As we walked through the busy shops towards the SETU Foundation’s Shikhshajyoti Kendra, our eagerness was palpable. Armed with our 60 printed surveys, we were excited to meet the girls and to hit another milestone – the REDefine Campaign’s second collaboration! This was the first time we had visited the school, and all in all, it was truly an endearing yet eye-opening experience.
The SETU Foundation is an organisation which helps promote the growth and learning of the youth of India, especially for the girl child. As we walked through the gates of their school in Noida, we were impressed by its sheer size and the immediate warmth of its environment.
We walked into the office of the Program Director of SETU Foundation, Ms. Jyotsna Srivastava, who the team had been in contact with. She suggested that we first have a look around the classrooms to acquaint ourselves with the students and school. She also suggested we do the survey for the girls from grades six to ten.
We divided amongst ourselves the grades allotted to us. With the majority of the team having a concerning level of discomfort with Hindi, we practiced what we would say to them under our breaths. Ultimately, Anshika and Jhanvi decided to visit sixth grade first, while Ritika and Tara went to the other classrooms.
When we first entered the classrooms, we noticed the incredibly evident sex ratio. It was a pleasant surprise to see many more girls than boys in the classes. We were also welcomed by the teachers graciously, even though we were interrupting their class time. We outlined the aims of our survey to the students in the simplest way possible (and with great difficulty, explained to the boys why this survey wasn’t for them). The class was immediately enveloped in jittery whispers, but when we asked the class how many of the girls there had gotten their period, an uncomfortable silence fell. Even though a single child reluctantly raised her hand, we understood many of them hadn’t gotten their period and did not push further.
Having noticed the awkward glances at each other, we changed our tactic. When the girls were reluctant to raise their hand again in seventh grade, Tara raised her own hand, and so did the rest of the team, encouraging more students to raise their hands. This helped them view us as equals and not just people from another NGO “trying to make a change”.
The girls began filling the surveys out and began discussing the questions with each other. This was may have helped them understand the questions better if they were too shy to ask us. At the same time, it may have been one of the major roadblocks we had to our survey. Had they been discussing answers, the results of our survey would have been quite unreliable.
However, in terms of asking us questions and trying to understand the survey, the girls were quite open and free, raising their hands politely to get our attention. As we walked from class to class, we read some of the answers and were surprised by the list of things that they could not do on their period, including not eating sour things, not standing in between boys, etc. The students of tenth grade were all female which made the general atmosphere of the class much less tense. They had already studied menstrual health and hygiene, understood the questions easily, and didn’t discuss their answers with others.
Conducting the survey was successful because we were able to identify what would need to be spoken about with the respective classes and how this would be done. However, the results had yet to be analyzed, which would, in turn, develop our surveying techniques and the way we frame our thoughts. Keep reading to follow our journey with the girls from SETU!
Meher from The REDefine Team