Women often place their health and needs at the lowest priority. Often caught up with ensuring others well-being, they forget to take care of themselves. Sexual and reproductive health, which is an important aspect for one’s well-being is often inaccessible and affordable to a common woman. Hidden Pockets collective is working towards changing that.
Jasmine Lovely George, the founder of Hidden Pockets Collective spoke to The Logical Indian. “We are a collective based out of Bangalore right now. We look at a city from a sexual and reproductive health perspective and aim to build inclusive cities.”
The prime focus of Hidden Pockets collective is health, public health centres and accessibility. “We heavily promote government services where we go and audit these government centres and services, for example, we tell people where are the good health clinics which are provided by the government which are affordable and good quality. People can also write to us to find out locations of cyber cells in the city, wherein if you are facing any kind of harassment online related to sexuality, we help reach these places. Similarly, we help in finding locations counsellors in the city, that are affordable and are non-judgemental.”
Hidden Pockets Collective also gives great importance to pleasure. “We also work towards helping them explore the city in a way that is safer for them as well as fun. We really focus on pleasure, like how can we have fun? Places which we call pleasure pockets.”
Explaining more about pleasure pockets, Jasmine said that the team carried out an interesting survey of sorts, asking women about public places where they find utmost joy and pleasure. “This survey revealed that women would just like to have some time to themselves in places like parks, libraries and restaurants.”
“So the idea was to tell women that you can just go and relax in these places. And here we mean places women can go individually and not maybe in a group and still feel safe and enjoy the whole experience. We had women coming out and telling us that the bathrooms/toilets are the only places they feel are their own and where I can just lock myself up and sit for few moments and just do nothing.”
Workshops for both young women and men
Interestingly, the collective also includes young men and boys. “They are the future,” says Jasmine.
Jasmine also draws our attention to things like that of seat segregation of seats on public transport. “The separate seats for women on public transport may seem like an easy fix. Sure I will be assured that for the duration of my travel I won’t have to worry about men touching me. But in the longer run, this system is a failed model. That is why we include even young men and boys in our workshops to make them understand things like these.”
Hidden Pockets workshop includes engaging all the five senses and give out a message about sexual and reproductive health through this. “We also carry out night walks. I realised that they were many women like me who like to take a walk all by themselves and not worry about the safety part. Activities like these are done to demystify the streets and safety.”
“Nobody was asking what women actually want”
The collective Hidden Pockets was found around the end of 2015. “When the Nirbhaya gang-rape happened, the whole atmosphere was regarding surveillance, how women need to be protected and be safe. I was very scared and concerned that nobody was actually asking what women actually wanted if we really wanted to be locked up again. I felt again that they are taking away the language away from us.”
Jasmine adds, “I was tired so being activist-y all the time and just wanted to relax and have fun. Some place we don’t need to be politically correct, someplace where we are allowed to say that I am tired and would like some time off and walk home and do nothing.”
The collective also uses illustrations, creative gifs, and light-hearted memes to deliver a powerful message.
Hidden Pockets collective is basically a team of five core members and they operate in seven cities from North, South, East and West part of the country. “ We had our focus on health because, women are the most neglected people in a household, where a woman takes care of everyone except herself.”
Challenges and future
Speaking of challenges, Jasmine says, “when we first started, we thought we have to just contact few doctors and lawyers and it will be an easy process, which was not the case.”
Also talking about the workshops she said, “women in our workshops tend to be very aware and very conscious.”
She says that it is difficult for the women to imagine themselves that relaxed because they fear to be vulnerable and hence their guards are always up. “Which is understandable”, Jasmine says.
The collective’s aim is to create a good referral system for young women to go and avail public services like that of healthcare in an easy and an affordable manner. In future, it also hopes that more sustainable cities are created. “We hope to convince the urban planners to plan cities in a way that public spacs like parks, libraries, restaurants are more inclusive which helps women and people of other genders to come out and make it look like their own city.”