The Indian Government's resource kit on adolescence offers progressive and helpful guidance on several topics that are still considered taboo in Indian society.
The resource kit has been produced by the 'National Health Mission' in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund and is intended for "peer educators".
It is expected that the 'peer educator programme' will be rolled out across India soon.
Paradigm shift in guidance to India's adolescents
Who are "peer educators"?
"Peer educators" are young girls and boys tasked with reaching out to adolescents to discuss topics of physical, mental well-being and development. Reportedly, 160,000 'peer educators' have been roped in to inform 26 crore adolescents across India.
Same-sex relationships are a criminal offence in India and are perceived to be "unnatural" and "a stigma".
However, resource kit says that it's natural to "feel attachment for a friend or a person of the opposite or same sex."
This approach has been praised by experts who feel that given the vulnerability adolescents feel in relationships, any effort to guide them is very helpful.
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Busting 'menstruation' myths
The resource kit demolished traditional notions menstruation is associated with in India. Many still consider menstruating girls unclean and banish them from the kitchen and places of prayer.
It states categorically that "menstruation" is not 'unclean' or 'polluting' and girls can and should continue to live their daily lives including cooking, playing outdoor games, schooling without being ashamed while ensuring they consume extra nutrition.
Breaking gender stereotypes for boys and girls
In a refreshing change, Health Ministry's kit breaks down stereotypes that the young are often weighed down by.
It normalizes boys crying and dismisses expectations of being 'strong' and 'macho' and says boys can be shy and soft-spoken.
Similarly, girls can be outspoken and dress like boys; the kit cautions against labels like 'sissy' or 'tomboyish' being attached to those who don't fit gender-stereotypes.
Much acclaim for health ministry's kit
Koninika Roy, advocacy manager from LGBTQ organization said: "I think it's a very progressive. I don't think the ministry has ever really considered talking about these issues openly especially with people under the age of 18."
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