Our Session at Ashray

Our first pan-India venture and our second online talk.

An individual-group photo.

With the blessings of an online platform and stable connectivity, our session with the children from Ashray stretched over two days. We were met with an initially hesitant crowd who grew more comfortable as our session progressed: we started with icebreakers, but they didn’t quite break the ice as well as our next segment of discussing personal stories. We altered our usual talk as per the request of the organisation, and focused more on the physical changes of puberty rather than the science, and more on menstrual hygiene than sexual hygiene. We added three new segments to our talk as well; the first, on how to measure bra sizes and the different types of bras; the second on personal hygiene; and the third on attraction.

We started with our typical walk-through of puberty following our short story-sharing session. We saw the students grow more comfortable as they related to the experiences we were describing, which luckily made getting into more tricky and embarrassing topics less awkward. We had challenges in accurately describing the reproductive organs and their roles to the students. Luckily, Ms Vrinda Jatia, the founder of Ashray, made these topics easier for the children to understand as she was familiar with them and well-versed with their learning style.

Explaining fertilisation was also a challenge, one we managed with the founder’s help. Subsequent explanations of the menstrual cycle helped the children put the role of sex into perspective, and also the role of hormones. Though we managed to condense the role of hormones to make it easier to understand, we do understand that there will be some barriers that cannot be overcome in a two-day online session. The children eased into the conversation once again when we began talking about PMS and its symptoms, a phenomenon that can unite menstruators across all backgrounds. 

We had our new segment on bras next, where we demonstrated what and where to measure for a bra size, make the correct calculations, and determine the right size to buy. We discussed the different types of bras one may find comfortable, as well. We had to repeat the segment as it was a new concept to the children, and with the help of the founder, we could explain it thoroughly. Here is an area we will look at for improvement: our skills in communicating demonstrative knowledge over theoretical knowledge, and sequent consolidation.

We went over how to wear a pad and what different menstrual products are available, something we did in our talk for Dribble Academy as well. We were concerned over how this would work online, but the students were already familiar with pads and menstrual hygiene, reciting to us what we were going to explain to them in the next part of the talk. 

We expanded our conversation regarding personal hygiene into taking care of skin and hair as well as taking care of oneself during menstruation. The children had many questions regarding what products to use, and we further discussed the need to use different products depending on how someone’s skin or hair is. The fact that the children found it so easy to accept that they should buy products based on their needs also drove in the point that everyone’s bodies are different and grow differently, hence may need to be treated differently, as well. 

In the end, we talked about attraction. This was also new to us, as it was outside the realm of menstrual and sexual health and hygiene. We did feel awkward at first, to talk about our own experiences with romance and attraction, however, the children seemed comfortable enough with us that we were able to extend the same comfort to ourselves. We spoke about these topics in a familiar manner with them. Having that connection over shared experiences, despite living in different cities and being on opposite ends of the spectrum of privilege is what makes the entire talk worth the extra hours. Seeing them understand, seeing them learn, feeling like we’ve made a difference — that is what drives REDefine. Ashray was our first pan-India venture, an opportunity which arose due to the pandemic. As this session was a success, we look forward to having more communication with wider audiences.

For more information on Ashray: https://ashray-ngo.org

Until next time,

Samara from the REDefine Team.

Author: The REDefine Campaign

A group of students trying to spread the message and bring out of the shell the taboo topics of Menstrual and Sexual Health. The REDefine Campaign is a campaign devoted to helping the population of India understand the key parts of female's life that is known as puberty. This blog is designed to show our progress, reports as well as learnings and new experiences along our journey. We hope that one day this world that we live in will willingly and openly not only talk, but give advice and spread awareness of the bodily cycle that is puberty. We do hope that you learn something along with us, and please spread the word. For any questions please do not be afraid to comment and/or email us. Come along with us on our journey!

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