By Megha Kashyap, India

I grew up in a small city called Guwahati, tucked in the far northeast of India. My region is full of abundant resources but also had its own share of issues, like insurgency and violence, that I witnessed from a very young age. I think this is what led me to choose a career in the development space.

Growing up, I faced my own battles. I am a survivor of child sexual abuse. A distant grand-uncle molested me when I was about 13 years old. I recall many incidents where I faced harassment from strangers in cinema halls or on public transportation. Being born a girl with a dusky complexion had its own challenges. I was constantly bullied and ridiculed by a group of boys in my class at school. All of these experiences bred insecurities and complexes in my psyche. The constant need for validation of my existence led me to some extremely abusive relationships, including one that resulted in physical and emotional violence by my then boyfriend. The relationship went on for about two years before I realized the toxicity would only end when I choose to end it.

Fortunately, I was always very focused on my career. For my undergraduate degree, I moved out of Guwahati. During my studies, I was chosen as a representative of the women’s support group that I attended at my college in Shillong, Meghalaya. Through this experience, I networked with other women’s groups and learned about the shared experiences we all have. It gave me courage and hope to contribute to the fight for gender equality.

After graduating, I started volunteering for community based NGOs that worked on women’s issues. In 2012, I landed my first professional job with a feminist organization on a collaborative project about gender responsive budgeting with UN Women. After completing the project, I decided to pursue a course on professional social work. I enrolled in a Master’s program at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai and went on to do an academic exchange fellowship at Lund University in Sweden, where I took courses on gender.

After completing my coursework, I worked with different organizations that are fighting for the rights of women. Currently, I work for Oxfam India on their Gender Justice team, where I co-manage and lead the Bano Nayi Soch campaign that challenges social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls.

I believe that my feminist politics are strong because most of my learnings have been from my own lived experiences. From being abused as a child, to facing violence in relationships, to experiencing harassment, I have seen how gender inequality exists everywhere around us. My academic pursuits have helped me understand all of these issues within the theoretical lens of feminism. I practice intersectional feminism every day and speak out against issues of violence around me.

I am an activist and I will continue to take steps to ensure that my efforts contribute to the larger goal of achieving a better world for our girls -  a world devoid of gender discrimination and violence.

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