In December 2020, Colonel Piyush Srivastava from National Cadet Corps (NCC), Puducherry approached us to explore a collaboration to offer menstrual health education and train young women cadets to become peer menstrual educators.
The NCC is the youth wing of the Indian Armed Forces, open to school and college students on a voluntary basis. They are engaged in developing the youth of the country into disciplined and patriotic citizens.
This new collaboration with them was a novel idea that was not only radical, but also of a profound impact. Cadets from four different colleges in the region were selected to be trained by Kalvi, our Menstrual Health Management (MHM) facilitator, in order to equip themselves with necessary skills and information to deliver the message effectively. Of the 83 cadets who attended the first session, 23 participants volunteered to take up a further intensive training programme to become facilitators. The cadets were within the age group of 19 and 21.
The phasing of the training programme was designed to build the capacity and confidence of the cadets in manageable steps. Training sessionswere tailored to be interactive, meaningful, and impactful. The cadets were trained on how to create a safe space, followed by a training on female anatomy and the menstrual cycle. They learned how to convey key concepts about menstrual health and hygiene practices. The cadets were then guided in how to facilitate a menstrual product analysis and facilitate a reflection on cultural practices around menstruation.
Post the training, the cadets were asked to conduct a menstrual health session with their close friends, neighbours and families so as to become more acquainted with the process of delivering a session. The cadets then visited Eco Femme to share their experiences as budding facilitators and received further coaching and guidance. The culminating moment was when they conducted a full 3 hour session with young girls in schools putting into practice all that they had learned about how to deliver a comprehensive menstrual health educational session.
The programme has been a success in terms of its outreach and impact, despite the fact that the activities were limited by the pandemic. So far, more than 800 students have attended the MHM sessions offered by the 23 cadets across Pondicherry. Though the primary agenda of the collaboration was to build a group of peer educators, in the bigger picture, the programme has helped to train young women to become MHM educators, who can serve the society for the many years ahead in many diverse social and geographical areas.
By Lakshmy Das,
Our Pads for Sisters Coordinator.
On the picture below, we have Kalvi (in the center) and some of the cadets