Me: Please tell him about the questions that he needs to answer, as he has just come!
One participant: So, we are discussing on the question ‘when did I come to know that I am a boy or a girl? How did you feel?”
Second participant: Yeah, okay!
Me: So, think and share your answer in the group.
Second participant: What is there to think, I know the answer!
I was surprised and confused at the readiness for the answer, as I thought maybe he didn’t understand the question, so I tried repeating the question!
Second participant: It’s very easy the moment my dad called me beta, I knew I am a boy!
The sense of proud and glint in his eyes shook me; it was as if being a boy was some sort of accomplishment or a prize.
We conducted the session on “My body is changing” with the second set of 48 boys of Government School, Dwarka sec-3 as part of our ongoing ‘gender, sexuality and reproductive health curriculum’.
The workshop began with the intention sharing for the day, revision if the last session and re-emphasizing on the agreements for co-creating safe sharing spaces.
To bring the energy of the participants to the workshop space, we played ‘coin game’, it was interesting to see how participants enjoyed and played as a team.
The participants were divided into 8 groups where they were asked to discuss on the given two questions and share the important points of reflections in the larger groups.
“When I was 6 years old, my mother used to call me Prince, so I came to know that I am a boy and I felt really good about it”
“My mother used to call my father with my name, and also they say that I am just like my father. Because of this, I came to know that I am a boy”
“My sister used to call me bhai, so I understood that we are different and I am a boy”
“I was incredibly happy when I came to know that I am a boy”
“My parents and people around me used to call me babu, which is usually a nick name for boys that’s how I came to know that I am boy”
“We have different clothes and style, because of which I came to know that I am a boy”
“Because of the name”
“My father’s friend asked my dad, whether I am a boy or a girl; that’s when I came to know that I am a boy”
“My dad called me beta! So obviously I am a boy”
“My name is Deepak, it’s the name for boys”
“I was 5 years old, I completed my homework and my teacher appreciated saying that I am a good boy”
“When we used to live in village, my mother went to toilet in the farms I insisted to tag along but she refused saying that boys can’t go. I felt really bad”
“I went to the market along with my parents. I saw a beautiful saree, I liked it but my parents gave me a look and said that this is for women and you can’t buy it because you are a boy. I was sad hearing that”
“My grandmother brought me pant shirt from the market, that’s how I came to know that I am a boy”
“I was 6 years old, when I realized that boys and girls have different body structure and physical attributes”
“I was happy to know that I am a boy because I have got a sister and I can enjoy rakshabandon. Only few people are lucky to have sisters”
“I saw few girls playing together, I wanted to join them. But they didn’t allow me stating that I was a boy and can’t play with girls”
“I wore my sister’s clothes once, so my mother scolded me by saying that I am a boy and I shouldn’t be wearing girl’s clothes”
“Because of my hairs”
“I was crying badly one day, my mother asked me to stop crying because I am boy. I felt really bad”
In the second activity, the participants were divided into 5 groups where they were asked to draw body maps and discuss on the question based on ‘physical changes during puberty’. It was enthralling to see the participants engage in team work, meticulously dividing themselves according to the sub activities- drawing the body map, putting all their artistic capabilities into action, trying to figure out the best way of drawing various body parts and writing the correctly spelled name and few of them taking the charge of the questions. The participants were very quick with the activity but in the usual way they resisted in drawing the private parts. However with conversation, they finally drew it along with pubic hairs, so this seemed like work in progress.
Few of the discussion points are as follows-
“Good thing about growing up - height increases, our face changes, our mind works faster and in better ways, bones become stronger, we become more aware of our surroundings, society and nation”
“Bad things about growing up- We are overburdened with responsibilities, we can no longer play as we wish, we engage in fights, abuse, don’t respect elders, we also become proud of our achievements, we have hairs all over our body which cause itchiness”
“The biggest problem of growing up is engaging in sex- we are attracted to girls and that’s confusing”
“We have to get married because we grow up”
Following this, we shared about what is adolescence, the physical changes that happen during puberty in boys and girls, sexual organs of men and women, why we call them private organs, periods, wet dreams and why these changes occur through a power point presentation. It was evident that some of them have heard about periods and most of them experienced wet dreams as few were hiding their faces, some of them were smiling shyly; few were just staring at the ground however few were looking at the presentation with curious eyes! By the end of the workshop, the participants were quite comfortable saying the name of the private organs aloud and talking about the bodily changes.
This is for the first time; we are working with 2 sets of adolescents around 92 in number via gender, sexuality and reproductive health curriculum, so it has been quite intense and intriguing experience. Hence even our post workshop reflections are very intense. One such conversation gave me goose bumps and I saw a glimpse of myself when I used to work with media.
Mona- As a team we have facilitated 4 workshops with around 90+ adolescent boys. How has been the experience for you so far? How do you feel?
Himanshu (volunteer) - This is my first experience to get into conversations like these. Listening to the boys sharing’s; I feel if in school i too knew a lot of things, my understanding about various aspects would have very different. I'm glad to get this opportunity to keep learning new things each day. One of my friends called up few days back asking how this gender work relates to your career in hotel industry. I told him that with this gender perspective; i can have conversations like these in my work space.