“It would be so much better if it never happened at all.”
“Why does it happen?”
A question that is asked by every girl across the world when she faces ‘this’ for the first time. This?? Puberty and its related issues; issues often discussed between a girl and her mother, elder siblings or at school.
When we first decided to hold a camp to discuss this ‘sensitive’ topic, we were not sure of what to expect. The centre authorities, though not discouraging, were apprehensive. Was our relationship with the children strong enough for them to open up to us with any concerns that they might have? With questions lingering in our mind, MAD Delhi decided to set the ball rolling with a ‘Health Camp’ at one of our all girls home, Chhatravas.
Our partner-in-alliance was the Corporate Executive Board, which is known to take some laudable CSR initiatives (yeah, they played Santa as well for our kids during Christmas) and got all their employees to be a part of the camp. Being a specific-to-girls camp, we also roped in gynaecologists and SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise – which has had many previous endeavours in the field of puberty and its related issues).
We were a little apprehensive initially, wondering whether the children would relate to these ‘strangers’, and whether the ‘strangers’ would be at ease with our kids. However, it was only a matter of time before we realized how effortlessly the entire hall had been converted into a small playground, with sounds of laughter and songs piercing the early morning stillness. More than 120 girls and 30 female CEB employees, divided into groups, played games, brainstormed over quizzes and discussed topics related to health and hygiene.
Alongside, the girls enlivened the atmosphere with their self-made-games. All they needed were some songs and someone to dance and act on them. Yes, we were declared “out” from the games most of the times, but yes, the kids would very graciously give us a second, third, and fourth chance!!
In no time every person present – volunteers and the employees – were back to being kids again. ^_^
Slowly, the girls, shedding their hesitation, came up with various queries on puberty. Our prime purpose was achieved! The questions were answered by the team of doctors. The CEB employees also made it easier for the adolescent girls to understand the various WHYs and HOWs using self-explanatory posters that the girls found most useful.
We had three doctors conducting simultaneous checkups for the kids and the entire event was interspersed with some fun activities for all! :D
When all the checkups got over, members from SIFE gave a presentation on Sanitary Solutions to help create awareness about benefits of using sanitary napkins and encourage girls to talk freely about menstruation, associated stigmas and diseases that may arise due to lack of hygiene.
Their questions of what, why and how were answered in a much articulated way. The girls led the discussion into a constructive interactive session and showed no inhibitions in voicing their concerns. They were also presented with health kits.
At the end of the day, it looked like we were successful in creating awareness about health and hygiene-an important part of a child’s life. We taught our kids to deal with an extremely relevant aspect of being a girl. So, as the words “It is normal” echoed several times through the day, we know our girls will not break into cold sweat as Anne Frank did, convinced that she was suffering with some fatal disease and that she’d die soon, when she had her first cycle.
Success of the event can be summarised by the phone call of appreciation from the Trustee of Chhatravas, appreciating the maturity with which the event was handled. Kudos to all involved!
Authored by Purva Narain