On 19th February, 2018 Reaching Hands team arrived at 9:00 AM in Babusapalaya Govt School for the “Handing Over Ceremony” of the newly constructed toilets. Construction of these 4 toilets units have been possible through the generous donation of our supporting corporate Next Gen under Reaching Hands Girls Glory program.
Little minds observe and hurt more! Little Ravi Chandra of Grade 4 of that school approached and greeted us with his warm smile. He was excited with the new facility provided in his school. He sighed how much trouble he and his friends faced due to unavailability of toilets. He told one of his friend was infected as he went for open defecation owing to lack of toilets in the school.
He acknowledges that girls face more difficulties. The Girls feel embarrassed that the boys keep on staring at them. They make use of friend’s houses nearby for using the toilets. He adds this was the biggest issue in their school.
Reaching Hands timely intervention has solved the issue in this Govt school Babusapalaya. The toilets are based on high tech module with ample water facilities available.
This initiative is a huge relief not only for Ravi Chandra but to all the students in that school. He and his friends are extremely thankful to Reaching Hand and Next Gen for their support and concern for the children of the community.
Divyashree is a student of Bennigannahalli Government High School and is currently in the 9th grade. She resides at Doddaharalagere village that is located 6 kms away from school along with her parents and 2 siblings . Her father owns a silkworm farm and her mother is a house wife.
It was during the inauguration of toilets at her school that she learned about Reaching Hand. They constructed 3 new toilets with proper water facility. For cleaning the toilets an Ayamma too was appointed by them . The Ayamma is responsible for maintaining the toilets. All the girls are extremely happy about this initiative.
Divyashree says, “earlier there was only 1 toilet for 140 high school girls in my school and it was very difficult or never maintained properly. The girls would hardly drink water to avoid using the toilet through the duration in school”.
She adds, “the days during periods were extremely difficult, so we either skip school during those days or have to use the toilet in a friend’s house near school”.
She sighs relief looking at the new toilets and says she is extremely happy now that she and her friends have separate toilets and they don’t have to worry about teachers yelling at them for being late to class because of waiting in long queues to use the toilet or not coming to school during periods.
She is thankful to Reaching Hand for building 3 new Toilets for her and her friends.
Suddenly you know…”it is time to start somethings new and trust the magic of beginnings”
Here is your opportunity to give back to the society!
Run with us and run for GIRLS’ EDUCATION
Event: TCS W 10k,
Venue: Kanteerava Stadium, Bangalore,
Date: May 21
Across the country, thousands of girls are struggling to remain in schools as their menstrual hygiene needs are hardly addressed. For want of functional toilets they are forced to stay out of schools during those days. And this forced absenteeism is robbing them off their opportunity to complete their education.
Reaching Hand’s Girls Glory programme aims at preventing the number of drop out cases by building clean and private toilets in government schools. So far, we have impacted around 5000 girl students and NOW WE AIM TO MAKE IT 10,000.
Besides, we educate children on health, hygiene and menstrual management so that every adolescent girl should come to the school with more confidence and dignity.
We take this platform (TCS W 10K) to raise funds so that we can help more girls to complete their education.
So RUN WITH US and RUN FOR EVERY GIRL IN THE COUNTRY
Earlier, I used to think ‘periods’ as something gross. This workshop has helped us to understand that it is not something that has to be ashamed of. Now, we know why we get periods and what are the changes that happens in our body during the time. If our mothers had told us about these things earlier, we could have avoided those days filled with low self-esteem. Sadly, even they are not aware of everything pertaining to menstruation, said Wahida and Rakshita, students of Government High School Jeevan Bhima Nagar school.
They were two among many students who participated in the Puberty workshop held by Girls Glory project.
At a time, when we talk about women empowerment, the increasing number of girl children sans knowledge about menstruation can be a major impediment to every efforts directed towards empowering them.
Many of them even told that it is the first time they are actually discussing on menstruation openly and the workshop also gave a platform to voice their self – esteem issues also.
“ No one, not even doctors, talk to us about our health so freely. I used to go to a private school and no one talked about these things, there. When I first got my period, my friends were the only ones who gave some advice. Now, we realise that only half of them were true. As far as teachers are concerned, they just asked us to be careful but gave no useful information, said Rakshita.
Besides, the workshop also taught us how to clean ourselves when we get periods which I think very important. We are also now aware that the do’s and don’ts during the menstruation are just taboos and unscientific, she added.
Tejaswini, a 9th standard student of Government higher secondary school, Hebbagodi said ” Fifteen minutes into the workshop, I was already thinking about telling everything we discussed today to my mother. My mother and I live alone and she had never taught me these things because she was unaware.”
On the occasion, Reaching Hand also distributed eco-friendly disposable napkins and elaborated on how to use it.
Deepa Patil is an AIF William J. Clinton Fellow for Service in India and has joined the Reaching Hand team for 10 months to help expand our Girls Glory program. A recent graduate of Tufts University, Deepa has previously been involved in civic engagement, nonprofit and public health work as a Jonathan M. Tisch Scholar of Citizenship & Public Service and Institute of Global Leadership Synaptic Scholar. She recently wrote the following blog post about her work at Reaching Hand for the American India Foundation.
There are few emotions more harmful than shame. It threatens the most fundamental love and respect people have for themselves. It is often accompanied by immeasurable discomfort, isolation and pain . Shame is not to be confused with the humiliation of social fumbles or the guilt of disappointing a loved one – these feelings arise as the consequence of particular actions and can be distanced from one’s self-concept. In fact, in healthy doses, humiliation and guilt may serve as beneficial indicators of what behaviors we accept of ourselves to inform future choices. Shame, on the other hand, is never valuable. Some of us have experienced shame tangentially and transiently by empathizing with literary characters and the people we care about. Others have more intimate relationships with shame, becoming consumed and debilitated by it.
Shame follows many young girls in India relentlessly, like a shadow on a sunny day. I frequently hear phrases like “शर्म कर” or “ನಾಚಿಕೆ ಇರಬೇಕು” (have shame) directed at young girls by well-intentioned family members, teachers and complete strangers. And while a variety of cultural and religious ceremonies take place in homes all over the country to celebrate an individual’s adolescence, puberty often marks the induction of girls to a lifetime of shame. The experience of a first period is daunting enough for a young girl – it can do without the burden of stigmatizing messages and alienating taboos . But alas, the notion of menstruation as an impure, blameworthy, disgusting process infiltrates the minds of so many.
I am only beginning to consider the psychological consequences of hating oneself because of an uncontrollable, biological process. I am, however, becoming increasingly aware of the more tangible repercussions of living in environments that are not period-friendly. The stigma of menstruation certainly oppresses girls from all walks of life around the world, but its most detrimental implications manifest in particularly vulnerable communities – places with high poverty and low education levels. Government schools in India are uniquely positioned to empower the children of vulnerable communities through education, a prerequisite of upward social mobility. But this opportunity is inaccessible to girls who miss up to a week of school every month, or worse, drop out entirely because of their periods.
I hope to confront this multifaceted issue through my work at Reaching Hand. On the one hand it is an infrastructure problem . Too many government schools lack the private, functional spaces – namely, toilets – needed for girls to engage in proper menstrual hygiene management (MHM). On the other hand there is a troubling information gap. Girls are often unaware of menstruation until menarche, do not understand it as a normal, biological process and are never taught how to manage their menstrual hygiene. The resulting poor MHM practices lead to individual health concerns in the short term and perpetuate the shame of menstruation in the long term. Reaching Hand’s initiative and my main project for the year, Girls Glory, aims to remove these barriers. We do this by building toilets and teaching puberty and health & hygiene workshops in under-resourced government schools all over India.
It is not a quick solution and requires growth, both in terms of how many girls we reach and how comprehensively we approach the problem of MHM inaccessibility. Even perfect, widespread implementation of Girls Glory will not overturn deeply-ingrained cultural stigmas immediately. And everyday I learn of more challenges that may slow down our efforts (i.e. navigating the bureaucracy of India’s government education system) or contextual limitations I failed to consider before actually visiting the field (i.e. the need to promote only reusable menstrual absorbents when inadequate or no waste management systems exist). But I am motivated by the potential to improve the health and education of girls and accordingly, replace shame with dignity. And girls who go to school become educated mothers who are much more likely to talk to their daughters about MHM and in turn, prevent future cycles of shame. Clearly, it is imperative to prevent girls from dropping out of school.
One of the simplest ways to do that, I have learned, is by building a toilet.
 I first started thinking about shame and actively deconstructing it in my own life after watching Professor Brené Brown’s TED Talk “Listening to Shame” a couple years ago. She distinguishes between “Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake” and “Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.”
 “The beauty of RED” is a short, powerful video directed by Vimida Das that provides a good introduction to the stigma of menstruation in India.
 A survey that informed India’s 2015 National MHM Guidelines found that in 14,724 government schools only 53% had a separate and usable girls’ toilet.
“How many openings do we have below our tummy?” I’d ask, and the children and the teachers would all reply, “Two!”
OMG!! It is ok if the children didn’t know, but even the teachers!!? Really?? Sadly, that’s the state of awareness in the society around me.
Having worked in the field of sanitation for quite a few years, those of us at Reaching Hand had come to realize that providing toilets and sanitary napkins for girl students in Government Schools wasn’t the final solution; there had to be a behavioural change in these girls and break them out of the “I don’t care” and the “I, being a girl, am not important” attitude. We called it the “Girls Glory” campaign.
I began taking menstrual hygiene classes for children in Government Schools, along with two volunteers from the US, Mai Soua Chang and Tiffany Wallace. Though Bangalore is a metropolitan city…
The girl students of Channarayapatna government primary school are on cloud nine. They got new toilets and a hand washing station. Prior to it, many of them were missing their classes during their menstrual cycle as the school lacked toilets.
Besides, most of their houses were far away from the school that they could not go to their houses in case of any emergency during that time. Ending their apprehensions, Reaching Hand has built toilets and a hand washing station for them.
“We are really happy that you built us toilets, but we want toilets for the boys and upper school as well,” says the students of Channarayapatna government primary school.
Inspired by the Reaching Hand’s efforts to reduce the dropout rate of girl students, panchayat member who attended the function promised that they would look into building toilets for boys, if the new ones are kept clean.
To this, the principal of the school promised they would leave no stone unturned to make sure that the toilets stay in good condition.
It is a fact that many schools in Karnataka do not have separate toilets for girls and many don’t have toilets at all. And schools which have these facilities lack hygiene and are poorly maintained.
According to the District Information System for Education (DISE) for the academic year 2015-16, 115 schools lack separate toilet for girls and a total of 280 schools do not even have boys’ toilets in Karnataka.
No doubt, this is one of the primary reasons for the increasing students’ dropout rate in the state.
Akshay Sagar, COO, Reaching Hand inaugurated the programme. Feba Nisha, Programme Manager, Khandappa, Programme Coordinator and Deepa Patil (AIF Clinton Fellow) attended the function. School authorities, teachers, members of gram and zilla panchayat and students also participated in the programme.