A big wish came true in a big way
Contributed by: Angana Prasad
Dated: 30th June, 2013
I think all of us have this little something in our minds that we have wanted to do for a very long time. For the past few years, I have been obsessed about talking to girls about their bodies and their natural processes. While some attribute it to some mental perversions that I have succumbed to, for me, the entire deal is about loving your body that belongs to you from your first breathe to the last. The whole point of this obsession is to get girls to feel normal about themselves, about their curves and about their parts. It affects me when a girl grows up believing that her body is impure, her chest is a burden and her privates a magnet to sin. Watching the play ‘The Vagina Monologues’ pushed me to crave even more deeply to make this little wish come true
A month ago, thanks to KHEL, I finally got the chance to make this happen. We conducted a programme on MHM with more than 80 girls from Salon, a small town in Amethi district. These girls were aged 15 to 18 years, all of them school going, active and articulate.
On that day, everything happened just as I had thought it would be nothing less, nothing more. I was told that it is rare to get the exact of what had been on your mind, so supposedly I was lucky, but maybe I would prefer to attribute this exactness to the law of attraction :-p I had played and rewound and played this wish so many times in my head that even when it happened, it happened just like I had wished it to be. The initial hesitation, the attentive listening, occasional giggles and an animated discussion round surmises the entire MHM session.
So, unlike my previous blogpost, in this one I wish to express on how I perceived our beneficiaries’ response on different topics-
One of the feedbacks given by the girls was “there are things we expect our parents to talk to us about, but that didn’t happen and unexpectedly we met you people and now we know things that we should”. Talking about the female body and the menstruation cycle has been a taboo over the ages now, but we sensed that they wanted to know. At one point when we were running behind schedule, the options were to either keep talking in detail thus getting late for home or finish the topics quickly and leave on time. They opted for the first one and that just boosted us enough.
- We had discussed the menstrual cycle and physical growth exclusively on the first day. It was made sure that every one sitting in the audience understood what was being discussed. The idea was not to get them to begin sharing this information in public, but was to enhance their knowledge about their own biological system and to enable them to share the same with a best friend or a sister or anyone who would need this information too. On day 2, quite amazingly, one of the girls volunteered to quickly revise through the cycle, in front of the rest of the audience. It was a YAY! moment for us, not just to see that in one day they moved beyond their hesitation to talking more openly but also we felt successful as facilitators that we were able to create an environment in which they were comfortable enough to shed their inhibitions.
- We began our second day with an activity on boosting an individual’s self-image. This activity required everyone to anonymously write their most disliked physical feature and drop their chit in a jar. Then randomly people pick up chits from the same jar, read aloud what is written and the rest in the circle reciprocate with a situation which would have been worst then what has been written in the chit. In this, most girls had written about their short hair (actually all of them had longer hair than mine), dark complexion or eruption/marks on their skin. Our debriefing discussion drifted away to what the society calls beautiful. Through their statements we felt like these girls were caught up between social definitions and personal opinions, especially when it came to complexion. 98% of the beneficiaries were dark skinned (and so was I), all of them were affected by the fact that they were dark skinned and so, quite often have been subjected to the ‘you are not pretty enough’ line. This victimization based on the skin tone had pushed them to giving back the same by calling someone else, who was a shade darker, as the one less pretty than her. This realisation dawned in on them through the discussion itself. I did not have to do anything separately to bring this element of realization, they spoke about it and realised for themselves. Ultimately, we finished on a happy note of self-acceptance with everyone kissing themselves for being a wonderful being.
The two-day programme was a success by all parameters. We as facilitators were happy by the reaction of our beneficiaries in terms of the increase in information level that we were able to provide and our beneficiaries too were happy to interact with a group of people who were able to explain to them the most integral element of a female body. It is intriguing how so many girls experience their cycles every month, having no idea why it happens and in most cases separating their self and hating this process. As an individual I was very satisfied to touch so many lives in one go. I feel a strong sense of achievement in having led in planning this programme, designing its modules and conducting it too. Thanks to KHEL, a big wish came true in a big way for me, hopefully it meant as much to the 80 young ladies who were part of the workshop.