Madhavi Jadhav

Reaching out to Adolescents

As a teenager, Madhavi had to rely on her peer group and Wikipedia to acquire information on human reproduction. Determined that today’s adolescents should not suffer her fate, her organization has collaborated with the NGOs in Pune to reach out to the students to provide them sex education.

My mother didn’t know how to use a sanitary pad, so when I started my periods, she did get them for me, but couldn’t explain how to use them. I figured that out a few years later. I asked her the reason behind getting periods. She evaded giving an answer by telling me to refer to the textbooks. My teacher skipped the chapter on reproductive organs, my only scope to get educated about periods.

When I was studying in Std. 9, the most important question that was oscillating in my mind was, “How are babies made?” Since I knew my parents wouldn’t explain, I turned to my friends who were sailing in the same boat. Finally, I had to refer to Wikipedia to get the answer. Till that time, thanks to Bollywood, I used to think when a boy and girl kiss each other, a baby is born.

Talking about sex is a taboo in our country. It starts when parents tell us about our body parts. Like our nicknames, the vagina and penis also get their nicknames, ‘noni ‘or ‘susu’. We all know the words for hands or feet or nose in our native languages. How many of us even knew the actual words for penis or vagina in our mother tongue when we were children?

Communication is the key between parents, teachers and kids. The reason for discussion about sex being a taboo is poor communication between parents and kids. Parents need to be role models and need to make their child realise the importance of love, affection, care and commitment in a relationship. They need to explain that sex is something precious to be shared with the person you love and not just an act of physical satisfaction. The emotional problems that come up with losing virginity at an early age or those that come along with having sex with multiple partners needs to be explained to your child with a lot of patience. Children also need to understand that their parents are the ones in whom they need to confide. They should also be aware that all information that comes from friends and elsewhere needs to be confirmed as it may not always be true. Children need to judge better for themselves what is right and wrong and what will be good for them in the future.

We not only have an online presence but an offline one as well. Since inception, we have reached out to 10 schools by means of workshops on puberty and other related topics. This has helped us contribute to ‘informed growing up’ of 2000+ students. We have collaborated with the NGOs in Pune Nirmiti and Rotary Club to reach out to students in Municipal schools of Pune. Our comic book will help educate kids aged between 10-16 on topics like periods, homosexuality, gender equality, how babies are made, depression in a very lucid manner using beautiful illustrations, cartoon characters and an engaging storyline based on some real life situations. With this comic book around, kids will be well informed about the changes taking place in their bodies. They will have access to correct information thereby relieving them of any embarrassment related to body shape and size.

We want to tie up with the leading schools in India. In the coming academic year, we want to tie up with at least 5 schools. We would also like to collaborate with NGOs like Tathapi, Stree Shakti Sansthan, Goonj and Enfold. We want to reach out to around 3 million kids in India in the next 5 years to make their growing up process easier. We also plan to translate these books into various Indian regional languages and a few foreign languages to reach out to maximum number of kids.

The feedback we receive after every workshop or live session we conduct or the requests to conduct such workshops inspires me further. I get motivated to put in more effort to reduce myths regarding sex every time an adolescent asks questions like, “Will masturbation have any ill effect on me?” The appreciation that we get from the work we do keeps me going. It is tough some days when you see you are missing out on a hefty paycheque, a European vacation or dining out in an amazing restaurant…, but then, if you dream different, you need to leave behind such enticement.


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