Friday, 19 August 2016

Do I know how do I look?

“Look at you, you are so fat. Why don’t you go for walk? Please eat less, you can eat food later but can’t get your body back. Look at your friend, she is so slim, she is so active but you just want to increase your weight.” “People always like how you present yourself, your qualities are of no use because no one would be interested in talking to a fatso like you.”
Mirror..Mirror, how do I look?
 “I always thought you are a behenji before I interacted with you. Why don’t you change the way you are?”These are few of the thousands things that I have heard while growing up, (not that now things are different and yes my close ones have said the above lines) they are painful, hurtful and I couldn’t really develop a positive relationship with my body. But with time, I realised that this is who I am and refused to bow down to unnecessary pressure to change my body to suit the societal norms of perfect body.

This personal connect with “Body image” issue motivated me to pre-pond the session and I know adolescents spend a lot of time thinking about their body and how they can achieve the desirable body image created by media and society. As soon as we reached home after 5 hour long workshop on ‘love, sex and relationship’ and 2 hours of metro ride, we hopped on to the re-design the session. Since the next day happened to be 15 August, most of the shops would be closed and so we had no option but to write most of the logistics on our own. Damn my body was aching, eyes were red and swollen but enthusiasm kept me going. The beginning of the independence was very hectic, a computer shop was open- we grabbed printouts of the questionnaire, ran to catch rickshaw, took out some cash and ran to catch metro. In the metro too, I was writing furiously, thankfully we reached on time. The participants were excited for both Independence Day and the workshop. I can see that boys and girls have opened up, there was different kind of energy altogether.

Finally we began with the energizer ‘Happy Happy dance’ where each participant had to dance as they would dance when they are very happy. Oh yes even I danced :-)

The participants were then invited one by one to see themselves in mirror and write the first thought that come to their mind when they see themselves in the mirror. It was very powerful activity as one of the participant came to me to share, “In summers, I get pimples, people make fun of me. I hope I never get them”. This was followed by visioning activity where in participants were invited to see how would they look like in terms of their bodies, hairstyle, height, looks when they are 20 years old and then they wrote letter to their future self. The adolescents took their time, then resorted to a particular place and with unexpected silence wrote letters.

Writing letter to future body
We screened “Lesser men” and mapped their thoughts around what was shown in the movie? The participants were then divided into groups of 4 wherein they had to think about the latest television commercials and fill up the questionnaire which had questions around the body shapes and types seen in the same.
Based on the movie “Lesser men”, questionnaire and mapped thoughts we explained the ideas of Masculinity, Feminine and Body image. I wasn’t surprised to hear when a 12 year old shared that he wants to have a body like well-known actor, voice like that of popular Pop star. 15 year old asked, “So what is the right age for me to go to gym? I am very skinny and I want to look muscular?”
What is Body image?

The participants were then divided into 4 groups and were given situations around body image issues; once they discuss it in their respective groups they presented the answers in larger circle. I particularly liked this tool (small group discussion and then presentation in larger circle) as small group sharing motivate more intense participation, people who are otherwise shy feel comfortable in sharing in small groups, this also helps in team building and presenting the discussion in the larger group gives more confidence and helps in building leadership qualities.

“If I was Rahul, I would practice cricket more, eat healthy food rather than going to gym. I wouldn’t copy anyone else” “If someone judges me for my clothes, then they are not my friends. I would definitely go to party as I am invited, if someone has problems about my clothes then they better not come” “Ram should ignore his friends advice and focus on studies as he likes studying. His friends are just trying to distract him” 

These answers just proved that adolescents are so open to learning, though there were layers of social conditioning but they are ready to peal it off provided they are given right information. I was so happy to see the pro-active participation of the 10 year old kid who joined our workshop the previous day, he not only shared the agreements for the workshop but also lead the group activity. Earlier, this day during revision, 15 year old participant shared how a woman gets pregnant and explained sexual intercourse in detail naming the male and female sexual organs, while a 14 year old explained what masturbation is? And they remembered the Hindi name as well.

“Male and female don’t always do sex for giving birth to children. Kids are big responsibility and one needs to be prepared for it. So when two mature individuals wants to have sex and not get pregnant then male partner wears condom on his sexual organjust like we wear gloves in our hands. It is one of the safest ways to prevent pregnancy with success rate of 95-98%” shared an 11 year old participant. I had tears in my eyes and goose bumps throughout. Wow! He actually remembers this and the confidence with which he shared one of the most tabooed things in front of 20 people is unbelievable! How beautiful and better, society would become if all the adolescents could get this information and are informed about what is happening to them in terms of their physical, emotional, psychological and social state. It would be no less than a revolution of its own kind. These words are imprinted in my heart forever :-)

This ongoing engagement with 20 adolescents has changed so many things about me, I have become more open to learning, answering curious questions, giving away unnecessary assumptions and never ending energy of adolescents. With every passing day we are becoming more confident in taking ‘Sahas’ all across the country for much needed knowledge building on Gender, sexuality and reproductive health. As someone has rightly said, “the more aware you’re of your body, the more confident you become”. 

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