Friday, 20 July 2018

Engaging with physical changes while challenging the societal norms during adolescence: Is it possible?

“I came to know that I am boy because of my name as girls have name like Vandana, Pinky, Shabnam, Mushkaan while boys have names like Neeraj, Rahul etc”

“One day when my mom took me to market, I really loved a frock, it was very pretty and I wanted to buy it. However my mother refused stating that it’s for girls and boys shouldn’t be wearing it” 

The second session as part of our ongoing ‘Gender, sexuality and reproductive health curriculum” with adolescent boys of Government School, Dwarka was on “My Body is changing”. The workshop began with sharing about the intention for the day- what is the topic of the workshop, what is the need and what all may happen during the session. 

We then emphasized on the agreements which need to be followed so that the participants feel safe enough to participate and share freely. Last time, we noticed that students were laughing and mocking at their fellow students, so in order to ensure that this is not repeated we improvised and added one more agreement of “respecting each other” which was accepted by the participants after certain hesitation and conversations.

Following the energizer “Coin game”, the participants were divided into 5 groups where they were asked to discuss on 2 given questions in their respective groups and then the points of discussions were to be shared with the entire class. 

I was seeing one group discussing on the questions, so I thought to join them.
“What! Can’t you just say it, why are you being shy like a girl?” said one boy
The other boy was contemplating to respond, the first boy looked at me shocked as if someone has caught him! I took this opportunity to speak to him-

Me: “So, do you think I am shy?”
Boy: “No, not at all!”
Me: “Do you mean I am not a girl then?”
Boy: “No, no, you are a girl! I didn’t mean that”
Me: “But you said he was being shy like a girl? So all girls should be shy?”
Boy: “Actually everyone says that! But you are right being shy and being girl is different”

The outcomes of the discussion during the first activity were very interesting and intriguing-   

“While growing up, I was referred to as Sahil beta, so I came to know that I am a boy”
“Once during playing, I got injured and I heard my mother say, what happened to my boy- so I came to know that I am a boy”
“I was 5 years old, I saw a girl with very beautiful and long hairs so I asked my mom about why she has such long hairs, it was she told me that girls should have long hairs and boys like me should have short hairs”
“My dad was giving me bath, I was not wearing anything and so I came to know that I am a boy”
“In my village, one day I was running around naked, it was then I came to know that I am a boy”
“I was wearing clothes which are supposed to be worn by girls, my dad scolded me and told me that I shouldn’t be wearing all this because I am a boy”
“I came to know that I am a boy because my father told me. He had brought different clothes and toys for me and my sister- he said that toys should be ‘boy like’ for me and girls should have toys like them”

“My friends told me that I am a boy- I felt weird”
“I came to know that girls should wear saree and boys should wear coat –pants, hearing this I felt weird and sort of embarrassed”
“I came to know that girls put on lipsticks and boys have to do shaving- I felt very shy about it.”
“I came to know about this, when I saw my sister cooking food in the kitchen, so my father said girls should cook. I felt very bad”
“I was given car to play with so that made me understand that I am a boy because girls play with dolls”
“When I got a haircut”
“When I bought set-wet hair gel”
“When my big brother got shaving gel”
“When my sister wore saree”

“I was very happy when I came to know that I am a boy because I would be able to go out anywhere I want to”
“I felt good that I am a boy because girls are not allowed to study, at least I will be able to study”
“I was playing with girls, seeing that my mother told me that not to play with girls because I am a boy”
“I was 3 years old, when I went to school and saw different toilets for boys and girls. On asking my father, he told me that i should be going to boy’s toilet because I am a boy. I didn’t understand so I was confused and not happy”
“My mother told me that I am a boy, after neighbors kept asking her about me”
“When I went to school for the first time, then my parents told me that I am a boy”
“I felt very happy when I heard my friends and certain girls say that boys can live freely, do whatever they wish for”

The observations, the thought process, the kind of debate that went into the small groups and the sharing in the larger group were very crucial. It was not difficult to observe that the things/evidences because of which they came to know that they are boys are primarily the gender norms instead of physical attributes. It scares me because at this naïve age their mindsets are being hovered with the gender stereotypes boxing their senses to think in the most irrational binary ways while they could have explored the world uninhibited. 

In the next activity, the participants were divided into 5 groups where they were asked to draw body maps and discuss on the various aspects of growing up as asked in the 4 questions followed by presentation. 

It was difficult to begin with the entire group activity, basically because it was for the first time they were engaging in the team building exercise, so we supported them into breaking the tasks, assigning it to the different individuals and finally taking the reins into their hands as team member of team leader. 

Another interesting incident happened, while I was sitting with one of the groups- explaining the activity and the discussion- all of a sudden they all became silent, I was curious so I  asked, very hesitantly one of the boys asked me to leave because they felt shy in front of me. 

I was really in awe of the efforts that the participants were putting through in drawing the body map, naming the body parts, discussing the questions- it seemed chaotic and synchronized at the same time! The body maps were beautiful, very artistic and yes after lot of difficulty, embarrassment and running around they succeeded in drawing private parts.

Few of the discussion points-
Good things about growing up -
“Our brain gets developed, we are able to understand things in a better way, we become stronger, our height increase, we can fulfill our dreams, we can roam around freely, we can do things on our own, and people who used to trouble us previously can no longer do same when we grow up”  
Bad things about growing up-
We fall in bad company, instead of studying we focus on sports, some of the kids start doing drugs, our parents make us do more work, we lose our innocence, many a times we indulge in bad habits”
One of the boys said, “The challenging part of growing up is boys and girls get attracted to each other, don’t know what to do about it”

Following this, we discussed in detail what is puberty, what are the physical changes that happens during adolescence along with the feelings associated with it, how and why these changes take place- biology of human beings along with discussion on the private organs of male and females through a presentation. We also talked about periods (surprisingly few students were aware about the same) and wet dreams, as always there were giggles, smiles, few people hiding their faces, looking at the opposite directions but eventually they showed curiosity which was evident with the knowing look.

“Didi, can we have the link of the presentation?”
“This is interesting, you gave lot of information, no one ever told us about this!”
And I could just smile :-)

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