Meet Our Members: Mahi Patki
WE Int., committed to lifting up women and shedding light on their work, introduces its members as part of the series #SheInspires. In this article, we introduce to you Mahi Patki, who is majoring in environmental science at the University of Tokyo.
Born in Pune, India. lived in China and England for the 12 years, Mahi found her passion for environmental issues in high school. Read what initiatives she's working on for empowering women from her experience!
1.Tell us about yourself. What is the background you grew up in?
My name is Mahi Patki. I was born in Pune, India. I lived in China and England before coming to Japan where I spent the past 12 years of my life. I am currently majoring in environmental science in the undergraduate PEAK program, at the University of Tokyo. Looking back, I think that I grew up in a bubble, going from one international community to the other, and was oblivious to gender inequality. Perhaps that was just because it is so deeply institutionalized that people no longer realize that we have huge gender disparity. After entering high school, I became a lot more aware, my perspective changed, and I started gaining more interest in feminism.
In summer 2020, when the Japanese government was giving out masks to each household, the students at the dorms I live in also received care packages with disposable and cloth masks. After comparing with my friends, I realized that all the male students had received plain black or white cloth masks, while the female students were given floral patterned masks in different colors. Although I appreciated receiving free masks during a pandemic, I was baffled by the need to make this distinction. It may seem insignificant, but small instances like this remind me that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality.
2. What was your motivation to join WE Int.?
In 2020, I interviewed some of the founding members of WE Int. and the project lead for the En Tendedero Project, to write an article for Komaba Times (a student-led English-language magazine at the University of Tokyo). I was inspired by the stories they shared, and I knew that I just had to be part of this community. I am a work-in-progress feminist, and there is so much to learn about gender-related issues. WE Int. hosts such a variety of events that can help me navigate through and make sense of the plethora of gender equality issues. Even more than that, I feel supported and believe that by joining WE Int. there are so many inspiring women that I can reach out to and learn from.
3. What is gender equality to you? What is your passion towards gender equality?
Gender equality is at a fundamental level is when everyone is treated equally irrespective of their gender. It is a basic human right and essential for the optimum functioning of society. My passion for gender equality comes from this ‘grrr’ feeling I get inside me when something is not fair. I want to understand this feeling by studying and taking informed actions to create change. Gender-related discrimination has been going on for so long that sometimes even women do not see it. I want to continue to challenge my own perceptions, as well as norms and cultural traditions that make it so difficult for gender equality to be achieved.
4. What would you like to achieve through WE Int.? Why do you think it’s important to promote it?
My passion for environmental issues sparked in high school when I started an environmental team to tackle the issue of excessive plastic waste generated by students in my school. This project inspired me to attempt to reduce my own single-use waste and highlighted the alarming amount of waste that came from the pads that I used on my period. Upon investigation, I came across a more sustainable alternative: reusable cloth pads, and started using them. Although they generated less plastic waste I found them uncomfortable and mendokusai to clean. I finally bought a menstrual cup and am currently getting the hang of using it. Menstruation adds an extra struggle to the already complicated lives of women. The taboo surrounding menstruation makes it even more difficult for women to learn from each other's experiences.
Therefore, I wanted to start an open conversation to create a space where we can acquire an accurate understanding of menstruation. I hope that this will empower us to make informed decisions about our bodies and reproductive health. Period Rediscovered is a 6-month online discussion series about menstruation being launched in March. Moreover, through the series, we will also introduce the history, culture, and feminist struggle related to menstruation. Together we can understand the gender dynamics in promoting women’s health and destigmatizing menstruation. Let’s explore what it is that we need to make our lives more comfortable!