Reclaiming Sexuality and Sexual Health in Deoghar, Jharkhand

Gana! Gana!
The youth at one of the local schools in Deoghar, Jharkhand, chanted after I showed them a photo of the Canadian flag. Although I am not a very patriotic citizen towards my country (in light of the colonial history and complicit identity of Canada), some of the youth had never heard of Canada before. They asked me questions about Canada’s history, dance, culture, and traditions. I felt I had an opportunity to tell some of the real stories of Canada, especially about the indigenous stories.
I believe one of life’s most important work is to rewrite the narratives we had written before us. The ones that were negative, shameful, misinformed, and oppressive. Sexual health education is exactly about that. To claim for ourselves our own bodies again!
At the end of August 2019, Deboshree, Senior Program Officer and I traveled to Deogarh, a city in Jharkhand to help train one of MFF’s partner NGOs to deliver a session on the KBC Sexual Health curriculum.

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I had the honour and pleasure of contributing to the development of this curriculum when I first arrived at PRIA and MFF in May 2019, as part of my University of Victoria internship program. I had the opportunity to present to our partner educators, the rationale behind why we designed the module and how it contributes to healthy sexuality.
“How are babies made? Why do I look different from a girl/boy? Why does a girl bleed every month? Is it dirty to think about sex? Why do boys wet their beds sometimes?”
These are a few common, innocent, and honest questions from children and youth in communities in this country. However, in many rural communities, families and caregivers do not have the knowledge, words, nor freedom to answer these questions. Even those of us who are educated and privileged may not have the correct information about our bodies, sex, and sexuality.
We may think it is no harm to make up a funny, creative, and imaginative answer. However, research shows that more education and awareness of sexual health and sexuality actually decrease risky behaviors (ACOG, 2016)*. Avoiding the topic, deferring it, or creating shame and guilt around it only perpetuates the sexualized violence and harm we see today. In India, a disproportionate amount of harassment is directed at women and girls and their bodies.
Therefore, MFF believes that the cases of abuse, harassment, and violence against women are linked to the absence of sexual health education and awareness.
This is why I believe in the work that MFF does in promoting KBC’s (Kadam Badhate Chalo) Sexual Health Education curriculum at partner communities in local schools. If we believe in diversity and democracy in this nation, I think we need to help this generation and the next to reclaim who they are for themselves: their bodies, relationships, and identities.
 Olvie Li, is currently pursuing her Master in Social Dimensions of Health from the University of Victoria, Canada, and is doing an internship at PRIA & Martha Farrell Foundation assisting in various projects including the Youth-N-Democracy program which facilitates arts-based interventions to empower youth voices in India’s democracy.

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