Posted on Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Youngsters often get uncomfortable while discussing problems related to sexual and reproductive health. To help them discuss their problems particularly those associated with adolescence and menstrual hygiene, University of Chicago’s Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) started an initiative Kissa Kahani, in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, in 2015.
Kissa Kahani, an initiative to better understand the role of gender in adolescent reproductive health and helping young people find ways to tell their everyday stories, use narrative and story-telling as a medium to interact with younger people. Kissa Kahani focuses on gender equity and improving health outcomes, particularly among young women and girls living in urban slums.
The project was led by UChicago faculty and principal investigators, including Ci3 founder Melissa Gilliam, professor of obstetrics/gynaecology and paediatrics; and Alicia Menendez, associate professor in the Harris School of Public Policy and principal research scientist in the International Projects Department at NORC at the University of Chicago.
“In the pilot project we interacted with over 700 people to understand the problems that youngster face. This included eve-teasing, girls dropping out of school due to unhygienic conditions, lack of awareness about menstrual health and hygiene,” Gilliam told Education Times.
She added, “Funded by a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Challenge Grant, the project involved working with different NGOs, including Operation Asha, Project Khel, Milaan, Sahayog, MAMTA-Health Institute for Mother and Child, SEWA Bharat.”
In over six weeks, nearly 30 stories were collected to learn more about young people and their problems. Youngsters were also trained to learn the art of storytelling, photography and design. These stories were compiled into a film, which was screened at a film festival and more than 6000 attended the event. One such fil was ‘Her Daughters’, where Pinky shared her mother’s experience of violence after giving birth to two girls. The film also won a special Chinh Media Award at the 10th International Chinh Kids Festival.
The team is also focussing on sensitising the boys. “It came as a shock to learn that most boys had no knowledge of menstruation. So, we developed a game to teach both girls as well as boys about it. They were shocked to learn that girls dropped out of school due to it.”
Roshni Kushwah, a 20-year-old, from Agra, says, “I came to know about Kissa Kahani from a friend and got myself enrolled in it. The one-week training programme by Adarsh Seva Samiti’s helped me to talk about menstrual health, hygiene with my parents, friends without any inhibition. The programme boosted my confidence and I am no more hesitant to talk about any topic with my parents.”
Another beneficiary of the programme, Khushboo a BCom student from Lucknow, says, “I was a part of a 15-day programme ‘Apni Jagah’ by Milaan, an organisation that aims to educate, enable, and empower children and young people, wherein I learnt to express my ideas. We conducted a survey on the dropout rate of girls, based on which prepared a roadmap to help these girls continue their studies. The findings demonstrated that safe spaces provide an opportunity for young people to learn together and build each other’s capacity.”
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