Twenty-one years old Ojaswi from Nepal is an active Girls Out Loud member. She is a student and works in an NGO as a field supervisor. She is a nature lover and shows solidarity towards “leave no one behind”. “Rising Buds” is the campaign led by Ojaswi focused on menstrual health hygiene and teenage pregnancy.
Ojaswi says, “The global pandemic has an adverse effect on young people. Their mobility and source of information are locked down. No schools and colleges and no work. But I capitalized this time to learn more about Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights by engaging myself in virtual training conducted by various organizations.”
Ojaswi reflects on how engaging in the Girls Out Loud platform made her realized that more work needs to be done at the community level to sensitive young girls and boys on menstrual health and hygiene. She emphasizes, “I live in the Madeshi community. They still struggle to come out of the closet and still follow the harmful practices like menstrual exile, child marriage, etc.” Ojaswi wonders about the school curriculum that is not able to educate students on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). Ojaswi adds, “Do students learn anything about their SRH rights in school? Are they receiving proper education on it?”
These questions hit her hard. This made her realized that she needs to come up-front and sensitize her own community. She pulled her sleeves and prepared herself to learn more about menstrual health hygiene, teenage pregnancy, and child marriage. The covid scenario made it more evident that young girls like her need to buckle up to support their communities and provide evidence-based information. “I prepared my own lesson plan using informative videos from YouTubes and reading materials on SRHR. I coordinated with government schools near my locality and started to provide sessions to adolescent girls from grades 5 to 10.” This is again a learning opportunity for Ojaswi. She targetting adolescent girls because she wants to have close and private communication with them to establish trust. She immediately realized, the girls open up to her and discuss their issues without hesitation. She received support from a local youth-led NGO “BAS” with educational materials.
“Girls Out Loud platform widen my knowledge related to menstruation and teenage pregnancy. I communicated with girls from another province in GOL. Learn about various factors that build wall among girls while communicating about their SRH needs.” Ojaswi mentioned how grateful she is to be part of GOL Nepal and meet young activists campaigning on gender equality and in return learn from the various conversations the members are having on SRHR.
To date, Ojaswi and her team conducted seven workshops amid of COVID situation in different schools for adolescent girls. She uses innovative approaches to teach the girls about their SRH rights. During her interaction with girls, she realized the girls and women from Madeshi families still use traditional methods when they are on their period. It shocked her when she heard their mothers used to apply ashes of burnt firewood between the cloths as pads for the periods. The girls in the community have poor hygiene and nutrition during their periods. The girls are forced to get married at an early age resulting in teenage pregnancy. The use of contraceptives and accessing abortion services is highly stigmatized. “I am also providing available helpline numbers to the girls where they can access additional information on SRHR, gender-based violence as well as COVID information,” Ojaswi adds.
The Rising Buds campaign led by Ojaswi is making a change in her community. The adolescent girls are happy to be part of the session organized on SRHR. The girls learned to use the sanitary pads and this was the first time for them to learn about it. “This was my small effort to make them aware of their sexual and reproductive health rights. I shared my knowledge with them as much as I could. Their smiling faces inspire me to continue my efforts. I hope my small effort helped them to learn and clear their doubts”- says Ojaswi
Ojaswi continuously shares learnings from her campaign in GOL group. She is an inspiration to others.