The conversations surrounding sexual health awareness is still considered a taboo in our society. Most people avoid talking about it especially with teenagers or school children. This often leads to inquisitiveness on the part of younger ones to know more about their sexual health through various sources. When Niyati Sharma was faced with similar delusions in class 12th, she approached her mother with her queries. Her mother, a gynaecologist by profession always ensured that she had no such queries related to such sensitive topics.
Niyati had the privilege of access to sexual education, but many find it difficult to educate themselves. This led her to start Pratisandhi- a youth-led organisation which spreads awareness on sexual health. Started in 2018, the organisation aims to provide a safe space for the young people where they could get education -on such sensitive issues through workshops and events on these topics.
In a conversation with The Logical Indian, Niyati Sharma says, "When I was 17, I found out that a lot of friends came up to me with sexuality-related topics. Since my mother was a gynaecologist, I used to help them in clarifying their doubts related to sexual health topics. This made me realize the importance of initiating dialogues on such sensitive topics. With this organization, I want to build a platform where people could openly come out and discuss sexual health or awareness related matters."
What started as a small initiative has now turned into a full-fledged volunteer-run organisation. The vision behind this is to normalise conversations around sexual health and change the attitude of people on a tabooed topic. They have reached out to more than 5000 through their workshops. Her team has over 45 volunteers and seven core members working in cohesion. Right now, the organization works from Delhi, but they have the plan to set up their branches in other cities as well. They have a branch in Hyderabad as well but it is not active yet.
"One of the major challenges that we face in India is the mindset associated with sexual health matters. When we approach schools for workshops, they usually feel that sexual health awareness in adolescents could be completed in just one or two sessions. This is where we lack as being facilitators for sexual health education in India. It is a comprehensive topic and we need to have the correct approach while educating adolescents about it." shares Niyati Sharma while speaking with The Logical Indian
As children move through the teenage years, they become inquisitive about the changes in their bodies. It is crucial to provide adequate knowledge to them at a stage when they're undergoing a transition. Niyati adds that it is important for parents to talk openly to their children on such sensitive matters from early years. It will help them to establish a healthy relationship with their bodies. The NGO ensures that students from lower strata of society are educated as well and often conduct seminars in association with other non-profit organizations.
"Initially, I thought that private schools would be more open to including sexual health-related topics. Although when we approached private schools, they just wanted to conduct one or two sessions. Contrary to our expectations, government schools were more open in initiating conversations with students. It is important for students to have a platform where they could open upon such matters." shares Niyati Sharma with The Logical Indian
Besides the workshops for children and adolescents, open mic events on sexual health and sexuality are also organised. With such events, the youth could find a platform where they could open up on taboo topics.
The cases related to child sexual abuse are on the rise. It is important for children and adolescents to be aware of their bodies. In case they are being abused by any perpetrator, they should be able to discuss it with their parents in their language. Many small children are not familiar with the appropriate language that would describe 'good touch' or 'bad touch' as it is not in their vocabulary. Therefore, such interactive workshops or sessions are important for them.
"The notion of consent needs to be discussed with children. It will help them to keep themselves safe against any abuse. Such discussions also aids the psychological development which happens in the teenage years." adds Niyati.
While educating young children, they follow UN guidelines and health association guidelines as it is a sensitive topic. Further, she adds that such sessions have to be extremely interactive as children get bored easily. Through her platform, she wants children to open up on such topics rather than just talk in hushed tones about it. It would let the community take a progressive approach to sexual health-related matters.
The Logical Indian appreciates Pratisandhi for building a constructive platform where open conversations can take place. With such open platforms, the stigma attached to the discussion of sexual health-related topics could be ended.