Monday, April 9, 2018

Kavach - A movement

Bharati Trivedi runs an empowering initiative that is revolutionizing minds in the world around her. When a stunning realization dawned on her, she realized she was no longer interested in allowing the problem to continue unchecked: the time had come for her to act. Here is her story and how she navigated responding to a significant public health issue.

The early years
I was born and brought up in a small beautiful hill station called Panchgani, in Maharashtra. I did my schooling from St. Joseph’s convent, junior college from New Era High School and completed my graduation from KVM, Wai. I got married in 1995 to Kumar Trivedi, a lawyer, and had two boys, Nimai and Advait. After 10 years of my marriage, I started studying again to become a Psychologist, a Career Counselor and a Sex Educator and was always into the practice of Graphology (Handwriting Analysis). I started my institution called Nurturing Minds in the year 2013. 

The birth of Kavach
Kavach became an actual movement when I put across a Facebook post. Fast forward to now, when we have a team, a permission letter from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to change the lifestyle and thoughts of the coming generation! 

The post was as follows: 
I begin with a recent experience which is giving me sleepless nights…….. Recently, I visited a vernacular medium school in the Central suburbs of Mumbai for conducting a sexuality awareness programme for the students of Grades 8th, 9th & 10th. Prior to starting the programme, while I was sitting in the office of the Principal and interacting with the Principal as well as the teachers, a girl from Grade 9 walked into the room and sought the Principal’s permission to go home. On the Principal asking her the reason for which she wanted to leave school at 11.00 am, the girl replied that she had got her periods and will not be attending school for the next 4 days. The Principal informed her to take a sanitary napkin from her class teacher and not go home. Hearing this, she promptly replied – “Ma’am it is not about a sanitary napkin – I am not wearing an undergarment as I do not have one”. This left me shell-shocked, to put it mildly. I could not believe my ears. For years I have been conducting programmes on sexuality awareness and hygiene but not once have I realized the severity of the problem, though I had inkling to the same. The Principal informed me that 90% of the girls in the school (and several others staying/studying in similar areas) do not have or wear undergarments. This left me sad and shattered. It was really shocking that in this age and day, some girls in our country cannot afford the very basic necessity of feminine hygiene, may it be undergarments or sanitary napkins. It was there that I firmly decided that Nurturing Minds Charitable Trust (the public charitable Trust formed and run by me, my sister Sangeeta Mehta, my friend, Drsonal Patel and my husband Kumar Trivedi ) will, henceforth, attempt to provide to as many such girls/women as possible (from new born to older women) at least one set of 6 undergarments per year and adequate number of sanitary napkins (for girls of the appropriate age). Probing further, the following alarming data came to light: @ Millions of village girls/women use rags, sand husks & leaves during their periods – Why? As they do not know any better @They use cloth and taboo forces them to dry the cloth indoors away from the sunlight and open air. This results in the cloth not being sanitized or disinfected @ Around 70% of all reproductive disease in India are believed to be caused by poor menstrual hygiene @ A study says that around 23% girls (age group 12-18 years) in our country drop out of school due to inadequate protection once they start their periods. Thus the lack of awareness and means has a serious impact on education for young women I URGE ALL OF YOU TO TAKE A PLEDGE TO ENSURE THAT NO GIRL/WOMAN IN OUR COUNTRY IS DEPRIVED OF THIS BASIC NEED. WE HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED A REQUEST FROM THE AFORESAID SCHOOL FOR PROVIDING UNDERGARMENTS FOR 1000 GIRLS. WE ALSO INTEND TO EXTEND THIS FACILITY TO AS MANY GIRLS/WOMEN, ALL OVER INDIA. WHILE WE WILL BE CONTRIBUTING TOWARDS THE CAUSE, WE ALSO URGE YOU TO DONATE GENEROUSLY FOR THE SAME KINDLY CONTACT ME FOR FURTHER QUERIES AND CONTRIBUTIONS Contact Numbers : <...> MINIMUM CONTRIBUTION RS. 100/- With gratitude… Bharati Trivedi” 

The main initiative espoused by “Kavach - A Movement” is to inculcate the importance and logical need to maintain hygiene, follow an ethical conduct and respect oneself and others. This happens when you begin with the basics. Our key areas of work include, sexuality awareness and hygiene, prevention of child sexual abuse and training programs on sexuality awareness for adolescents also conducted for the knowledge of parents and teachers. One such awareness program that we have is called Training the Trainers that recently conducted a workshop “changes and challenges”. 

We also distribute a “Kavach kit” (to the girls) that acts as a catalyst for the quick change in the mindset of the adolescents and thus their parents and thus the society. A “Kavach kit” includes a sufficient supply of underwear, sanitary napkins, a khadi towel, a bathing soap & a washing soap. 4) You work in the domain of shifting mindsets towards access for basic necessities for women, which means you work to address some rather deeply ingrained views and issues. 

Jumping hurdles
My field of work is sure challenging as when we conduct our sexuality awareness programmes, we come across parents and teachers who are not comfortable initially. Then, there have also been cases where abuse has been hushed because of an image in the society that people have to maintain and save the embarrassment of speaking about it. A very crucial problem that I came across was that, the girls did not have underwear. These girls come from low income background where feeding their children is the parents’ main concern rather than worrying about the child’s right to being clothed right. What people fail to understand is that a body part is to be covered to keep it away from diseases. Underwear is for your “KAVACH” and everyone must have it.  

Success stories
The biggest and the most delightful is the response I have received for Kavach. Everywhere I go, I have been welcomed with open arms. But to mention one, I identified a PT teacher in a school who had been molesting school girls for 22 years and made sure the school takes appropriate remedial measures. Similar cases have been in many schools and homes in and around Mumbai. Once, two girls after my workshop came to me and said, ‘Aaj hame pata chala ki hamara sharer hamari jimmedari hai, ladkonke khelne ke liye khilona nahi hai’ Also, after considering my work of over 10 years and the “Kavach” movement, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has given us permission to conduct the sexuality awareness workshops and distribute our “Kavach kits” in all the schools run by them in Mumbai i.e. covering almost 4,00,000 kids.