After conducting two workshops in Ahmedabad, we travelled over a hundred kilometers west to Surendernagar. Traversing the smooth roads, we were all excited to visit the Shree Pragnyachakshu Mahila Sewa Kunj and meet the girls who live there. Our session today was to be with 300 visually impaired girls.
We meet with the founders, Mukta Ben and Pankaj ji, along with Reena who is the workshop coordinator, and were welcomed with a beaded rosary made by their students. Nidhi began with our usual ice-breaker, of the girls introducing themselves with a desire. Jasoda Rana then took over for our first session on gender-based violence. We were thrilled to see that the girls were already well-informed on this subject and were eager to have further discussions on it. Jasoda ji divided the girls into groups to examine case studies, and talk about gendered biases and societal structures, along with workplace harassment. She also spoke about the difference in freedom given to girls and boys with respect to their safety. Questions on the legal help one could avail of during domestic abuse, on receiving death threats from partners, or being subjected to inappropriate behaviour from doctors etc. were tackled. The girls were also hesitant in talking about rape, molestation and even human trafficking, but Jasoda ji reassured the girls that abortion is not a sin and that one must avail of help in these situations.
Post lunch, Dr Neha conducted a session on understanding the body, which the girls recorded using their daisy player – an assisting device. The focus of this session was menstruation and menstrual hygiene, which saw some myth busting and challenging of norms, especially related to religion. We moved on to sex education using rubber models, which was filled with lots of giggling from the amused girls. Dr Neha also spoke about the importance of tracking the dates of one’s menstrual cycle and on safe sex. She followed it up with the cons of unsafe sex and demonstrated some condom training. As always, the curious girls had several questions about condoms – about what happens if they tear, what they are made of.
After the tea break, Nidhi will talk about consent, self-esteem, choice and relationships, but before that, the girls put up role-plays on various similar topics. The idea of using the word “normal” for a non-disabled person was also questioned through this activity. Nidhi spoke about the fact that there is no shame in marrying a sighted person, or a visually impaired one, because we should consider someone’s personality, and not just their eyes. She also asserts that suicide is not a way of dealing with rejection or divorces. She goes on to say that there are pros and cons of everything and everyone, but while a good relationship is built on trust, one must also learn how to be independent as well.