Another week flew by! Some highlights from the last week:
I invited expert Health educator and founder of the Mythri initiative, Sinu Joseph to one of our sessions. She is a wonderful person who has committed her energy and talents to educating girls about being girls. During the session, she asked the kids to raise their hands if they had already attained puberty — six girls raised their hands shyly. As a warm up to the session, she started talking about her experiences with getting her period for the first time: she thought she had hurt herself on seeing the blood. She told them that she had thought that men wore sanitary napkins too! The kids thought she was hilarious and related to the naivety and cluelessness of her experience.
The girls who had attained puberty shared their stories about how they got their first period. Some of them were at school when it happened, some taking a bath when it happened. Sharing their stories about their first period was a way to tell the girls that getting their period is their special and unique moment and instead of being ashamed of it, they should be proud.
Sinu’s Mythri initiative had made an extremely informative video module in Kannada (with English subtitles) that talks about the common myths and misconceptions, biological basics and hygienic practices regarding menstruation. We screened the half hour video for them using a portable projector and a white sheet. The kids really enjoyed the videos and had many questions to ask. It was nice to see them share their concerns like: what do I do if I don’t get regular periods OR is menstrual blood impure blood? At the end of the session, Sinu urged the girls to share what they had learnt with their mothers and sisters and carry it forward. I told the girls to document whatever they learnt in the journals I had given them, and add any questions they have.
Working closely with these kids, it was obvious how bright all of them were. These kids are so impressionable and receptive that they are ready to learn any knowledge that comes their way. At another session, we had a “Dream Day”. We asked every girl to stand up and tell us what they wanted to do with their lives. We got 5 doctors, 6 engineers, 3 school teachers, and 4 dancers/musicians. I asked them how they plan to accomplish their goals: they said that they had to finish high school and college for a better life. We emphasized that they could do anything they wanted as long as they worked hard, were determined and had ambition. If boys can do it, so can girls. The kids heartily agreed. One even said, “I will finish school because I can!”
We summarized the session with asking them what they had learnt. One resoundingly common theme for them was that it was important to take care of themselves. I asked them if they had talked to their “amma-s and akka-s (mothers and sisters)” about the session. They said they had. I told the girls they should talk about these things with their loved ones to spread awareness within their community. We even touched upon the recent rapes that had occurred in New Delhi and one girl said that she had heard about it. I couldn’t tell if the others had heard about it as well. I decided that “rape” was a discussion topic for another day.
We even listened to a motivational song “I am Woman” by Helen Reddy” in one of the sessions. In many ways, the song related to the themes we have been covering in our sessions. This song is about women can be strong and invincible. I went over the meaning of the lyrics with the kids and the translator helped me explain some phrases they didn’t know. At the end of the song, the kids knew the chorus and were humming it happily. The chorus had three critical lines: “I am Strong, I am Invincible, I am Woman!” They were eager to learn more songs like it. By the end of the session, whenever we asked them a question or asked them to answer their own questions, they all said “…because I am strong…” Those words can pull anyone out of dark times and help propel them towards greater things. That they were saying those words themselves was heartwarming.
One more week and then I’m back to Mac!