#OpenPockets : Conversations with young people on sexual well being

In 2018 , Hidden Pockets is conducting events in Bangalore with service providers with an aim to bring an audience of young people to the service providers and have open conversations around issue of health and young people. We call it the #OpenPockets.

A place where we come and talk about our sexual well-being and at the same time get a chance to talk about some of the myths and fears we have around sexual health.

a purse with things spilling over.

It is a great chance to meet counsellors and doctor and have some conversations with them to demystify some of the doubts we have around sexual well-being.

Where to find abortion clinics in North East? Kohima!

What do you expect when you’re about to visit a Family Planning Association of India clinic for the first time. You don’t know what to expect. I was at home, visiting one of cities of North East, trying to figure out if I could  find a good health clinic.

I took a bus from BOC point and headed to main town. From there, I got out of the bus and started walking as the traffic jam was massive. It wasn’t much of a challenge finding the clinic as I was initially given the address from which I clearly remember the name of the colony it stood in- Daklane. And as I reached the colony, the first person I met, I asked where Reproductive Health and Family Planning clinic is and he directed me perfectly and I didn’t need to ask anyone again on my way.

 

The moment I reached the clinic, I stretched my neck as it stood at a peak, and realized just how normal the clinic was and how though I’ve been to the colony many times I never really saw this yellow structure with huge billboards on Reproductive Health and Family Planning.

As I climbed up the stairs and entered, I was greeted by the head, who then took me to his office and after a brief conversation, introduced me to his team who will tell me about the clinic and answer my queries. It didn’t feel like I was in an alien place and though it was my first time I felt familiar with it.

The team took me through the process of the clinic right;

Registration,
Immunization (for children),
Counselling,
OPD and so on.

I was told they get about 250 patients coming in every month from all age groups. The number however used to be higher but because of the change in the consulting doctor who was liked by many and with whom many found comfort, had to take leave for further studies. He had a great rapport with the patients and was always the preferred one. Two doctors are currently in chair, one a male and the other a female. They take turns and are available through Monday to Friday. They have also through time have gained trust of patients and the number of visiting patients are increasing.

The clinic follows a No Refusal Policy.

Where though most treatments are FREE, for the few where fees are imposed is also not considered mandatory and if a patient is unable to pay, he or she is relieved from having to pay at all. The fee for MVA which is for safe abortion is two thousand rupees, covering all expenses like meds, procedure, full doses required. Again, even if the patient is unable to pay they will still treat her without payment.

They provide free contraceptives, and also conduct other long term procedures like coppertine, sterilization (both female and male).

The clinic not only receives patient from Kohima but all over Nagaland. Doctors from other districts and villages refer them to the clinic. Even government hospitals like Naga Hospital, Kohima refers patients to the clinic. Apart from these, they also provide Hepatitis B and C services. The clinic also have a good amount of HIV and IDU patients. Apart from such in house treatments, they also cater to an adolescents program called Adolescents Education Program, where they visit government schools and less privileged private schools, and hold comprehensive sexuality program. They conduct events and programs in order to share information on the same and create awareness. They also hold monthly musical program called Top Acts on every 4th Saturday in order to create a positive space for the same. The day I visited the clinic, an abortion was underway. It was the first time in my life that I stood next to a room where an abortion was underway. And rather than feeling anything else, I only worried if the patient is doing okay. And hoped she’d be fit both physically and mentally soon.

 

As I took my leave and was on my way out a young girl working there offered me tea, and as I came out of the clinic, it was just a normal day again. The clinic has two exits and entrances making it easier for patients to take whichever is best directed to their house or bus/taxi station. Just a couple of minutes of walk away is the bus stop and taxi station.

 

Writer : Sekulu Nyekha

What happens when a gynaecologist, a poet and a man walk into the room?

If you are unable to find the service, please do write to us.

Write to us at hiddenpocketsinfo@gmail.com
Call us at +918861713567

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With four lovely performers and three speakers, Hidden Pockets and Krantikalli for #Sep28 campaign took this initiative to bring young people together and talk about Women’s Health and the City. The best part was that we had a gynecologist with us as a speaker. Dr. Suchitra is a medical officer for Family planning Association of India at the Delhi branch. Having a gynecologist among us made the audience very excited. The youngest in the crowd was a 16 years old performer.

The event was conducted at the Playground Creative House in Defense Colony, Delhi. The event started with two of the lovely performers reciting their poems. Brindalakshmi through her poems voiced the need for Red Lipstick, as if every women in the room was dying to put the red lipstick but was scared.  Anuradha recited her poetry in Hindi wherein she connected various different women and their struggles with health. Ankita spoke about body shaming and loving our own bodies while Amia brought a young adolescent’s anxieties into the room. The room was filled with an aura where we all had some questions to be answered. We all could connect with the poems, and we all connected with each other.

To the make the evening more interesting, we had our speakers next.  We had three speakers, Aisha from Hidden Pockets Collective, who mapped public health centers, and is a single women staying in a metropolitan city, went first. Second was Nitin, a man in a women’s meet, who spoke about how important it is to be a part of such discussions. As a partner, a brother and a friend, he wanted to be more engaged in these issues and be more sensitive to such issues. And third was the gynecologist, Dr. Suchitra.

 

 

The conversation was mostly focused on discussing public health centers and how difficult it is for women to access health centers, followed by sharing of experience on how it felt to visit Family Planning Association for the first time. Nitin shared his experience about visiting clinics and understanding how important it is to visit these centers with your partners.  And then we had the gynecologist talking about safe abortion, about how it is a women’s right to get a safe abortion and also about myths related to abortion.

Slowly the audience in the room started opening up. And then one by one we had the women asking questions. There was an excitement as well as seriousness in the room. Excitement because women were finally asking questions directly to a gynecologist and seriousness because all were paying attention to what the doctor was saying. The questions were related to periods, methods to contraception, pregnancy, safe abortion etc..

The audience also got to know about FPAI (Family Planning Association of India).  FPA India envisages sexual and reproductive health for all as a human right, including gender equality leading to alleviation of poverty, population stabilization and sustainable development. They have clinics around India such as in Delhi, Agra, Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai. We got to know how  FPAI follows ‘No Refusal Policy’ and also about how it gives importance to “after care” post having abortion and helps the person in understanding choices to contraception.

To sum up the beautiful evening, we had our performers recite their amazing poems. By the end a few still had questions, few looked content and while a few others were still in that fascinating aura.

Hidden Pockets Collective would like to thank out host partners @Krantikaali for helping us conduct this event in Delhi.

Pic credit: Riya Singh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unleash Lab 2017, Denmark : SDGs

August 2017, Hidden Pockets got selected to be a part of Unleash Lab 2017 in Denmark. A nine days event where Unleash focused on 7 themes which are directly linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The themes were Food, Health, Water, Energy, Education, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Consumption and Production. So what was UNLEASH model ? UNLEASH brought 1000 talents together and converted their ideas into 200 business cases for sustainable development, collaborating with companies, academia and civil society.

 

Health 

Hidden Pockets represented Health. Talents under Health were further divided into sub themes; Access, Disability, Education, Mother and families and Mental health. Under Health we worked on access to Health. Under the sub themes we were asked to work with small groups on different topics related to access to health. Finally groups were created under access sub theme. Access to Finance, Early detection of Preeclampsia, Connecting the service providers and the Medicine suppliers. I worked on Maternal Deaths – Early detection of Preeclampsia. It was a great experience to work with people from different back grounds. The team had a mix of people from academia, a person from NGO, practitioner and a designer. My team members were

– Yvonne Mburu (Kenya), a scientist and healthcare consultant with over 10 years of experience in cancer immunology.
– Anne Vaandrager (Netherlands), a Design Activist. Her work is based on in-depth research that focuses on social shortcomings and inequalities in society.
– John Kigaru (Kenya), a Nurse Practitioner. He is the CEO and Co-founder of PregMum limited ,which has partnered with Strathmore University to develop Health-Tech solutions to improve early detection and response to obstetric emergencies at the grassroots level in Kenya.
– Olivia Curl (United States), founder of GIRLWITHABOOK Movement, a non-profit media organization that advocates for girls’ education and gender equality. She has worked in community-level reproductive healthcare and is particularly interested in the relationship between reproductive rights, education, and gender equality.

Pilot Project: 

The project is called SheTHRIVES. It a simple, effective screening tool to identify pregnant women at risk for eclampsia and pre-eclampsia. We selected Mukuru Slum in Nairobi, Kenya as a pilot case study for testing and initial implementation. The women in this area are at a great risk of maternal death from pre-eclampsia, due to a lack of preventative screening measures. So we created SheTHRIVES which is a 3-piece pre-eclampsia screening kit with digital blood pressure cuff, urine dipstick test, and simple digital interface which would be used by the community and student volunteers at the local church to detect early signs of pre-eclampsia among the pregnant women.

Unleash Lab 2017 was an amazing experience. We learnt how to work in a team, with people from different background, different culture, different style.
We learnt a lot about each others culture. We learnt how a particular idea might work in a particular region but might not work in a different region. We had to understand the culture of different regions and community. Unleash helped us in understanding the community better. It also helped many of us who are running our small startups to understand how a proposal is made, what is the investor looking for and what all to keep in mind while framing a proposal.

All the SDGs are interconnected to each other. One cannot work on one SGD by ignoring the other. All should be moving forward together. And that is what Unleash Lab 2017 taught us, “How to move together”.

Podcast: Let’s Make Abortion Safe: Women’s Reproductive Health

Welcome back to our Podcast series. As women, it is very important for us to know our rights and own decisions that are to be made about our individual bodies. But, have you wondered about how challenging that can be at times? There can be many reasons that make women’s reproductive health and rights a difficult area to talk about, let alone owning it.

Team Hidden Pockets discusses this issue with our team of specialists from areas such as Roopnagar district, Faizabad, Aliganj and Pune; who help us understand the importance and the need for women to own decisions around safe abortions. This podcast is specifically created to talk to women who have been working in the area of women’s health and reproductive rights for a while now. Listen to them share their personal and professional experiences with us.

We begin with Video volunteers from Pune District, move onto Arpan Society from Punjab, to Janvikas Kendra from U.P., and finally to Mahila Atma Suraksha Sanstha, U.P. Each of these women share the heroic work of their organizations that work in the area of safe abortion, women’s rights and providing services. Listen to them discuss how important The Right to Life and Respect of one’s body is for women.

Women today and since time immemorial have been struggling with knowledge around safe abortion techniques, breaking free from the shackles of patriarchy and making informed decisions about their bodies and even just doing what is good for them. Our specialists relentlessly work each day to make the lives for thousands of women who are struggling, better each day. Their only message is to empower yourselves and take ownership. Don’t let anybody make these decisions for you. Go to your nearest public health clinic, access non-profit organizations around you and make your abortion safe. Let’s not be afraid anymore to discuss Safe Abortion.

 

A special thanks to CREA for introducing these wonderful women to Hidden Pockets.

Host: Aisha Lovely George

Pic Credit: canva.com

Music by Audionautix.com

 

Will you visit a government hospital to get health check up?

My first association with a big government hospital was when Amma asked me to go meet a doctor. She wanted someone senior to talk to me, so that I will eat my dinner properly. That was my first memory. Big hospital and lots of people. I was excited, running around looking for a specific room and this all seemed like an adventure. I still don’t have any memory of what exactly did my doctor say, but I retained the visuals. They stayed on and that was what government hospitals meant for me, for the longest time.

I grew up among Malayali nurses, and right next to my house there was one of the biggest government hospitals in Delhi. With time, I realised nobody really liked going to a government hospital and it was always crowded, no matter what. If god forbid, we had to meet a doctor, we really had to depend on our Malayali roots; we all knew how much it mattered to have one Malayali nurse aunty, who could get us to the right doctor and will save us the torture of waiting in line. The visuals of lines and crowd stayed on, and memories of government hospitals become more murkier in my mind.

With college, there seemed to be a plethora of hospitals around us. Everyone knew the swankiest private hospitals and everybody seemed to have a medical insurance. Amma again coaxed me into  getting a medical insurance and again thought talking to a senior doctor will help, so that I will live my life properly. I had my war against insurance going on, in those years ( it still persists), and I ended up never having a medical insurance. But slowly the narration of government hospitals started disappearing from my family, my aunts were getting transferred to private hospitals. Everyone talked about the private hospitals being the saviour of lives, people even started making separate accounts just for private hospitals, lest one day one might need it.

“We are paying for the convenience”- they said

“ Nature will save me”- I said.

Nature did not save me, and it did not really help that I was a city bred girl who genuinely for the longest time thought milk comes from mother dairy booth. The only hospital I knew was AIIMS, because now I had friends there and that too was a place I never wanted to visit. I no more had any visual memory, I no more had any experience. I was told, government hospitals were crowded and dirty.I believed and continued living in my naturopathy bubble.

When Hidden Pockets started mapping government hospitals, as a researcher it was very difficult to start visiting the government hospitals. All these hearsay, the images I had seen floating in media, and all that reportage, I was not really sure what was I was looking for in these hospitals. The big chunk of my country was using these services, and I was on my journey of finding what was really happening in these hospitals. The aspiration of the burgeoning of middle class and the daily life of lower income group was providing me with enough existential crisis.

Even before accessing the services, I had to wage off another ideological war in my head. Shush all the images of the government hospitals I already had in my mind. I had to give government hospitals another chance. I had to convince myself that government hospitals were just not meant for poor people. My health was not a luxury for which I needed to save, it was my right. My government had to take care of my health too. Too many battles I say.

So I started with my favourite battle:the battle to reclaim beauty narrative, the battle to reclaim all the images I had of government hospitals. I had to go to these hospitals and witness some of these hospitals, sit there, commit to bird watching and look at the bodies that come there.

“Nobody likes a mess” said Aisha, but I was sure, there was something else was happening in our visits to these government hospitals. There were crowds, which I had seen in private hospitals also, but the crowd looked different, the staff felt different, something which reeked of something crude. It did not feel like the parallel city I believed I was living in. Poverty was too stark.

Yes, there are plenty of people who went to government hospitals, it is the only source for solace for poor people and they still believed government will help them. There are huge lines in these places.

One of my biggest shock came, when I realised that OPD fee ranged from Rs 2 to Rs 50. I was used to hearing from Rs 200- Rs 1500. The economic value of my health could be that affordable, was a question that played in my mind for sometime.

With time, our visits became more regular, we have visited government hospitals in various cities of India. Delhi, Chandigarh, Chennai, Cochin, Jaipur, Mumbai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad and plenty more cities to visit. With time, we were less and less apprehensive about government hospitals. We started understanding the process of government hospitals and in most of the cases, even liked the facilities provided. Most of these services were pretty good and there were plenty of options within the government services. I did not have to invest all my life savings in a private clinics to get basic services.

The visuals stayed and the crowd persisted. But with time, I started getting used to the images and realised maybe I had been living in a sanitized version where people of certain groups were not to be interacted. Most of the places were clean, they were not as swanky and clean as a private hospital, but they were clean.

At Hidden Pockets, we are trying to make the process of accessing Sexual and Reproductive health services easier; by finding the exact building where services can be located, by finding out the kind of services availability and by checking if the service providers are friendly. We have even surveyed the places for cleanliness and access with public transportation. The Vision behind this mapping venture was to make the experience as comfortable as possible. 

Finding free health services for women: A look at government hospitals in Bengaluru

“How many Government Hospitals are there in Bengaluru? Could you please tell me few names?” I asked a female worker at St Johns Hospital, Bengaluru, who had a big smile on her face and looked approachable. “Umm, Victoria… Vanivilas… Jayadeva… there are a lot of them” she answered. Armed with what I could glean from Google and my limited knowledge of Kannada, I was on a quest: to locate health services for women in government hospitals in the city. Having attempted it before in Delhi as part of a mapping project for Hidden Pockets, which locates services around sexual and reproductive health services. Having done this before in Delhi, we were trying to do the same in Bangalore, to understand what that process was like for women who seek health services and be able to recommend it to women in all situations. But given our rather bleak experiences trying to figure this out in Delhi, my research in Bangalore led to a pleasant surprise.

Bengaluru Urban District is divided into four taluks: Bengaluru North, Bengaluru East, Bengaluru South and Anekal. I went to five government hospitals across the North, East and South taluks. The first hospital I visited was Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, a 2-minute walk from the busy Shivaji Nagar Bus. It is much cleaner than the government hospitals I have seen in Delhi, and guards were very helpful, and able to answer my queries.

“Room No27. Yes, that is where she sits,” one guard told me when I asked where I could find a gynaecologist. “Once you procure an Admit Card for Rs10, you can consult a doctor here” he added. I met a few, all young and helpful doctors, who told me that the facilities are provided for free. The patients also looked happy with the services. Out of curiosity I asked one of the patients who was waiting to meet the doctor outside Room No. 27, how the services were and if it was for free. She told me that the check-ups as well as the medicines were free, one needed only to pay transportation costs. She told me the doctors were helpful. To double check, I also spoke to the chemist at their in-house pharmacy. “All medicines are free, but if it is not present in the main medicine block then we sell those medicines at 50-percent-off rates at the generic medical store under “Jana Sanjivini” scheme. This scheme involves setting up of generic stores in the hospitals of Health and Family Welfare and Medical Education,” he explained.

Content with what I saw, I walked towards Government HSIS Gosha Hospital, which is a 10-minute walk from the Shivaji Nagar Bus stand. Nobody seemed to know about it and most of them referred to it as the Muslim hospital. I could spot it on Google maps, but the navigation didn’t keep up with me and I was lost. An hour later, a cab driver was able to point me in the right direction. The hospital had a big entrance and a big board with its name written on it but as I entered it was difficult to understand where the building was. I couldn’t find the entrance gate. The hospital was under construction and I could only find the Maternity ward, rest of the hospital seemed under construction “Gosha Hospital handles all maternity issues which includes pregnancy, women’s health issues, Paediatrics, abortion etc. Rest all cases go to Bowring Hospital which is 15 minutes walk away from here”, a helpful staff told me. Gosha Hospital also follows the same procedure, one needs to get an admit card costing Rs. 5. All the treatment as well as the medicines are free. I could see the admitted ladies were talking evening strolls at the hospital veranda.  I was amazed by the cleanliness of the hospital and the smiling faces of the admitted patients made the hospital look more friendly. This hospital had more of the Muslim crowd. I tried meeting the head of the hospital for more information about MTP but I was denied and was told to get my employee ID card for any information. But the helpful staff was very polite and told me one can come during morning for MTP.

The next hospital in the list was the Victoria Hospital which is located close to the City Market, Fort Road. It was very easy to locate Victoria Hospital since it is one of the biggest government hospitals in Bengaluru. While searching for the maternity ward at Victoria, I found Vanivilas. It is a huge building which has all the services required in a maternity ward. I got to know that the maternity ward is called ‘Vanivilas’ and to meet the gynaecologist one needs to go to Room No. 29. “Patient needs to get an admit card costing Rs.10 and then can consult the doctor. All services are free here,” said one of the female nurses who directed me to Room No. 29. Vanivilas takes care of all the issues related to pregnancy, women’s health issues, paediatrics and abortion. At Room No. 16 one can get free tablets. It follows the “Jana Sanjivini” scheme i.e. all medicines are free, but if it is not present in the main medicine block then medicines are sold at 50-percent-off rates at the generic medical store.

One-Stop Centres

In my mapping study, I was also looking for one stop crisis centres (which we’ve explored previously in The Ladies Finger) in Bengaluru. These centres are intended to support women affected by violence, and to cater to the immediate medical, legal and psychological needs of the survivors of violence. In 2015, the Ministry of Women & Child Development proposed to set up 36 centres across the country with an outlay of Rs 18 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund. In the first phase there should have been one centre per State/UT.

When I enquired about it at Vanivilas, I was instantly told there was one at Bowring Hospital. I did go back, and found the Women Special Ward there called “Mahila Gataka” and found that it works exactly the same as the one stop crisis centres proposed by the Central Government. A unit was devoted to support women affected by violence. The unit had proper check-up rooms, a room for admitting the patient if required. There was provision for a counsellor, a policeman, legal assistance, a person from NGO. The unit was clean and was properly maintained. A staff from the hospital who was probably a nurse, was in charge of the unit. The staff was very friendly and approachable. She took me around and showed me the entire unit. The centre seems to operate on funds from the Karnataka state government; as The Hindu reports, the state has not claimed compensation under the Nirbhaya Fund. Considering I didn’t find a one-stop centre in Delhi, I never expected to find one in Bengaluru and was pleased to be proved wrong by Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital.

The last hospital I visited was KC General Hospital in Malleswaram. It was easy to find this hospital. Most of the auto guys knew about it. “You can meet the gynaecologist in A Block,” the guard told me. As I stepped inside the A Block and the first thing I noticed was ‘Mahila Gataka’. I was highly impressed. The person in charge showed me the unit. It was exactly similar to the one in Bowring Hospital. There was provision for a counsellor, a policeman, legal assistance and a person from NGO. The unit was smaller than the unit in Bowring Hospital. The doctors were approachable. It was lovely to see how even the hospital guards knew about the unit and how they were ready to guide us whenever we asked. KC General also offers free medical assistance to its patients. In all the Government hospitals, we went, maximum cost incurred was Rs. 10 (admit card).

The whole mapping around Government Hospitals in Bengaluru made me realise that public hospitals in Bengaluru are approachable. The staff is friendly and helpful. The guards were aware about the Women Special Wards (Similar to One Stop crisis centre). I would say that the government hospitals in Bengaluru are doing a good job. Common wo/man should try out the services provided by the Public Health Care. The consultation is completely free and the services are pretty fine.

Practitioners Experience:

The experience I shared above is as an end user. Had I missed out on the experiences by the on-field practitioners who have actually worked with these government health services providers, this article would have been in complete. One of the practitioner felt that these health providers are good but can do a lot better. Patients tend to offer extra payment to doctors, which has also become a forced practise now. The patients should try to understand that government hospital services are all free and by paying the doctors extra they are creating an extra burden for those who actually can’t pay.

Author Profile:

Aisha Lovely George, a researcher and podcaster at Hidden Pockets. Folllow her at @aishalgeorge on Instagram.

We would love to thank The Ladies Finger for helping us think through the piece and helping us curate a better experience.