By Naomi Menezes, International Representative (India)
The Indian society, the second most populous country, has progressed leaps and bounds in several aspects – technology, politics, economy. However, the very mention of sex or its education continues to make society uncomfortable.
Sex education, which ideally should be an important part of the school curriculum, remains a taboo topic in most areas in the country.
Sex education, including its spiritual aspects, should be a part of a broad health and moral education from kindergarten through grade twelve, ideally carried out harmoniously by parents and teachers
- Benjamin Spock
Parents refrain from conversations that revolve around sex while school teachers shy away from addressing this topic. It is seen as offensive to Indian values, and concerns are that it might lead to risky sexual behaviour and promiscuity.
The lack of sex education in the country has resulted in many young adults consciously or subconsciously acting out due to sudden physical and mental changes which they are not properly aware of. This leads to cases of depression or other mental instabilities.
Incidents of unprotected sex or sexual abuse don’t happen because of sex education, rather due to the lack of it. However, it is essential for young adults to accept their bodies in order to be empowered from within. This will make them less vulnerable to discrimination as they will be able to stand up as informed individuals and dispel any myths.
So who’s your ThatMate?
Bringing the topic to the forefront and stirring society’s perceptions is a budding social entrepreneur from Satara – Madhavi Jadhav. She founded ThatMate– a platform that is providing sex education to children in the district through comic books!
Madhavi realised that the youth of today had no outlet to discuss or ask questions that they had about sex or puberty. They either turned to the internet or their friends – both unstable sources of information. They lacked a ‘mate’ who they could confide it or freely express their concerns.
Born out of a personal experience of being a ‘that mate’ to her niece, Madhavi quit her corporate career to move to Satara and start her own social organisation. Her aim was to connect with the students in a manner that would be informative yet relatable. She transformed sex education from loaded lectures to creative comic strips – conversational, communicative and cool.
These comic books are packed with apt illustrations that answers just about any question related to puberty and sex - menstruation and its hygiene, nocturnal emissions, genital hygiene, etc. Available in English, Hindi and Marathi primarily, Madhavi aims to translate these comics into several other languages in the coming months. The first of it’s kind – these books are made available to school children at a minimal price.
Apart from comic books, ThatMate aims to reduce the myths associated with sex and mental health through interactive workshops, online forums, and counselling services.
What started as a simple blog in June 2016 that scaled into workshops by November 2016 itself, Madhavi today is working with seven schools and 550 students in Satara and Nagpur. So far, they have conducted three summer camps with Spandan Foundation, Agastya International Foundation and Lulla Charitable Trust in Satara, Hubbali and Sangli.
ThatMate has impacted 2 500+ adolescents through their workshops in Satara, Hubbali and nearby Talukas. Through their Facebook live and Online forum, they have reached out to 13 000+ people. Madhavi is expanding her footprint by building lasting associations with the government of Sangli that will assist in reaching out to an additional 50 000 kids.
How can you get involved?