is difficult for a girl to spend this amount of money for sanitary napkins each month especially where the average income of the family is below BDT 10,000/month. Apart from sanitary napkins, from shampoos to cosmetics to clothes, men’s shopping isn’t as expensive as women’s shopping. Even female oriented services e.g beauty parlors, salons are taxed differently than male oriented services. Recently, there have been some active discussions about this tax issue and people have demanded to demolish the ‘luxury item’ tag on sanitary napkins for start. When will it be implemented, or will it ever be? We don’t ‘pink’ so.

The real cost of Pink Tax

In general, even though women pay 13% more than men, but paying more for sanitary napkins and daily hygiene products doesn’t seem fair to many, because obviously it isn’t. For a country like Bangladesh, girls will have to resort to sanitary napkins for better hygiene and convenience but if the price remains as it is with the purpose being taxed, they may or may not consider their right to get basic hygiene as ‘luxury’. So, even if our country will be progressing nevertheless, a major portion of the contributors to our national GDP won’t be able to enjoy empowerment at a basic level.

So what could be done?

We can raise awareness among shoppers. The advice we could give women is to think outside of the aisle. In so many instances, there are equivalent products being sold for significantly less in the boys’ or men’s section. The onus should be on manufacturers to price goods fairly—but consumers should know that they have a choice: The red scooter is just as good as the pink. And if consumers find a case of gender pricing disparity, it is always possible to start a dialogue with the retailer.

How to dodge marriage proposals if you are a Bengali

Being a brown Bengali woman in your mid 20’s, you can only have one life goal – to find and marry the perfect man.  And if by any chance he happens to be a doctor, engineer or lawyer, well then you’ve hit the jackpot!

It’s a universally acknowledged truth, that a deshi girl who has surpassed the age of 20 must get married, or else the world shall perish.

It’s usually a random aunty or uncle who desperately wants to take on the role of a ‘ghotok’(match-maker) for you, if it’s not your parents stressing you out already. We often face a hard time thinking what our parents would have to face if we straight off reject these ‘biyer prostaabs’. However, it is actually possible to dodge these marriage proposals easily without bringing too much trouble. Here are some tried and tested easy ways to avoid such encounters.

Read more: 5 strategies on surviving Desi weddings.

Goth Lipsticks

Trust me on this, dark goth lipsticks scare deshi aunties. Seriously, pick any goth shade, be it dark shades of blue, grey or just pure black. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it makes you look rough and ruins the whole facade of the “ideal, docile wife” image. Whatever it is, it seems to do the trick for you. Plus dark lipsticks are bold and gorgeous. Rock them while shock them aunties!

Use the sarcasm shield

Sarcasm is a life savior. If used correctly, it can get you out of almost anything! It can ensure you with one of the two: either they will catch onto the sarcasm and assume you’re extremely rude, or they will believe what you say and think you are absolutely insane. To be honest, both work pretty well. Seriously, just imagine their expressions when you tell them “I’m sorry, I was just busy reading this fun article on how to properly chop human bodies.” with a serious face on.

Tell them you can’t make tea

Or worse! Add salt instead of sugar in their tea and then sit back to enjoy their expressions when they sip on your evil-eye-casting-potion. If you’re a proper Bengali, you know that tea is basically life to most Bengalis; the better the tea, the higher your rank in the household. So what could be more off-putting to these uncles and aunties than a woman who can’t make cha? One who makes terrible cha! And you will no longer be a daughter in law material, sorry. Or maybe, you’re welcome?

Be bold and opinionated

This isn’t a hard task for many of us. Don’t just jump straight to an issue; you could really just randomly talk about normal things and slowly go for sensitive areas that are considered taboo; like gay rights, abortion or even legalizing marijuana! It’ll be so much fun to see an aunty in shock after you discuss sexuality openly, I mean where is my lojja shorom?!

Do something insane

Maybe chop off those locks? Okay, I’ll admit this one is pretty drastic, so maybe you can use it as a last resort. It’s actually an excellent last-minute backup plan though. One of my friends was once almost forced to get engaged to this older man. When nothing else worked, she decided to completely shave her head on the day of the engagement! Guess what? It worked!

But really you could do so many other crazy stuff that you could actually have fun doing. Maybe dye your hair a gorgeous color? *gasps* Yesss, any color! Put on a poker face and do something incredibly crazy to scare the hell out of these people, like pretend to talk to an imaginary friend. Or maybe start laughing at completely inappropriate moments like when they’re talking about a tragic incident. Seriously, get creative and you can single handedly make these prostaabs fly away before you can say ‘Kabool’.

Talk money

While the suitor’s mothers and/or aunts brag about how rich and successful he is, why not take them up on it? Get extra enthusiastic, ask about their advancement opportunities and pay. Act like you’re calculating something and then hypothetically discuss how much you would get if a divorce occurs. Create an entire financial plan right in front of them.

Fart (!)

Yes, no joke. Once you master the art of flatulence, it’ll not just help you drive away the aunties, but anyone that messes with you. It’s the ultimate human repellent!

The smile

They say a girl’s best weapon is her smile. They are right, they’ve always been. Whenever your suitor or their family is talking about something they are passionate about, smile. Nope, not the sweet encouraging one. A sympathetic, sad and patronizing smile. If he’s got any sort of common sense in him, he’ll pick up the remains of his bruised ego and never bother you again. Seriously girl, you need to smile more often now!

Read more: 5 reasons not to get married before thirty

It’s not necessarily true that marriage is the end of everything, you can still rock you life and do things you love after marriage. But then again, if you’re better off, I hope these tricks help you out. But remember that I bear no responsibility for the consequences. So proceed at your own risk, girl!

Good luck!

The battle against our obsession with fair skin

It always seemed perplexing to me that in a country of 16 million people where majority of us are of a darker complexion, we have somehow come to equate beauty with fairness. Starting from young girls and boys to older men and women, this notion has been embedded into our minds and has permeated over the centuries.

The constant slurs

Every brown woman living in Bangladesh can attest to receiving an abundance of unsolicited advice and derogatory comments from strangers to family members over their complexion throughout their lifetime. Maybe it was in the form of a backhanded compliment like “You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl”; an advice from next-door aunty to try out some skin whitening creams (fair and lovely the undisputed champion); a quick natural homemade remedy from a friend that promised to instantly brighten your skin; a warning from your mother to stay indoors and avoid the sun, and the list goes on.

Seriously, just stop.


Artwork by Nafisa Afsara Chowdhury

The other side isn’t pretty either

Growing up, I personally didn’t hear such remarks myself because I got “lucky” by being born with a lighter complexion in a society that’s obsessed with fairness. But I did experience something else which was equally problematic. People have said things like “ki shundor forsha gayer rong” and “tomake toh foreigner lage” to me, as if those were meant to be compliments. I’m sorry but no, you have got it all wrong. I do not aspire to look like a foreigner, I do not think my lighter skin is somehow a personal victory, and neither do I think that this should be an acceptable form of flattery for any right-minded person.

The ridiculous ads

It shocks me that it is still acceptable to promote fairness products in the 21st century and reiterate the idea that a fairer skin is more desirable than the rest. These ridiculous ads will try to have you believe that if you become a couple of shades lighter, you will finally get that job you want, your family and boyfriend will love you more, all your problems will miraculously go away and you’ll live happily ever after. (Don’t we all wish it were that simple?)

Why are we so obsessed with being “fair and lovely”?

Original concept and Photo by Zainab Anwar. Artwork by Triory.

This unhealthy obsession that we have with fairness is a lot more complex than we often realize. Some may argue that this stems from the remnants of our colonial legacy in South Asia and plays out in the form of internalized colonialism, while others say that this fixation dates even further back in history, dealing with issues of class hierarchy.

It also goes without saying that our deep-rooted patriarchy that constantly objectifies women only helps to perpetuate this enslavement even further.

We also cannot deny that the mass media today contributes towards keeping such insidious ideas alive by feeding us Western beauty standards since eternity.

The damaging impact

Most of us girls grapple with loving ourselves because we were conditioned to believe in these unrealistic beauty standards that were always far from our reach. So many girls like me, around me, were constantly trying to attain this standard of beauty, all the while, rejecting their own brown skin. Leaving them dejected and bathing in self-loathe. Can we really blame them though? We live in a society that constantly tells us that our skin color is “nongra” or “moila”, so trying to feel content in our own skin was never even an option to begin with.

Here are some Bangladeshi women sharing their bitter experience of growing up with brown skin in Bangladesh:

X, a 29-year-old woman from Dhaka-

“I remember when I was a teenager, I’d try all kinds of things on my face hoping to lighten it because I was always made to feel like it wasn’t good enough. Looking back, thinking about all the harmful things that I tried in order to gain validation from this society truly scares me. What makes me even more upset is that I still find myself fighting this battle within me sometimes. Suppose, when I’m wearing a very bright colored outfit, I’ll think to myself  “Is this making me look too dark?” But it’s only now, in my late 20s that I’m turning the conversation around and asking myself, “What’s wrong with looking too dark? Absolutely nothing”. So, thankfully, after years of struggle, I’m in a much more healthy relationship with my own skin now”

Anika, a 23-year-old student from North South University-

“I’ve been fighting this brown skin prejudice since my childhood. I remember when I was in school; I didn’t get accepted as the lead role of a drama because of my “dark skin”. My visits to the parlor were always accompanied with suggestions of bleaching my skin to become “fairer”. It’s not just the people who we love dearly that perpetuate such ideals but it is also embedded within our social institutions. It’s everywhere. And it takes unimaginable strength to unlearn years of such toxic internalization and begin to treat yourself right ”

Dare to love yourself

In a world that constantly reminds us women that the color of our complexion fails to meet some false notion of beauty, just loving yourself and being proud of your skin becomes a revolutionary act for us girls. It means to dismantle these narratives that we’ve been forcefully fed for so long. It means to reclaim our brown skin in all its glory.

So, go on, tell those aunties off, bask in the sun, wear that bright colored outfit you were asked not to wear, put on that red lipstick and own it!

LAL: Challenging the stigma behind menstruation

This past week, artists, poets, dancers and musicians from different walks of life had come together at Jatra Biroti, under the glistening full moon, for the occasion of LAL; the celebration of the natural phenomenon of menstruation.

What is LAL?

Jatra Biroti, a locus of art and culture in Dhaka, had organized a five-day long event, aligned with the dates of the full moon, to celebrate menstruation and its connection with the divine moon cycle. This event aimed to break the stigma that is often associated with period. It aimed to educate people of all ages and genders about menstruation. And create a space where people could come together to talk freely about “that time of the month”.

LAL: Challenging the stigma behind menstruation

It was an event unlike any other; from children to senior citizens, openly discussing and even rejoicing about period positivity.

In a society like Bangladesh, where we shut down any conversation regarding this ordinary bodily function of women, it is necessary that we take measures to normalize such topics. And Lal acts as a groundbreaking event which is opening new spaces of conversation and subverting the age-old stigmas related to menstruation.

Breaking stigma through art

LAL has used the powerful tool of art in various forms; such as poetry, artworks, music, dance and more. In the process, dismantling the preconceived notions that people often hold about menstruation.

LAL: Challenging the stigma behind menstruation 7

Art can be a compelling vehicle that can bring about change in how we perceive things; it can help us to identify ourselves with matters that may otherwise seem unfamiliar to us. It can spur thinking, engagement and even action and that is what this event dedicated to menstruation aspired to achieve.

The exhibition

The exhibition, located on the third floor of Jatra Biroti, opens with a massive vagina tunnel entry (it doesn’t get more unconventional than that). It then leads the pathway to numerous artworks representing menstruation. Weeks before the event, Jatra Biroti had announced an open call to artists and enthusiasts for submissions of artworks. The call received an overwhelming response from several artists who wanted to contribute to this initiative. Each artist had brought in their own unique perspectives and representations through their fearless artworks.

LAL: Challenging the stigma behind menstruation 1

One of the artists that I conversed with said, “I tried to bring in humor to my work so people can become comfortable talking about menstruation. It doesn’t have to be this sacred thing, because I’m literally bleeding from down there every month”. Another said, “I feel like I’m gaining autonomy over my own body as I draw about menstruation”.

Being a participant myself, it was truly rewarding to witness how art can disrupt people’s predetermined ideas about matters like the menstrual stigma.

Dance, Music, Poetry

This five-day long celebration was also filled with various performances and music sessions by several other artists. Some of the major highlights of LAL were the moving poetry recitations by Munia Islam and Bokulful, the powerful performances by Arthy, Krishnokoli, Preema Nazia and the soulful musical evenings by Shourik SK and UNY, Sovotta, Vee, Anusheh Anadil, Baul Shofi Mondol and the Ghaashforing Choir to name a few.

Workshops

Some interactive workshop sessions were also held by organizations like Astha Foundation, Kotha, Project Konna, Naripokkho. All of them were aimed at normalizing the topic of menstruation in their own distinctive ways. Each session took a different and creative approach in order to explore the topic of period with their audience. For instance, Astha Foundation took on a more humorous approach where they debunked period myths, created awareness about menstrual hygiene and PMS with a touch of sarcasm.

LAL: Challenging the stigma behind menstruation 5

Project Konna aimed to create a more intimate experience between couples so they can be comfortable about the topic of period.

Kotha held a class conscious interactive workshop on menstruation. With the help of participants, they built 3 characters and walked through their unique menstruating experiences to highlight how accessibility differs vastly as we move across different classes.

Recyclable sanitary products

While the event set out to challenge the stigma around menstruation, it had also taken the initiative to raise awareness of plastic in disposable menstrual products, and how we can work to minimize this by using biodegradable and reusable sanitary products in order to protect our environment. Several hundred pads are disposed on a daily basis, just inside Dhaka, which pollute our environment inconceivably. Under the name Lal Peyala, Jatra is selling reusable pads which are available in a variety of designs. They are also selling menstrual cups in order to create a more sustainable way of managing our periods.

An event like LAL is momentous. Because, even though it may not solve the problems regarding menstruation in Bangladesh overnight, it can help to change the conversation around it by ending the shame that we associate with it.

A vital step for us to make any substantial progress.


This bloody menstruation taboo has loomed over us for far too long, so lets all just come out in the open and say it, all women bleed. Period.