In November 2017, we got a chance to visit Sameerwadi in Karnataka to conduct our My Body My Safety Programme for the students of K. J. Somaiya English Medium School and Somaiya Vinay Mandir High school. We fell in love with the beautiful campus with trees and ponds around – a refreshing change from the usual schools we visit.
As for the programme, we received positive feedback from both the schools. The teachers of K.J.Somaiya English Medium School expressed a keen interest in learning the safety rules so they could teach the rules to younger children in the future. This was heartwarming as it shows that they not only care for the students’ safety but also understand the importance of teaching body safety to children from a young age.
Since the Somaiya Vinay Mandir High School was a Kannada Medium school, we faced a language barrier. Yet, many students cleared their doubts and asked interesting questions, sometimes with the help of their classmates who were better at speaking Hindi.
It is a common scenario in our conductions where students feel awkward learning about sexuality and their bodies with rest of their classmates as they are attending such session for the first time.
One such incident happened at this programme conduction where a student came up to us and was looking quite upset, she asked the facilitator, “why did you conduct this programme with boys in the class, its a village and it is not okay for us to learn about sexual health in front of the opposite sex.” Our programme conductor told her that, “I can understand. It is quite awkward and embarrassing for you to learn about your body with the whole class, but the point of conducting this programme in co-ed fashion is to make you understand that learning about our body and sexuality is as normal as learning about other subjects such as history or maths.”
Her other concern was “It is okay for students from cities but in small towns and villages like ours it is inappropriate to talk about your body in front of other gender. This will make boys more mischievous and they will make our life hell by teasing us.” We explained to her that, “Students is cities feel embarrassed too since most of the time we aren’t taught about sexual health.” and we added that “If the other students are making you feel uncomfortable then they are breaking your safety rule. You can use the rules we taught you and take the required action.” While we hope that she won’t face any unsafe situation at school, we believe that by standing up to such classmates she will get a chance to feel empowered in comparatively controlled settings.