The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has launched an inclusive Saathiya Resource Kit and Saathiya Salah mobile app to disseminate sex-education to young adults of the country, though the initiative is not just about sex-education.
Launched under the Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram of the ministry on Monday 20th of February, the initiative has been much talked about and appreciated since.
What sets it apart from earlier initiatives concerning the issue is that, unlike them, here the impetus of interaction is upon those whom it concerns—the teenagers themselves. Under this, Saathiyas or peer educators would be selected and trained so that they are able to reach out to their friends and address the queries of their young minds. In such a way, this initiative aims to reach out to 26 crore youngsters of the country through around 1.6 lakh peer educators.
With the kind of mental and emotional turmoil that everyone experiences during puberty, it seems like just the best course to provide them the support of fellow teenager who is easy to approach and more comfortable to talk to, than any teacher or elder of the family.
The material provided in the resource kit address highly sensitive issues such as homosexuality and tagging of certain traits as gender-specific in a very mature way, which would also be rather radical for the conservative Indian mind. By and large, this initiative is being recognized as a “sensitive step in a sensitive direction” (read on and you’ll know why).
Sex-ed is so highly tabooed in India that having the right kind of sex-ed almost becomes a matter of privilege here. When initiatives in this regards have been sparse and not-so-fervent even in the cities where people are more educated and presumably open-minded, this step that particularly targets the rural areas is certainly very challenging.
Technology has helped fill in the gaps to a certain extent in the urban scenario; in a village where only a few kids might own an android device, the Saathiya would play a pivotal role as the first-ever and the only source of sex-ed help. Yet, the program planners did not undermine the role of technology in this context and have also introduced the Saathiya Salah mobile app along with the resource kit.
In the socio-cultural backdrop of rural India, still the biggest challenge would be making people comfortable with the very concept of sex-education. If this programme is able to tackle this issue, it can open up promising scope for addressing the multitude of gender-sensitive myths and taboos prevailing in our country in the most direct and profound manner.
Effective sex-education can also directly affect the crime statistics of rural areas by not letting teenagers digress to the wrong path and teaching them about various sensitive issues that might help them later.
The ministry has been planning it out for a year now, with an aim to employ the best tactics and methods to address the issue.
The detailed scheme they have come up with looks very promising and if successful, this initiative can accomplish more than it aims for; it can prove to be a social breakthrough in many aspects.
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