In Conversation With Menstrupedia Champions – Sneha Shah Gupta
Sneha got in touch with Menstrupedia about a year ago with a unique proposal. She wanted to buy the Menstrupedia Comics to conduct workshops for kids in schools. Sneha has taken up the task of spreading menstrual awareness and has persevered patiently to persuade school authorities to conduct workshops, despite their initial reluctance. A passionate educator, Sneha is the founder of the organisation Lots of Learning which is a platform that works on a child’s true individual development, which otherwise is mostly equated to academic development.
Q: Lots of Learning sounds like a very interesting idea. How did you come to start an initiative like this?
Sneha: Although I completed my studies in Mathematics and Finance, I always had an inclination towards making a difference in the society. I have strongly believed in the quote ‘Education is the most powerful method that can change the society’. My love for children and passion for teaching helped seed a new venture to provide an enrichment platform for children. We have impacted lives of more than 800 students with Lots of Learning but still have a long way to go.
Q: What role do you play in Lots of Learning?
Sneha: I play an active role in the rapid growth of Lots of Learning by making the programs as interesting as possible for children, by involving various games, activities and new-age teaching methodologies etc. Each activity in all the workshops is designed and ideated with through research. This training ensures growth of a confident child who gathers many skills on the way.
Q: Awesome! So what made you decide to conduct a menstrual awareness workshop?
Sneha: When I came across Menstrupedia comic online, I knew I had to play a role in reaching out to many girls and help them learn and talk about menstruation freely and confidently. The medium of comic book is just perfect for breaking that ice with the girls, instead of Xerox copies of pages from biology books. I wanted to do this with as many young girls, even those from urban well-off families who still upheld century old practices around this topic. Many schools still shy away from this topic . And as a woman I thought that I had to do some right in whatever way I could.
Q: Were there any challenges you faced while talking about periods to a group of girls in your community? What was the atmosphere like?
Sneha: The initial reaction from the girls is mostly shy & awkward. They are initially hesitant, grinning at each other and less responsive. But ultimately I know they are equally eager to learn. The first 15 minutes of the session is where I need to make them most comfortable with me and the topic. Then it is very easy to change this shy-non-responisve atmosphere to a more fun-interactive-learning session in no time.
Q: Did Menstrupedia Comic help you resolve this shyness while conducting the workshop? How was the comic-book received?
Sneha: One of the main reasons for me to get up and start doing this workshop was because the medium I was using was a comic book. What better way of communicating with children than this! Girls really love the book and almost all of them look forward to go through it on their own.
Q: There must have still been some tricky moments which you’d have had to manoeuvre through since this is a largely tabooed topic. What were the techniques you used to do this? Could you also share with us the flow of the workshop?
Sneha: Yes, just like an other workshop of mine, I know children enjoy fun learning. A lot of games, visuals (presentation, placards, comic book) and reward interaction methodologies are part of the workshop. Primarily I use the characters from the comic book Pinky, Jia, Mira and Priya didi. I have also animatedly acted and narrated the whole comic book to cover all the topics.
The workshop usually begins with an ice breaker game that was suggested to me by Aditi Gupta from Menstrupedia. I, then, introduce the comic book with the characters and classify the class into 3 parts- Jia Mira & Pinky according to the stage of menstruation in their lives, so everyone associates themselves with one character. For more participation, I carry candies, bars or anything enticing for the girls to motivate them to answer as much as possible. At the end of the workshop we play a chit game that helps me know how much I have managed to deliver.
Q: This sounds quite effective and exciting! How many workshops have you conducted as yet?
Sneha: So far, I have conducted 4 workshops, in NGOs, private schools and low income communities covering about more than 430 girls across the age of 11 to 22.
Q: Do you plan to conduct more such workshops in future? What would you do differently from the one you did before?
Sneha: Yes, there are 3 workshops in pipeline this year. I will also continue to do the same as and when I get the opportunity. I am satisfied with the current flow of my workshop so will continue with the same approach.
Q: What are your biggest learnings/take-aways from the workshops you’ve done?
Sneha:The common takeaway from all workshops is that the girls are super eager to know about the topic in a friendly way and not just like a biology topic. The results from the questionnaire I hand out to them, showed that girls even from good families practice some rituals without knowing the reason because they believe that menstruating is unhealthy and impure. So its very very essential to reach out to many girls from all strata of society and empower them with the right knowledge and information.
Q: For someone who would like to take menstrual awareness workshops for young girls, do you have suggestions on more tools or methods that can help them?
Sneha: I have a folder of all my tools, graphics, questionnaire, placards etc to help conduct a workshop. I would be more than happy to share with any volunteer who would like to conduct a ‘Be period positive’ workshop.
Q: That’s amazing! Thank you for passing the torch of menstrual activism through your work. Last question. Best moment/part of your workshop that you’d like to share; perhaps something that cracked you up or rewarded the effort you put in?
Sneha: The best part of each workshop is in the end when I ask them “So, tell me, are periods good or bad?” and they unanimously say, “Periods are the most positive thing in their lives” That just gives me the highest sense of satisfaction!
Interviewed and edited by: Palashi Vaghela
Palashi is a content wordsmith at Menstrupedia. She tweets as @dreamy_soul19