Sexual health is a very important yet much-ignored topic in Indian society. Especially for women in our country, it is difficult to broach the subject- be it among friends, with their moms, or even with healthcare providers. With no clue on reliable sources that provide accurate information and no one to share their questions and struggles with, women often choose to suffer in silence.
The situation has changed for sure with the arrival of smartphones, the Internet and social media on the landscape. For a section of women, information and access to healthcare are just a tip away. But for women residing in conservative or underprivileged pockets of the society, has the situation changed at all? Do young women of India have the liberty to discuss sexual health among themselves, let alone with their families and partners? What does a young woman do when she faces a sexual or reproductive health crisis? Does she go to a doctor or a local healthcare provider? Can she make the visit alone? Or does she rather ask her friends, mothers and aunts for solutions?
Suggested Reading: Why Sexual Health Education Needs To Talk About Pleasure And Fun
Understanding why it is difficult for women in India to talk about sexual health is crucial for the purpose of finding solutions to the problem. And the solution doesn’t entirely lie in textbooks, research papers and articles that one can read online. A significant part of it lies with the young women of India, their opinions and voices that offer an insight into their struggles and the stigmas that burden their lives.
To find out how women in India can have easy access to sexual healthcare and related information, students from Stanford Policy Program joined hands with SheThePeople and sat down with young voices in the state of Maharashtra, along with Anganwadi and ASHA workers and heard them out.
About the Stanford Policy Change Studio
Amanda Leavell, Madeleine Morlino and Shirin Abrishami Kashani are currently in the second year of Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy course. Via Stanford University’s Policy Change Studio, the students were paired with SheThePeople for a week-long visit to various urban and rural areas in the state of Maharashtra for fieldwork. During the visit, our partner NGOs- CORO India and Safecity arranged field trips in Mandala and Mankhurd areas of Mumbai, Panmalevadi village near Satara and Bhaktachiwadi village near Karjat.
Our master's students are hard at work with organizations like @SheThePeople bringing positive policy impacts to communities all over the world!— FSI Stanford (@FSIStanford) March 22, 2022
w/ @kashani_shirin, Madeleine Morlino & Amanda Leavell https://t.co/lVa4v2Bunj
Via these interactions, the students were able to not only get answers to various questions regarding sexual and reproductive health that young Indian women have to deal with, but also understand their social and financial living conditions, which hugely impact the issue.
Sexual health and Indian women
The fieldwork had three focus groups- women who needed policymakers to take cognisance of their grievances, healthcare providers like ASHA and Anganwadi workers who implemented the various government policies for the said agenda and above all, policymakers themselves. The Policy Change Studio's trip to India wouldn't have been complete unless students also had a chance to interact with a policymaker, and who better than the mayor of India's largest municipal corporation- Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to shed light on challenges faced by policymakers.
On the last day of their visit to India, the students interviewed Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar, who drew from her experience as a nurse, to speak on women's health and related issues and the various schemes being implemented across the municipal corporation to ensure that women are well taken care of when experiencing periods, pregnancy and early motherhood.
The team from Stanford Policy Studio @FSIStanford in partnership with @SheThePeople visited the Mayor's Office @KishoriPednekar this afternoon to discuss women's health and reproductive rights and how the state of Maharashtra & Mumbai are working on making an impact @AUThackeray pic.twitter.com/TQZoq85NyX— Amey Ghole (@AmeyGhole) March 24, 2022
Stanford University and SheThePeople will soon be sharing findings from this insightful fieldwork that will hopefully help policymakers and Indian society with data that will help change our overall approach to women's sexual health.