REDefine, with its new heads, returned to Parkshala after four years to give a talk.
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to give talks online for almost two years. We waited with bated breath for the 10th of May to arrive, a very special day for our team at REDefine: our first offline talk after an unwanted hiatus!
Our audience was a group of 25 girls between the ages of 13-16 taught at the NGO Parkshala™.
Parkshala™ is a charitable organisation in Noida that tutors students who belong to lower-income groups and, in its own words, aims to “bridge the educational and moral gap between economically weak children and their affluent peers.” On the 9th of April, 2018, REDefine gave its first talk at Parkshala, where the founding team discussed menstruation and sex and ended the conversation with a distribution of reusable pads.
Since the talk in 2018 was an excellent experience for our founders, we decided to go back to Parkshala for another talk to track our progress along Parkshala’s.
We started with an introduction, and after playing a ball game to break the ice, we began discussing puberty. Before we went on with our planned script, we asked the girls what bodily changes they had noticed in themselves over the last few years. They were hesitant to speak, but some soft, unsure answers trickled in. They mentioned growth in height, hair growth, widening of the hips, etc. Their responses are what we used to kickstart the talk: by introducing puberty. We distinguished between pubertal changes within males and females. We explained to them that it is crucial to know about these topics since these changes are natural and shouldn’t be taboo.
It was crucial for us to discuss the differences between a male and female reproductive system. We compared the two diagrams to differentiate between the testes, ovaries, penises and vaginas. Although we anticipated unstoppable giggling, the girls were incredibly mature throughout our discussion.
We discussed how the vagina differs from the urethra, as this distinction is often unclear. In such a situation, using menstrual products like tampons, menstrual cups or disks without this knowledge could be harmful. Translating each biological term into Hindi was challenging, as there was no room for error while discussing such a critical topic. The diagrams we used to assist our talk prevented any miscommunication.
We then moved on to the much-awaited portion of our talk: periods. We talked through all its essential aspects, from what they are to how they occur or the symptoms they trigger. Our conversation included basic facts about periods, but most importantly, some medical concerns during menstruation that might require a doctor’s consultation.
We went over the various types of vaginal discharges that ranged from simple bodily cleansing to signs of infections. The topic of infections led us to discuss hygiene during periods. For this, we first explained some critical steps to be taken while one is on their period, like regularly changing a pad or wearing it safely and comfortably to prevent the risk of infection.
Lastly, we talked about consent. We debated whether this sensitive topic should be a part of our talk or not since our audience ranged from the age of 13-year-old girls to 16-year-olds as they have not had the same exposure to relationships as we did. At the same time, it was an extremely crucial topic for them. We decided to take a light approach by talking about “good touch” and “bad touch”. Since we thought the girls might not fully comprehend it in one go, we used the analogy of two people in a car. We asked them to visualise the effects of someone taking over the control of a car they’re driving without their permission and how the consequences of this can be mirrored with non-consensual touch.
In closing, we handed out a short survey to the girls asking questions like “Do periods happen to everyone?”, “Do periods stop after a certain age?” etc. The aim was to evaluate whether we got across to them through our discussion. Afterwards, we discussed the answers with the girls. While there were some misconceptions that we promptly resolved, most of the girls had a thorough understanding of menstruation and its related topics.
To take our efforts further, we distributed some pads, purchased using funds that were raised by the founders, to the girls along with a few snacks and were met with delighted faces.
We also received an innocent question from a young girl who asked, “How will you know if your period has happened?” and an older girl instantly responded by saying that one day she will experience pain near her stomach and when she goes to the washroom, she will notice a little blood on her undergarments. That is when she will know that her period has started. Seeing that simple exchange was incredibly uplifting as the girls seemed to have a sound support system and comfortable environment. We were welcomed to Parkshala with nervous faces, but we bid goodbye to smiling ones!
Here are some links for you to check out Parkshala’s work:
Article by Sia Aggarwal from the REDefine Team