This year started with a Global crisis due to the ongoing Nationwide lockdown caused by the raging pandemic COVID-19, ravaging much of the World. If this was not enough already, Super-cyclone Amphan made landfall on 20th of May 2020, causing devastation in Kolkata, North and South 24 Parganas. The most severe effects of the cyclone were in South and North 24 Parganas Districts of West Bengal. Many people in these two districts are faced with homelessness, destitution and ill health. This cyclone has been unprecedented and has destroyed their lives like no other. In fact socio-economically the state will take minimum 5 years to recover from all the damage .
Kolkata Sanved rose to the occasion and went beyond its routine work of providing awareness on SRHR using Dance Movement Therapy and reached out to hundreds of adolescent girls and their families severely affected by prolonged lockdown and Super Cyclone Amphan. Many of them having lost their means of livelihood, were on the brink of starvation after depleting their meagre savings.
Kolkata Sanved proactively decided to organise funds from willing donors and support deeply distressed families with basic rations of rice, pulse, oil, salt, potato, Soya, turmeric powder, soap, detergent and ofcourse sanitary napkins which is a part of the SRHR initiative to ensure sexual health of the adolescent girls. This was done in collaboration with various NGOs. Masks were also provided for raising COVID-19 awareness.
Between 12th and 14th of March 2020,Kolkata Sanved conducted specially customized Sexual and Reproductive Healthand Rights (SRHR) sessions with Suprava Pachashila Mahila Udyog Samity ( SPMUS) in the district of Murshidabadin West Bengal. 16 participants who are a part of Kolkata Sanved’s traumarecovery module, attended the session. Along with them, 3 care providers attended the sessions, supported by fundsfrom GlobalGiving.
The participants were girls between the age of 13- 20. Theyall live in adjoining communities of Murshidabad and partake in variousprograms and projects of SPMUS.
One of the participants who is a severe trauma survivor wasaccompanied by her mother, who also actively took part in the sessions. Most ofthe participants in the session have experienced some form of gender basedviolence which includes
· sexual violence or harassment
· Commercial sexual exploitation
· Forced and early marriage.
The participants were also at vulnerable adolescent age andwere at risk of finding themselves in unsafe romantic entanglements. Due tolack of knowledge, some of them have shown signs of risky sexual behavior. Oneparticipant in the class was HIV positive. Due to lack of knowledge on thetopic, she faces stigma from her peers. She was also not aware of how toeffectively take care of herself. Because of all this, it was felt that theyneeded inputs on sexuality and healthy relationships. For this purpose aspecially customized workshop was designed.
Objectives of the workshop was to
· Deconstruct discourses aroundgender and sexuality
· Impart health basedinformation to enhance well being
· Learning how to set boundaries
· Learning how to Identify unhealthy relationships
· Learning how to navigaterelationships.
· Learning how to identify Safe space
The facilitator also spoke about the need to understand thedifference between violence and consensual sexual activity and how it’simportant to critically think about ideas perpetuated in society, that we areexpected to follow.
The key outcomes of the workshop are summed up below :
· Participants learnt about theirbodies
· They became more aware of how to work on health and hygiene
· Participants learnt how tonavigate relationships in adolescence
· started thinking criticallyaround social norms
· Participants became aware oftheir rights in terms of relationships.
Kolkata Sanved (KS) implemented its module on “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” in collaboration with Jeevika Development Society (JDS) at its school centers in the remote village in West Bengal. The name of the school was Bakrahat Girl’s High School. The sessions were supported by funds from Global Giving. This module was for adolescent girls in the remote rural school. 42 attended the sessions.
The bodies of adolescent girls go through various changes during puberty. Often young girls have little knowledge about what these changes are and why they are happening. Along with this adolescent girls face many pressures due to the misconceptions in society regarding the roles of women. Having limited access to safe spaces for questioning, many young girls get their information from incorrect sources which often puts them at a risk. Therefore the aim of this module was to give vulnerable young girls especially from marginalized section of Society, access to knowledge about their bodies. Having this knowledge they would be better equipped to take care of their health and well being. In an effort to expand the uses of Dance Movement Therapy Kolkata Sanved realized that DMT could be a powerful educative tool. Therefore KS uses the “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)” module where dance is not used therapeutically but used for the process of awareness building to enlighten young girls on these issues. For example they did not know the correct names of their body parts or the scientific processes behind menstruation and the spread of HIV.
KS had an enriching journey working on the SRHR module with JDS. Further collaborations in this regard will contribute greatly to empowering more vulnerable adolescent girls.
The adolescent girls of the remote villages in Kakdwip were taken through the SRHR workshop.
Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas district is in the Indian State of West Bengal. It is situated on the eastern banks of the Hooghly River quite near where the river meets the Bay of Bengal. Some of the reasons for focusing in this area was because of the alarming rate of school dropout by adolescent girls, followed by early marriage, teen pregnancy apart from risks of being trafficked. The SRHR workshops for adolescent girls between the ages of 14 and 19, were held in collaboration with Indian Institute of Training & Development (IITD) who already have a presence in the area.
Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) module where dance is used for the process of awareness building to enlighten young girls, create safe space and ensure that marginalized sections of the society are not deprived of their right to the knowledge.
Some topics covered during the workshop included Body awareness, reduce stigma regarding body and its organs, health concern related to reproductive organs and personal hygiene during menstruation as well as teach about HIV AIDS, risks of transmission and protection from the disease. Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights to enable them to access their Rights and minimize chances of risk. 28 participants were taken through the workshop.
At the end of the workshop, objectives were met when two participants who were ready to get married decided after the session, that they would not get married until they reached the appropriate age. Many have been motivated to first complete their education, become financially independent and then think about marriage. Even if they are pressurized into marriage by their parents, they have the capacity & confidence now, to stand up for themselves. Sharing some pictures of the SRHR sessions in Kakdwip :
SRHR Workshops were also held at Lutheran World Services Trust (LWSIT) in the City of Kolkata for adolescent girls who are mostly children of Sex workers and face a high risk. The objective of the workshop here was to create awareness of HIV and Safe Space. The participants asked questions like- a) Can HIV spread if two people use the same blade and one of them is infected? b) How early can the virus be detected and does the risk increase if it is detected after a very long time? There was a high level of interest and engagement wherein a lot of their queries and wrong notions were cleared. They all understood how important it was to be aware of one’s own body and its function and needs so that they have the agency to voice their opinion and desire. The activity around safe space boosted their confidence. No pictures were taken since the youngsters were reluctant of being photographed.
Since Coochbehar is close to the border and vulnerable to trafficking, it was felt that we should continue focusing on Coochbehar and reach out to as many adolescents as possible.
Coochbehar is a city and municipality in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is the headquarters of Cooch Behar district and is in the foothills of Eastern Himalayas. Cooch behar district has 549.45 Km long Indo-Bangladesh border of which more than 300 Km is fenced. Rest is open and at many places of open Indo-Bangladesh Border is riverine. Border crimes such as smuggling, infiltration, human trafficking and cattle smuggling is rampant in some portions of the riverine border.
The Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) sessions using Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) conducted by three facilitators in Govt. schools had been highly appreciated by the adolescent students & Teachers alike. In fact, there was a request from the Government authorities to conduct SRHR in more rural schools of Cooch Behar as there had been a substantial decrease in the number of school drop outs and an increase in the confidence level of adolescent girls. An internal decision was taken by our organization to focus in Coochbehar district this Financial Year, ending on 31st March 2019. Sessions for the adolescent girls had been conducted in Govt. schools of Bhavalmore and Rail Gumti area of Coochbehar with total number of participants being 62. Apart from increasing awareness on the risks of falling prey to trafficking, they were made aware of the risks of early marriage, unprotected sex, HIV, condom usage and their overall safety and well being. The sessions helped many youngsters to overcome their inhibitions and ignorance around the topics of sexuality.
Particular mention of a young teenaged girl named Putul (name changed), who was extremely withdrawn and aggressive at the start of the session, refusing to communicate with anyone. A senior facilitator took her in confidence and shared her own personal story with her. By the end of the fourth day of the program, there was a noticible change in the youngster’s behaviour. She started connecting with the rest, shared peer bonding and was far more at peace with herself.
In the next quarter, SRHR programs will be conducted in various Govt. schools in and around West Bengal, especially areas prone to trafficking.
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