THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Three years ago, when Kanal, a Kerala-based NGO working for the empowerment of children, conducted campaigns on safe touch and sex education in various schools, many students shared instances of abuse with the volunteers. The organisation also found there was a lack of awareness about the human body and sexuality among the children.To reframe sex education in a way that includes its biological aspect along with its social, emotional, gender and other behavioural aspects, Kanal has launched a campaign ‘Project X’. Its goal is to ensure everyone understands the sensitivity and need and also consider changing their attitude towards sex education.
Project X: Three years in the making
“The campaign is the outcome of three years of research and trials in the area of sex education. Though sex education is being imparted to adolescent students in the state, only a few subjects related to health and sex such as anatomy and menstruation, gender equality and sexuality are taught. Through the campaign, awareness will be created on topics such as psychosocial development, substance abuse and addictions, cognitive development, personal/ sexual hygiene, sex education and safe touch,” says Anson P D Alexander, president of Kanal.
He also stressed that more awareness should be created in promoting gender equality. “There are always certain myths and taboos related to the human body. Many boys, for instance, do not know that girls suffer from pain at the time of menstruation. Parents and teachers are the best people to inform students about these things based on the trust factor. However, many times they don’t know how to speak to children on such topics,” says Anson.
The campaign primarily focuses on parents and teachers because unless there is a change in their attitude, they cannot give awareness to children. The project started the campaign at the Women and Child Development Department, where training was given to the members under the Nirbhaya prevention campaign.
“Last year, we had conducted a campaign creating awareness on sex education. However, instead of giving awareness only to women, we thought of including men as well and the response was overwhelming. More than 50 men participated in the campaign. This was done as part of the webinar conducted by the department for parents,” says Sabeena Beegum S, an officer at the Women and Child Development Department, Thiruvananthapuram.Sabeena adds, “This year, we are planning to give training to people’s representatives and government authorities so they can help spread the word.”
To bring in a professional approach to sex education so that it isn’t misunderstood or misused, the Women Protection Office in Thrissur recently launched the ‘Pratheeksha’ campaign. About 50 people from the Women Protection Office are undergoing training so they can spread the message about sex education and bring about a change in the attitude of people.
“About 12 classes will be conducted under the programme and the social workers will deal with topics such as a child’s physical development, substance abuse and the crimes in society such as exploitation and sexual abuse. This initiative is aimed at creating a good family atmosphere and prevent domestic violence and sexual abuse crimes,” says Lekha S, Women Protection officer, Thrissur. “The classes for social workers are currently conducted online,” says Lekha.