Tharu teens shed shyness about birds and bees

Damodar Bhandari

Beltadi (Bardiya), April 2:

Call it a fillip to consciousness among the people in rural areas of Bardiya district about the reproductive health or whatever, but the fact is that adolescents here have started talking about the birds and bees and the facts of life freely.

It is the sex education course, which has changed the thought of Tharu adolescents at Beltadi village of Gulariya muncipality-15.

Tharu boys and girls appear quite changed in their attitudes ever since they underwent a course in sex education. Even the elders seem to be relenting and shedding their inhibitions.

The sex education course has brought about a new dimension in the society where Tharu boys and girls have been fighting hidebound traditions and outdated cultural mores, said Jang Bahadur Chaudhary, an intellectual from the Tharu community.

So much so, that old trends are being reversed now. Nowadays, few villagers prefer elect to go to their so-alled Aguwa (head of the community) with disputes or cases as they used to in the past. Now, it is the adolescents who solve the quarrels of the people.

Thanks to the Youth Information Centre (YIC) opened under the Adolescents’ Reproductive Programme (ARP) in rural parts of the district by the Bardiya Chapter of the Nepal Red Cross Society, Bardiya chapter, a new awareness has come about in the Tharu youth.

The Red Cross has provided them with 290 books worth Rs 12, 000 in the YIC, and these books are helping the boys and girls to learn about safe sex and reproductive health.

The books on sex, reproductive health, women’s rights, racial discrimination and laws have helped bring about vital changes in the thoughts of the young Tharus, said Balika Chaudhary, facilitator of ARP.

Armed with their newfound knowledge, a team of Tharu boys and girls is busy fanning out to all villages and spreading awareness about safe sex and reproductive health, said Balika.

The total strength of the team is 30. Altogether, the 15 boys and 15 girls visit the villages by turns and try to solve the problems all by themselves. The YIC remains opens from 5 pm to 6 am daily. A complaint cum suggestion bix has been hung up at the YIC where people can drop their points, problems or suggestions. Every issue is discussed thoroughly. The boys and girls put in turnwise service at YIC. Each Saturday, they open the box and decide which issue ought to be top priority. Sharda Chaudhary (17), a student of grade 7 at the Nepal Rastriya Sambhshran Secondary School, who used to hesitate facing people is now an effective orator after involving herself in the team.

Before the programe was launched, several youths were facing problems relating to the pregnancy of their girlfriends and many girls were facing abortion problems even before getting married. But after they took the sex education course, most of the aberrations have come under control.

Those wishing to become YIC members have to pay Rs 50 each. After gaining membership, they are entitled to take the books to home for reading.