A private OB-GYN counsels a young married couple on the contraceptive choices available to them. The Abt Associates-led Private Sector Partnerships-One (PSP-One) project has been scaling-up DIMPA, a successful branded network of OB-GYN and general practitioners in northern India trained to provide quality family planning services. Enrollment in the network is voluntary, includes free hotlines for men and women to answer questions, and the program is monitored to ensure sustained quality of care. Since 2006, the network has grown from three cities and 105 providers to 45 cities and 1,400 providers in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand.

SRHR in India: Fighting superstitions crucial to lead change

Training, workshops and engagement with young people and stakeholders are important and should be prioritised to raise SRHR and child marriage awareness says Manish Mitawa

In many communities in India, talking about sex, sexual health and rights are considered taboo. Because of the existing prejudices, youths, especially those belonging to such conservative communities hesitate to talk about their own body, sexual health, experiences and problems.

Conversations about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are not open and those who try to lead open conversations about SRHR are considered to be of bad character and morals. At present, superstitions surrounding SRHR are rampant in our society leading to limited access to SRHR awareness and knowledge in these communities, especially among young people. 

The cycle of Ignorance.

In my village, Virtanagar, Rajasthan, using contraceptive methods is considered going against the will of God. It is a common belief that God will punish people for going against their will. This belief stems from generations of mal-cultural practices and a lack of SRHR awareness. When a young person is trapped in these superstitious beliefs and environment that endorses them, it narrows their knowledge and understanding which is a hurdle to break the cycle of ignorance.

Youth in SRHR.

My name is Manish Saini (Mitawa) and my father is a social worker. I was interested in my father’s work and I took the first step in the social sector through Restless Development. From Green Village Development Projects to strengthening women empowerment, working on human rights and establishing dimensions of Low Carbon Technology, I have had the opportunity to work on many social issues. Through this, I came to learn about many types of activities, including SRHR, child marriage and many more. However, not every youth in our community has such an opportunity. 

I have recognized the impact of lack of SRHR education on youth at present. I have seen young people unaware of sexual health issues and shying away from talking about these topics. Despite wanting to get involved in these conversations, young people are not able to do so due to existing superstitions and prejudices. 

Leading Change.

Restless Development gave me a golden opportunity to work on SRHR which enabled me to raise these issues with full honesty in Viratnagar.  Through my work as the Youth Accountability Advocate, I got the opportunity to discuss with various panchayats around my village. The more I worked, I realised that topics concerning SRHR are still considered ‘dirty’ in an educated society. 

To bring change, I conducted interviews, youth meetings, signature campaigns, awareness programs and so on. Today, many young people in my area are engaging in open SRHR discussions. Through these initiatives, I am hopeful that young people can talk and discuss their health.

Young people need a platform like Restless development to move forward. Youth can take part in the all-round development of society. Training, workshops and engagement with young people and stakeholders are important and should be prioritised to raise SRHR and child marriage awareness. Conversation and engagement with the youth will lead the way forward to an educated and aware community. 

Feature Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment

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SRHR in India: Fighting superstitions crucial to lead change

by Manish Mitawa Reading time: 2 min
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