The Optimist Citizen

This young man from UP is breaking the stigma around Sexual and Reproductive Health

I am a final year polytechnic student in Lucknow. When I visited my village, Karbadhiya in September, an acquaintance of mine told me about the Be A Jagrik team conducting sessions in Shikarganj. When I went there and interacted with people, something shifted in me. I was keen on working for the development of my village. This realisation motivated me to become the Jabardast Jagrik in Phase 2 of the campaign. Around the same time, I began giving free coaching classes to the children of my village and Ganeshpur. This went on for 4 months and saw the participation of about 250 boys and girls. Recently, I resumed classes but the count of students has dropped significantly.

Initially, I was interested in taking up the issue of Girls’ education. But when I went through the topics to be covered in the campaign, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights instantly had my attention. I teamed up with another jabardast jagrik, Rakesh, who was passionate about working in the health sector. Our shared vision for bringing some impact helped us in coming together and fighting the system of regressive thoughts and norms. The Internet, jamghats, and exchange of ideas with fellow jagriks equipped us with necessary information around sexual and reproductive health. The community assigned to us was the Musahar community of Karbadhiya village. It is infamous for being orthodox. When we first went there, people just ran away from talking to us. They doubted our intentions and thought we’re merely doing all this for money or some politics. It took us 10 visits to make the community members comfortable and start our work aggressively.

Reproductive and Sexual Health Rights Awareness Campaign
Representative Image Source – Patrika

We created a group of 20 adolescents who had around 8 girls who were comfortable talking to us. They helped us in further mobilising the community and talking to other girls. A few female jagriks from other villages also stepped forward and helped us in initiating a conversation with the girls and young women. We knew that it would be difficult for us to reach out to girls because we were men. So, we began our sessions with old women of the community covering basic information on general health issues, education, personal hygiene, etc. When we found them getting comfortable, then we moved on to include girls and discuss reproductive health and rights.

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Once things got settled down, we began conducting regular sessions to educate women on the need to talk about their issues and seek help. We helped almost 24 women in getting the TT vaccine and further encouraged their friends to do so. Moving forward, we also visited a hospital to have a word with the health counsellor to equip ourselves with information and then talk about it in the community. This was followed by us visiting nearby schools to check the availability of health facilities. We found that more girls dropped out of schools because of a lack of proper amenities. This broke my heart. The girls wanted to pursue education but inadequate basic hygiene facilities held them back. To combat this issue, we approached Block Education Officers and tried resolving the critical issue of hygiene in school premises. We are now working towards installing incinerators in schools so that more girls attend schools without having to care about their menstruation needs.

There were many challenges on our way. Girls were not allowed to meet us to have a candid conversation on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights. Still, we managed to raise awareness and educate young men and women. We have contributed our bit in reviving the village health sanitation services and nutrition committee. Taking a step forward, we also lend a helping hand in connecting eligible community members to the Pradhan Mantri Matri Shishu Swassthya Yojana. Apart from this, a big challenge is that people tend to forget about the learning of sessions. In times of growing uncertainty, it is difficult to help people retain their sanity and continuously mobilise them. Our journey as Jabardast Jagriks might have come to an end but we have stronger spirits to continue working for the upliftment of society. Our journey has just begun.

Rahul Kumar,
Gramya Sansthan,
Participant, Be A Jagrik Phase 2

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