By: Gopika Bashi, India

For me, growing up was a series of realizations about the things that I ‘could not’ do, merely because I am a girl. And while my relative privilege allowed me to get an education, start working, and travel independently, the ‘do nots’ list still hasn’t fully disappeared. The need to challenge this reality is what led me to my work as a campaigner.

For countless women and girls in India - especially those who are the most marginalized because of their caste, religion, ability, or class - violence is an everyday reality. While there seems to be universal agreement across the world that violence against women and girls should not exist, we know that our political work to challenge patriarchy is far harder than just raising awareness about the scale of this problem.

Despite this challenge, I am excited that I’m part of a generation of young women and trans youth who are speaking truth to power in big ways - not just on gender-based violence, but on sexual rights; politics; and social, economic, and climate justice.

What has struck me the most through my own work - whether it be campaigning to ensure young people’s sexual and reproductive rights or pushing for justice for survivors of sexual violence – has been the importance of challenging this culture of accepting violence. This is probably the hardest part, because it doesn’t only have to do with laws or policies but is rather about chipping away at underlying discriminatory attitudes, beliefs, and norms. And this doesn’t happen somewhere ‘out there.’ Challenging power and patriarchy begins literally and figuratively at home: in our houses, workplaces, schools, and streets.

And while this is exciting, it can also be draining. As a woman, I see this culture of violence reflected in my own lived experience, and consistently challenging it can be exhausting. I must keep reminding myself that while I will never stop campaigning, there may be times when the sheer exhaustion of this work takes over. And this is ok.

So to others out there doing this work, I say take a moment to reflect. Feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. Keep politicizing this work and reiterating that as women and girls, we don’t need to be protected, but rather we need to be supported to claim the space that is rightfully ours. There is still much work to be done!

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#YoungWomenSay is a partnership with Say It Forward in support of International Youth Day 2018 and culminating on International Day of the Girl. The campaign features blogs from incredible young women from around the world, and is designed to harness the power of storytelling and social media to drive attention to their lived experiences, dreams, and aspirations. 

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