Safe Spaces

Contributed by: Angana Prasad

Dated: March 14, 2017

Talking about Project KHEL, we often say how we create ‘safe spaces’ wherever we go, so that children can be themselves and share things that they otherwise don’t feel comfortable sharing with others. Now this ‘safe space’ has very little to do with the physical space as such, but more about the environment that we create in our presence that give children the confidence in us at not being judged. Without getting into longer explanations, here are snippets from the last 4 years that could explain exactly what we’re doing here…

(Made in Maidaan) December 2012

I did my first ever story telling session back in December 2012, in Vipul Khand, with a bunch of 4-7 year olds. I was narrating a funny story of a ghost who kept troubling the mistress of the house by pulling her hair, drinking up the milk, eating up all the food and randomly screaming in her ears to have fun. Before my story ended, a 5 year old, who till now was laughing the loudest exclaimed, this story was exactly of what happens at her house after her father reaches home. Her mother was the troubled mistress and her father the troubling ghost who used to scream and shout and slap and kick the mother. My voice choked… I could never finish my first story telling session…

(Made in Maidaan) December 2013

It had barely been a month we started working at a shelter home for girls. We were running late by 5 mins. When we entered, a quiet and slow girl who never actually played with us ran up to me, and looking away she said she thought we wouldn’t turn up. We had a good session that day. As usual, this girl did not join us. As we began winding up, she walked up again, saying “Do come back tomorrow”…

(Teen Talks) August 2014

While interacting with a big group of over a 100 girls on understanding teenager and related issues, we got a standing ovation by the end of the session, more so because no one talks to teens so openly. As the rest of the class left, one girl stayed back, then held my hand and began crying, she said, “I’ve had sex with the guy I loved, but then we broke up and now I feel dirty. I have been dying from inside but could never reach out to anyone, not even my best friends, but with you I felt you’d not judge me”…

(Red Spot) July 2016

We were at a mall running a major campaign on breaking the silence against Menstruation. A very well dressed and well-to-do gentleman working as a manager at a prominent bank was there throughout observing the various activities. When it was all over and we began to disperse, he called our founder aside and shared the story of how his wife had to sleep in a separate room every time she menstruated, because that was the norm in HIS family. Somewhere, he felt guilty because he couldn’t stand up for his wife in front of his mother and sisters. We let him keep speaking as we patiently heard him out. He ended with “I have been following your programme since it started. Can’t express how it made me feel. My daughter will not have to go through this humiliation. That’s a promise”.

(Red Spot) September 2016

We were leading a 2-day workshop with lady Professors on the theme of Gender Sensitivity with a strong focus on Menstrual Hygiene Management”. Starting with prim and proper behavior the professors went on to celebrate over lunch the knowledge that they had 3 openings between their legs and not 2. The comfort the middle aged women felt in laughing and talking about issues they are not even suppose to speak aloud was visible and we took a lot of pride in making that happen.

(ab BAS!) December 2015

“I am 17, my girl friend is 15, so, if we get physical, will that be considered Child Sexual Abuse too?” as much as we found this question coming from a muscular and extremely shy young boy cute, the fact that he risked being “caught in the wrong act” (as per social standards that is) to ask something like this, speaks a lot in itself of the trust that we have been able to create in the span of an hour…

(Teen Talks) December 2016

We generally have an anonymous chit system from teens to write sensitive questions to us which we can take up for discussion. One such chit asked if she could COME OUT to her class as a bisexual! Of course, we said yes. She came out. No one else in her life knew this and this was the first time she felt comfortable enough to share, even with her own classmates she had been studying with for years! The entire class applauded spontaneously as they realized the significance of that moment for her. We were absolutely stunned that we could make this happen in our session!!

In every programme, every session and every interaction we strive to create this space which doesn’t get affected by the facilitator who runs the session, because if a child knows we are from Project KHEL, the child knows they’ll be appreciated for being their own honest selves every single moment.