Our Talk at the ANK Foundation

After reaching ANK, an organization situated in corner of a small village in Noida, we familiarized ourselves with the girls at the school. Surveys proved to be the most helpful when it came to finding common ground as it provided both, us and the audience, a sense of familiarity and a basis to help our talk. Click here for the results of the survey.

This time we changed the formation in which we give our talks. Our aim was for the audience to view our talk as a “discussion” rather than a “lecture”. In order to change their perspective, we decided to sit in a circle. The new seating arrangement helped us attain a comfort level that would help our points be conveyed with impact.

Our new circle formation.

Although we have incorporated poster-based visuals in our talk in the past, this was the first time we made a presentation which solely consisted of pictures: the female reproductive system, a silhouette of a woman, pad companies, and a pad.

While conducting the talk, we observed, with admiration, that these girls were much more aware and responsive compared to the ones at our earlier talks. Usually, when we address taboos, the girls remain silent or are very tense. At ANK, many girls spoke up and shared anecdotes where they questioned authority in relation to periods. One girl, in fact, debunked a few taboos before we could. “Inme koi logic nahi hai, pehele vigyaan nahi tha iseliya unki soch aise thi”, she said, conveying that these taboos came into being due to the lack of scientific knowledge. Although their views were very forward, when a male teacher entered the room they lapsed into silence once more.

Talking about taboos with the girls.

One girl asked about women who do not get their period. When told that these women are not able to give birth, uncomfortable murmurs in our audience told us this topic was viewed with a negative connotation. For future talks, we decided this matter needed to be addressed in a way that allows girls to be proud of having periods, as well as being understanding or and comfortable with not getting their periods.

While giving the talk, we unintentionally directed a lot of our talk to the more responsive girls in the circle. Those who were too shy to ask questions out loud directed them to a member of the group who was sitting near them. This cross-talk caused girls to stop paying attention to the central talk. and individual conversations. We made a mental note to set some guidelines to follow before the talk: ask questions when we give you time to and although we respect private questions, they should be voiced out because other girls might have similar questions. Besides, the more everyone knows, the better.

From left to right: Anshika Gupta, Pranavi Jamwal, Tara Palchaudhuri, Meher Shivie Choudhry and Ritika Khosla

Some girls were hesitant to touch or pass around the pad that we were using in our demonstration of how to use and dispose pads. Despite us insisting that they were clean and that they would have to use them one day or another, a few girls simply didn’t want to come near it. This is a phenomenon we have noticed repeatedly. Every time, we try to improvise different ways to acquaint them with sanitary napkins and although we grow more successful, we have never been 100% so.

Overall, the talk was incredibly successful and will definitely be one of the most memorable ones. By the end of the talk, we all were really comfortable with each other and the girls weren’t afraid to ask us any questions. Our new format and visual aids too proved to be successful and this opened options for our presentations in the future. The fact that they shared personal experiences was really appreciated. In fact, we were cordially invited to spend Bakr Eid with the girls!

Remember to check the out the fantastic work the ANK Foundation is doing:

https://www.ankindia.org

Keep reading!

Ritika from the REDefine Team

The Survey at the ANK Foundation

Here are the results we collected from the survey we conducted at the ANK Foundation.

Two young boys guided Tara and me through the narrow, winding lanes of a little village in the middle of Noida. Tucked away behind a wall, the community buzzed in and out of local shops and living quarters. We crossed a marble mosque which shone a marvelous green in the middle of the comparatively colourless We grew slightly nervous with each step. How would the girls react? Would we be able to successfully explain our aim to them? Will we get credible results and be able to control any complications that might occur? Considering there were only two members, the possibilities were endless.

 ANK is an NGO designed to help provide learning facilities to children all over Delhi/NCR who aren’t able to afford or have access to quality education. In order to achieve this, ANK has created learning centers to promote their goal, and that was where we went. We entered a dark classroom adorned with colorful posters and met eleven girls who were hastily explained who we were and what we were there to do. As soon as the word ‘period’ was uttered, coy glances were shared; a response we’d become painfully familiar with.

The ritual hunt for pens and pencils and the search for comfortable places to sit preceded answering the survey. Our first problem would soon become a frequent visitor to surveys we’d conduct in the future: the students began to discuss their answers. We explained to them that the point of the survey was to establish some solid background information for our talk, but it is something that we should have kept in mind. We happened to be the least proficient in Hindi but it was a manageable situation. The students did their best to answer, and were not hesitant to call us if they did not understand any word or question. We were able to wrap up the survey in 20-30 minutes, and as the children cheerfully waved us goodbye, we were excited to see how the talk with ANK would go.

Here is the data we collected from the survey:

Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6
Question 7
Question 8
Question 9
Question 10
Question 11
Question 12
Question 13
Question 14
Question 15
Question 17

Stick around!

Jhanvi from the REDefine Team

The Period Survey Conducted in Rainbow Homes

The REDefine members were pumped to meet our largest group of girls, 73 to be exact, yet (today, it was just Tara, Jhanvi, Anshika, Shresth, and Meher) and introduce them to our first male member. In a flurry of excitement, we frantically printed 100 surveys that hadn’t been assembled beforehand. Would the survey prove more successful and yield more information than the last time?

One survey was for girls who had already started their periods while the other one was for girls who had not yet. Both the surveys were printed out in Hindi and had the options ‘yes’ or ‘haan’, ‘no’ or ‘naa’ and ‘maybe’ or ‘shaayad’.

Hidden behind the crowded lanes of Kilkari, the Rainbow Home was like a gated island of joy — tucked away from the thousands of men going about their day. It was, admittedly, an experience navigating the sea of people with only a confused Google Maps as a compass. When we reached the were greeted by a courtyard of girls playing during their lunch break. They were organized into two classrooms on the basis of their age groups. And thus, we began our survey!

A buzz grew in the rooms as the girls discovered what the survey was really about. As with all most of our encounters, the initial lack of response was slightly disheartening but, following the trend, whispers slowly turned to enthusiastic chatter. We noticed some girls were copying each other’s answers or asking their teachers for help. As much as we tried to stop this by telling them to answer their own survey honestly and by emphasising the fact that it was not a test, a few girls’ answers were not their own. Therefore, the data collected from this survey was not of the quality we had intended it to be. 

Some of the younger girls couldn’t understand the questions while some could not read or write. We sat each of these girls down and guided them through the survey. This process actually facilitated a lot of discussions and highlighted a few issues with the survey. We observed that sentences needed to be framed better and the confusion between what a question was asking and the objective or aim of that question needed to be addressed.

The walk back to the car was composed of a feedback session of sorts where we discussed the survey questions, our individual experiences while helping the girls fill in the surveys, their reactions to some of the questions and what topics our upcoming talk with them could include. This was documented in a voice recording that soon became tradition following any interactions we had.

In conclusion, the survey was a partial success as we managed to take a survey of our first large group of girls and also figured out the flaws in our survey.

The results of the survey are as follow:

Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6
Question 7 
Question 8
Question 9 
Question 10
Question 11 
Question 12
Question 13
Question 14

Happy reading!

Meher from the REDefine Team.

Our Visit To SETU: Talking To the Middle School Girls

After the incessant preparation, the REDefine Team gave their first talk at an actual school.

Dear reader,

When Saturday arrived, we rushed through our content before letting Jyotsana Srivastava, the SETU program director, herd us into the dining hall. In the few minutes that the girls took to get settled, we struck up a general conversation to help break the ice.

Our talk began with a brief introduction about the content of our talk (which went along the lines of, “kya aapko pata hai hum aaj kis cheez ke bare mein baat karne aaye hain?”– “do you know what we have come to talk about?”) and received a chorus of the word “periods!”.

Ritika talking to the girls.

With a brief overview of what periods are and why they happen, our talk segued into the female reproductive system. With a little persistence from the girls, we elaborated on each of the four organs that make up the system. This inadvertently explained how menstruation is imperative in order to be able to give birth. In our eyes, this knowledge gives women a sense of clarity surrounding what occurs in our own body. Often, in cultures around the world, incorrect facts, myths, and taboos stem from this lack of knowledge– which is what we are trying to battle.

“Why don’t boys have periods?” was probably our favourite question towards the end of this session. Why shouldn’t they?

SETU Talk 14
From left to right: Meher Shivie Choudhry, Anshika Gupta, Ritika Khosla and Tara Palchaudhuri

“What about some people who never get their periods?” — a challenging question because in order to explain the concept of infertility, irregular periods and not menstruating at all – we needed to take the session two steps further.

“What are the organs responsible for menstruation called? Where are they in our body?”– this was explained this with the help of a diagram which we used to point out our reproductive system.

The next section was divided into two parts: how to use pads and personal care.

We explained the importance of using pads instead of other alternatives like pieces of cloth and/or straw. Then we proceeded to show them how to use a pad with the help of a sample sanitary napkin and then briefed them on the disposal method that should be used for a pad.

SETU Talk 7
Tara explaining how to use pads.

In the personal care section, we shared five main points that were important for them to keep in mind for hygienic purposes:

  1. Use pads when on your period
  2. Dispose of pads properly
  3. Change pads every 4-6 hours
  4. Wash hands after changing pads
  5. Never forget to bathe when on your period

It was obediently repeated in their choral sing-song manner until we were satisfied with what they remembered.

The final section was introduced with the question: are you not allowed to do some specific things while on your period? And have you ever asked why?

SETU Talk 3

We had an enthusiastic discussion on how most taboos do not have any logical reasoning behind them and how these stigmas have no actual scientific backing towards them. We told them how having periods did not make one ‘impure’ or ‘dirty’ in any way. We also played a game of ‘Chinese Whisper’ in order to show how a simple notion such as ‘one should rest during their period’ can turn to ‘do not enter the kitchen while menstruating’. The parallel was easily brought about when ‘I like chocolate’ evolved into something about pigeons after one round of the game.

Before concluding our talk, we still had one final thing to do. We asked the girls whether they had learnt anything new from the talk and if it was helpful to them in any way. They told us that they learnt about the ovaries and other organs which they had never heard of before but that a similar talk had already once been conducted with them before. So, in conclusion, our talk was successful in many ways even though most of the girls had already been briefed on this topic. What our talk did encompass was the social aspect of being in a woman’s body– a situation that can involve immense hardship in Indian society.

With love,

Meher from the REDefine Team

Preparation for the SETU Talk

Preparing for the SETU talk was the second time we sat down and structured our forthcoming talk.

Dear reader,

The results of the survey mentioned in our previous post gave us an idea of the girls’ rudimentary knowledge of periods. It formed the basic structure for planning our talk (click here to see the results).

The planning process had many challenges to offer. Despite our general fluency in everyday Hindi, we had to turn to Google Translate during  fairly often. What were the Hindi translation for “ovaries” or “vagina?” and are they even used to begin with? Our didis took time out of their day to answer our vague questions about the female reproductive system. With approval from their and awkward choral repetition from our end, we reached a comfort level with our content.

Our next challenge was figuring out the structure. Initially, Meher, Tara and I decided to split the talk amongst ourselves by rotating the talks amongst the three of us — one sentence each. After practicing the talk in front of my father, we received suggestions that helped mold our talk. He proposed that we divide the talk into bigger sections and then allot them amongst ourselves. We then divided our talk into six main sections: an introduction with a brief overview of puberty, the biology behind periods, the importance of hygiene during periods, what should be used during periods, the various social stigmas surrounding and a revision session entertaining their (hopefully) many questions.

Picturing ourselves as the audience, we came to a consensus that visual aids and activities would make the talk more interactive and engaging. For the introduction, Tara decided to use a silhouette of a woman as we can point out the areas where females experience changes during puberty. This would help us convey our message in case they weren’t familiar with biological terms in Hindi. Tara was also responsible for hygiene and felt that applying a pad on an underwear in front of them would help give the girls and understanding of how it is done, as visuals do help. If they aren’t comfortable with seeing one being whipped out, shouldn’t they be?

Meher was responsible for the biology and question and answer session. From the experience at Parkshala, she realized that the need for a detailed diagram of the reproductive system isn’t required. Instead, she required a silhouette to point our where the system is. The presence of visuals, thus, seemed to be imperative again. To further enhance her talk and make it more engaging, she felt it would be fun to have a mini quiz at the end. This would help, both, making the talk interactive and ensuring the girls have a clear takeaway.

For combating social stigmas, I felt it would be best get the job done through an activity. The mishaps in communication across generations that give birth to social stigmas, she decided to relate them to a game of “Chinese Whisper”.

In fear of under preparation, we practiced the speech numerous times within ourselves and in front of our parents. Positive feedback from our folks was the green light for visiting the school to finally execute the talk.

Stick with us to know how it went!

Ritika from the REDefine Team