North East Network has been a forefront in uplifting the status of a woman in all spheres regarding health and other female related issues. Recently, North East Network Nagaland in collaboration with the Chizami and Enhulumi Women Societies organized a one-day Health and Hygiene workshop at the respective villages with young adolescent girls between the ages of 10 to 15 years.
On the 15th of September 2020, the campaign was held at NEN vocational training center Chizami with the presence of fifty-five young girls, followed by Enhulumi that was held on the 17th of August 2020 at the Village Council Hall with 35 other young girls.
The awareness campaign covered topics on Food & Nutrition, Menstrual Health & Hygiene, and Safe and Unsafe Touch was shared with the Young Participants.
In an effort to reach out to young people, rural adolescent girls in particular, who have limited access to information and knowledge on health, hygiene, and safety, NEN Nagaland have started an awareness campaign in Chizami area. In this awareness programme, we have focused on 3 areas:
- Food and Nutrition– Proper eating is required for healthy growth especially during adolescence but many youngsters during this stage make unhealthy food choices. The lack of knowledge of natural foods and nutrition, peer pressure, and media influence youngsters to eat less, eat more processed foods and cheap fast foods even in rural areas. The preference for food from the market is also leading to decreased consumption of diverse local foods. To encourage healthy eating habits for a healthy lifestyle at a young age, the campaign shares about the importance of diet diversity, consuming at least 5 food groups or more in a day as per the Dietary Diversity Indicator of FAO. Encourage balanced diet, consuming more foods rich in Vitamins and Minerals to protect our body from diseases, foods rich in Carbohydrates for energy, foods rich in proteins for bodybuilding and some amount of fats for generating energy. Through this awareness campaign, young girls are also made to learn and understand the importance of local food diversity – the food that comes from the Forests, Jhum fields, Paddy Fields and Kitchen Gardens. This was to bridge the knowledge gap and also build better sensitivity and appreciation for healthy, nutritious food.
- Menstrual health and hygiene– Menstrual health and hygiene is an important part of health education but it still is not talked about or shared openly in many communities. Rural girls still lack access to correct information and knowledge about their own bodies. There still are misconceptions and shame around menstrual health. The lack of knowledge may increase the risk of getting infections and complications in later stages of life. In order to promote hygienic menstrual practices, enable girls to have control over their bodies, and express themselves freely, NEN is addressing this issue through this awareness campaign.
- Protecting girls from sexual violence– To help girls recognize instances of sexual abuse against them and to protect themselves from it, NEN is initiating a conversation on the subject. Many girls are unaware about Safe and Unsafe Touch and discussing such topics remains a taboo. Hence even when girls face such a situation, they never speak about it and never reported. NEN is making an effort to make the girls understand that we have a right to our own bodies and no one can touch us without our permission, and a violation of such is a violation of our rights. Tips to protect oneself from sexual abuse were shared in these sessions.
During the adolescent stage, the young girls go through various body changes, which may cause discomfort or frustration at times. Many young girls at this stage may also face sexual abuse from their family members, neighbors or strangers. This is believed to be the most crucial stage especially with changes taking place in their body and to face such problems would be nothing but a tragedy. The worst-case scenario is victims would often feel uncomfortable, scared, and find it difficult to share with their parents or elders, it’s only natural. North East Network felt the need of the hour and took forward the initiative to impart and share knowledge with these adolescent young girls in order to help them grow mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Talking about safe and unsafe touch, a play was conducted and carried out by NEN staff along with three community volunteers who have experience in theatre. This play was conducted as part of a creative way of imparting knowledge to young adolescent girls. The distribution of sanitary pads was mobilized from Proctor & Gamble. Lack of proper knowledge and understanding of their own body would often make a young adolescent girl feel comfortable in sharing about her changes. The lack of awareness causes more problems affecting both their physical and mental health. Therefore the campaign aims at providing information about proper dietary and hygiene habits and creates awareness on child sexual abuse. This is to enable and empower them to have a healthy body and mind during this growing stage.