Talking about Tabooed Topics

 

Naina Jha is the Program and Outreach Officer at Patna. She is a PR professional working with Greymatters Communications. She has worked with hospitals, advertising and PR agencies and has been working with ICWA to educate slum kids since 2005. She has also worked as a freelancer with Gender Resource Centre, Patna. She loves working for the uplifting of slum children and gender sensitisation and wishes to make this society a better place to live in. She is a budding writer, avid learner, traveller, and a happy soul. A sociology graduate who holds a masters degree in human resources, she has a few more degrees up her sleeves but most importantly she is a mother to a beatific little angel.

Talking about Tabooed Topics- Puberty and Menstruation

Naina Jha conducted a workshop on ‘Puberty and Menstruation’ for 150 students  from Std VIth to Xth at Inter College Women’s Association (ICWA) in Patna on 4th July, 2017. She writes,

ICWA is an NGO working towards education for slum children and women. It trains students and helps them get admitted in various schools while also taking care of their educational expenses. Most of the students come from unprivileged backgrounds where nobody talks about such matters openly.

Due to previous interactions, the students and I already knew each other which made it easier to initiate a conversation with them about puberty and menstruation. I started by asking them about their understanding of puberty only to realise that many of them hadn’t heard the word before. I explained that puberty was a phase during which the body develops and matures from childhood to adulthood. During this phase the body, of both boys and girls, goes through physical changes. Hormonal changes during puberty consequently cause changes in thoughts, feeling and attitudes. Feelings anger, irritation, longing to explore, rebellion are all part and parcel of the phase. A boy asked whether this was the time during which they developed feelings for girls and vice versa to which I agreed. He asked why they were often scolded for liking someone. I informed that it was okay to like someone but stalking, staring, cat-calling which other boys their age did was all wrong and disrespectful. On hearing this the class giggled out of embarrassment. 

We then went on to talk about menstruation, why and how it happens, good hygienic habits to have, etc. Then I asked them about taboos associated with menstruation. Some of their replies were- no touching certain food items or plants, no worshipping, one should not drink milk and so on. So I cleared those myths by citing examples that only Hindu and Muslim women are not allowed to worship when they are menstruating Christian women are allowed to go to their place of worship- churches. I thus explained that the rules varied according to religion and not bodily function. I also explained that if I were living alone and didn’t tend to my plants during the five days of menstruation those plants would die. Thus, through the use of simple examples I helped clear myths ans taboos. I also spoke about Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), the symptoms that were felt and ways of coping with it.

At the end of the session, I welcomed any questions they had. A girl enquired whether there were ways to reduce the pain during menstrual cramps to which I suggested certain yoga positions. One boy asked why is it important for boys to know about menstruation when it is a ‘girly’ process. I told him that it was important to eradicate taboos and the shame and embarrassment around topics like menstruation. It was equally important to talk about so that they could teach their younger siblings and daughters about menstruation before hand so that they could accept it as something completely normal.”

 

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