Project OBO Promotes Sex Ed in India
Originally Published: March 4, 2010
Revised: August 28, 2012
We’ve all hung out with friends, sitting around the basement, spilling our darkest secrets or maybe even playing a game of Truth or Dare. Games like Truth or Dare are often only lighthearted ways to bond, but for Mirna Guha, a 22-year-old woman living in India, these games revealed a surprising truth.
When Mirna’s friend shared her history of sexual abuse, Mirna realized that she knew little about it and had no idea how to help, so she began to research. “The more I read, the more I realized how common [sexual abuse] is and how it affects young boys and girls everywhere, all over the world. The fact that no one talks about it and that it is one of society’s well-kept secrets also began to hit home. It was then that I decided that I had to do something about this.”
Mirna’s desire to address the problem of sexual abuse led her to found Project OBO: Our Bodies, (Our) Opinions. “Young people in India are at risk for sexual violence, abuse and harassment, which are all issues that Project OBO addresses through its personal safety education,” explains Mirna. Project OBO consists of a series of workshops that not only focus on issues like sexual abuse and domestic violence, but also provide general sexuality education in India. Mirna and her fellow workers eventually want to also provide teens with access to and volunteer opportunities with organizations that provide sexuality education, support for sexual abuse survivors as well as testing and treatment for STDs, like HIV/AIDS.
I had a chance to speak with Mirna about Project OBO and the importance of sexuality education.
The more I read, the more I realized how common [sexual abuse] is and how it affects young boys and girls everywhere, all over the world.
Sex, Etc: When it comes to sexuality, what are some of the biggest problems facing young people in India?
Mirna: The taboo and stigma that surrounds the three-lettered word “sex” in this country is the biggest hurdle to creating any awareness on this issue. Premarital sex and sexuality of young people are never discussed in an uninhibited, open way and ignorance and silence are encouraged.
There has also been an increasing right-wing opposition to the inclusion of sex education in the national curriculum, thereby encouraging the perpetuation of myths and prejudices.
In the face of all of this, young Indian people often receive incorrect information about sexuality.
Sex, Etc: What challenges have you faced while working on Project OBO?
Mirna: Motivating young people to work with me has been a challenge due to lack of monetary compensation for the work being done. When OBO was initially organized, we had planned to work with educational institutions. However, due to the sensitive and “taboo” nature of the issues we are working with, most of them have been hostile to us bringing workshops on their premises and allowing us access to their students. Due to this and requests from young people, we have, instead, decided to hold workshops only in non-institutional spaces.
Sex, Etc: What is the most important message you would like people to get out of your workshops?
Mirna: There are several messages we wish to impart. Most of them are in keeping with our goals to
- Shatter myths about the body and question normative perceptions of beauty, which are perpetuated by the media and society,
- Encourage young people to be tolerant of various sexual orientations and gender identities and
- Provide young people a platform to express their opinions and develop their ideas for change through the utilization of their talents.
Tolerance is also a value we wish to instill in our participants along with the zeal to create a positive change in society.
Mirna Guha is doing important work to help those who have been deprived of honest, accurate sexuality education. She hopes her work inspires other young people around the world. Mirna feels that everyone can make a difference, saying, “If there is something, you are not OK with, even if your entire society allows it, stand up and make some noise. And someday, you will be heard!”
To get more information on Project OBO: Our Bodies, (Our) Opinions, take a look at their Facebook page.
Photo courtesy of Project OBO/Facebook
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