Our Collaboration with Salaam Baalak Trust

Our second session at Salaam Baalak Trust was testament to how different a talk can be at the same institution.

Dear reader,

As you know by now, our articles serve as our own feedback  to develop our campaign. For this article, I’m trying a new format to present our feedback in a more constructive and concise manner., 

Future Advice #1: Document the names of the girls who attend our session each time. When we reached Salaam Baalak Trust for the second time, we were welcomed by smiles from faces familiar and new. Because we hadn’t written the names of the girls from our first talk, it took longer than usual to populate the little mats on the sunbathed roof. 

Future Advice #2: RLD (Response Language Detection) does work. If you find this term cool, it’s because I coined it. In our previous talks, we often struggled to understand which language our audience is more comfortable with when using scientific terminology. We came up with a strategy to overcome this – when introducing a body part on a diagram, we would teach them both the Hindi and English term for it. To test their knowledge, we would then ask them to name the body part as we pointed at it. The language the majority responded in indicated which one they were more comfortable with. For instance, we applied RLD by introducing the term for “vagina” in both languages, English and Hindi (“yoni”). When asked to respond, most referred to it as the “vagina”, suggesting we could use English terms later. 

RLD in action

Future Advice #3: Draw and carry diagrams for all biological topics that can be spoken about – ranging from the menstrual cycle to sexual intercourse. While our biological segment covers menstruation, a diagram depicting the menstrual cycle can help expand on the topic if our audience permits us to. “Permitting” is, of course, a vaguely interpreted term and we couldn’t rely on the possibility of questions to gauge how comfortable or curious our audience was. The seemingly less talkative girls intermittently nodded when we recounted our experiences with vaginal discharge, which we ascertained to be a green flag to elaborate on this phenomenon. Even though we were able to expand on vaginal discharge in terms of varying thickness and colour, a diagram would have proved more than helpful. When the concept of sex was met with a few confused looks, we were forced to rely on some classic hand gestures which, quite surprisingly, sent the message. 

Future Advice #4: Stick to the dispersed seating arrangement. As opposed to sitting next to each other as we did this session, we would politely ask our listeners whether they could scoot to the left a little bit – thank you, I’ll sit here, if you don’t mind. We’ve noticed that the shy, yet inquisitive, audience members take advantage of this arrangement and whisper their doubts to the nearest REDefine member while others are more vocal. This time, because we sat together, we only received questions that were addressed to the group (which were comparatively fewer). When bidding farewell to Salaam Baalak Trust, a girl approached me to ask about how height changes upon puberty. While I appreciated the question, I reflected on why she didn’t ask me during the talk. Perhaps it was because of our group arrangement. This really helped us identify how the simple subconscious act of scattering ourselves through our audience encouraged questions. 

Our collaboration with Salaam Baalak Trust was definitely a memorable one, showing us the effectiveness of new strategies and the importance of old habits. We look forward to implementing our learnings in future talks!

We’ll see you next time,

Ritika from the REDefine Team

Remember to check out and support the amazing work Salaam Baalak Trust is doing: https://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/

Our Talk at Salaam Baalak Trust

The REDefine Campaign gets the opportunity to talk to engage in one of the open and casual conversation we’ve had with the girls from the Salaam Baalak Trust.

Google Maps, our friend and foe, got us lost in an alley before we found the Salaam Baalak Trust building. The red brick building was much easier to find last time, but luck was not in our favour today. It stood cheerier than similarly tiered houses in the seemingly deserted neighbourhood. It is the only NGO we can safely say has an aesthetic – red brick warmth interwoven with black wrought iron. But I speak for all of us when I say we associate it with a tragic story one of the girls narrated to us before we left.

Tara’s favourite – Lakshmi (you may remember her from our post on the survey we conducted here) held her hand the moment we entered the gate and led us inside. Since too many girls at one talk inhibited the interactive aspect of our sessions, we decided to give the talk to only one group of fifteen girls. We sat them down in a circle and then dispersed ourselves in the midst of them. Although all the girls didn’t actively participating, we were satisfied with a general note of comfort and receptiveness from our audience.

Tara and Pranavi (with my occasional inputs) took over and explained the biology behind periods. Unbeknown to us, a few girls had already learnt the functions of the various organs of the female reproductive system. This gave birth (pun intended) to an interesting conversation about pregnancy- which was a slight detour from the standard menses talk. It also prompted our first sex-ed talk which he hadn’t really incorporated into the session before. We have to admit, it was fun to watch the girls giggle as Tara wiggled her finger to depict a sperm.

Ritika and Pranavi taught them our Five Period Points (i.e. five steps/rules of periods and what to and not to do during your period.) It was a relief to hear all the girls were using pads.

Tara and I then dived into the heavier part of our session: the taboos. Being acutely aware that the girls in front of us come from very different backgrounds and are raised with different mindsets, we had to make sure that what we preached would not get them into trouble here. Upon asking them why they think girls aren’t allowed to go to the temple while menstruating, a couple aggressively piped up with retaliation to the common practice. But it was important to remember that these girls were raised in a home and not a household. Their customs were significantly different so, if they knew about most of these taboos, it was because they had heard about them from somewhere else.

That done and dusted, we went back to light conversations with the girls- asking what they were having for lunch and talking about the plans for the upcoming Diwali break. Once we announced the session over, they ran away for their lunch break. All, but one.

She looked much younger than the others but had a note of maturity when she spoke. She recalled the day she was returning from school, pad in hand. Four men sexually assaulted her having allegedly been triggered by her ‘act of defiance’. She went to the police who pointed the finger back at her and blamed her for what happened to her. Hundreds of girls in her village, both young and old were and still are being brought up with that very mindset and hearing her story reminded us how much road has yet to be covered.

Until next time,

Anshika from the REDefine Team

Conducting the Survey at Salaam Baalak Trust

 As opposed to our usual quests looking for NGOs and homes in the nooks and crannies of NCR, the Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) was rather easy to find. When we stopped in front of the brick building our only thought was “this is different.’’ And it was; the brick building stood tall behind a massive iron gate. Once signed in, we were finally allowed to enter the vicinity. The nervousness Pranavi, Tara and I shared was immense — what if there weren’t enough surveys? Would they have stationery?

Our member, Pranavi Jamwal, clarifying some doubts.

Accompanied by our 63 printed surveys, we were excited to meet the girls and to hit another milestone – the REDefine Campaign’s sixth collaboration! The Salaam Baalak Trust is an Indian non-profit and non-governmental organization which provides support for street and working children in the inner cities of New Delhi and Mumbai.

The Salaam Baalak Trust’s amphitheater.

We were taken to a miniature amphitheater blanketed by warm sunlight and waited for the girls to gather before introducing ourselves. The girls present were between 8-17 years old. After introducing ourselves, Pranavi and I passed around the surveys while Tara distributed the pencils to the girls. There was a slight confusion as the surveys were supposed to be for 10-year-old girls and older so we had to ask each of the younger looking ones their age to confirm that we get accurate results from the data collected. It can be benefitting being a psychology student now and then.

Handing out the surveys to the girls.

Once they were distributed, the girls began filling out the surveys, but they also began discussing the questions along with the answers with each other. So far, this has been a major roadblock in our system during every survey we conduct. We approached clusters of girls huddled over their surveys and asked them not to discuss this because this survey was about what they think as opposed to what their friends do. We did eventually get them to stop discussing it among themselves by clarifying their doubts. They became open in terms of asking us questions to understand the survey. After this, the process was smooth and only took us about 30 minutes to wrap up.

We made a friend in a young girl named Lakshmi, who other girls told us couldn’t give the survey. She walked slowly towards the box of colour pencils and asked for a sheet nonetheless. While she became absorbed in her sheet of art, her mental disability was hastily explained to us. It was entertaining watching her organise the colour pencils with Tara as they tried to differentiate between five different kinds of pencils while catering to the other girls’ stationery demands.

Conducting the survey was successful although we interacted with fewer girls than the figure we’d been told would be present. It helped us identify what topics need to be concentrated on and talked about the most with different age groups. Here are the results of the survey:

Question 1
Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6
Question 7
Question 8
Question 9
Question 10

With love,

Anshika from the REDefine Team

Check out SBT’s website: http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/