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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexual Health Data : Do Indian cities think about its reproductive health?

Hidden Pockets Collective for last one year has been working with young people accessing sexual and reproductive health services in 7 cities of India. These cities are New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Kohima.

Abortion stigma can often lead to negative consequences for young, single women in need of accessing safe abortion services. There are several challenges that women face starting with lack of information on abortion itself, not knowing where to access services, encountering judgmental provider attitudes and bias, prohibitive cost, and fear due to social norms. These and other factors can push women into vulnerable situations where they opt for unsafe services that put their lives and health at risk.

We were trying to understand the response of young people to sexual and reproductive health in these cities. Did the cities vary in their attitudes to these issues? Were young people able to access these services? Was there a general awareness about these issues related to sexual and reproductive health issue among young people in these cities. These were some of the initial questions that we were working on.

This report is a trailer to our final report about the data collected over 1 year in these 7 cities.

Laws : 

Abortion in India, is mostly covered under Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971. The Act covers a range of situations, in which Indian laws allows a women to access abortion services.

The MTP Act is worded in a way in which the medical termination of pregnancy is based on medical opinion. So there is no on demand abortion in this country. And the MTP Act also lays down the conditions under which the pregnancy can be terminated. A registered medical practitioner can go ahead and terminate the pregnancy only based on medical opinion in the existence of any of these conditions. So in a sense even though since 1971 there is official legal access to termination of pregnancies, it’s not a right. It’s only one judgment of the Bombay High Court that has viewed the existing law from the lens of the woman and has termed it as a right. But the legislature is still not looking at it as a right.

What type of services? 

In our study, we only were focussed about accessing public health services, and at Hidden Pockets Collective, we wanted to promote accessing public health services. In most of the public health sector, there are various type of sexual and reproductive health services provided. Some of the services are :

a) Adolescent friendly Health Services

b) Counselling

c) Medical Termination of pregnancy

d) STI and RTI testing

e) Long term and Short term contraception choices

f) Family Planning methods

Abortion as a right?  

Is Abortion a right? No, not till now.

So what prevents us from making it right?

Abortion can only be accessed by a woman, if the doctor feels like the pregnancy would result in some kind of danger to her life. It still depends on the opinion of the service provider.

Which are some of the centres where abortion services can be accessed access?

  • Public Health Centres
  • Urban Health Centres
  • Community Health Centres
  • District Hospitals
  • Government Hospitals

There does not seem to be much conversations around sexual and reproductive health data in our cities. Even when National Health Policy 2017 was introduced various cities did not account for the young people in their cities. There is no conversations around keeping one’s sensitive data be it abortion data,HIV data within privacy debate.

Hidden Pockets Collective is working on this and effectively will produce a report regarding the affect of sexual and reproductive health data in urban planning. We need young people be seen as change makers and not just end users of exploitative interventions which does not reflect their realities.

We need to understand the habits of young people and consider it within the urban planning of the future smart cities of the global south.

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

 

Mapping Jaipur and its reluctance to sexual health

Hidden Pockets Collective visited Jaipur as part of our mapping studies and went in looking for government hospitals in Jaipur. A lovely city  which is full of colourful people, we were really looking forward to this study. We visited Prayas, an excellent NGO working on the issue of Public Health and Medicines in Rajasthan and decided to seek their assistance before we started our mapping. This time, we wanted to cover different forms of public health facilities and understand how were people using facilities at different parts of the city.

Every time we ask someone for government hospital, people tend to tell us the name of biggest government hospital in their cities. It was the same case in Jaipur, as asked people around and did some search on internet we ended up looking at SMS Hospital and Medical College in Jaipur. It was conveniently located right in the middle of the city. It was crowded. We entered from Gate number 3 and went looking for sexual and reproductive services in the government , we were guided towards the Dhanvanthri department, Parivar at first floor in Room number 17.  It was right next to free medicine counter.

Then we headed towards a district hospital :Rukmani Devi Beni Prasad Jaipuria Hospital, located in Milap Nagar. We had heard that it had a One Stop Crisis Centre – Aparajita for rape survivors. It was a clean hospital which had a very good ambience for people. It was not at all crowded like SMS hospital and seemed like a good alternative for Sexual and Reproductive Health services. The images on the wall was a refreshing change from the normally sad looking walls of a hospital.

Post this, we headed towards Zenana Hospital, a hospital that was specifically for women and children. It was located right opposite to the Chandpole metro station. It was easy to locate though really crowded. Even though we were able to find services listed on various boards, we just could not find the rooms. We asked people around, even used the fancy not-so working info- booths, we just could not find the rooms for adolescent friendly health clinics, and other services.

We were really surprised by the number of posters for wifi in the different government hospitals. It seemed interesting that government was heavily promoting the usage of internet and technology in its various forms in the hospitals. Sadly none of them were in functional phase. 

Our last visit to Sanganer, which was bit far away from the city. We went there looking for a Community Health Centre, Sanganer.  A CHC is secondary level of health care and provide specialist care to patients referred from Primary Health Centres. A CHC is a 30-bed hospital providing specialist care in obstetrics and gynaecology according to the Indian Public Health Standards prescribed by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in 2012. So we decided to find this CHC. It was a bit far and we realised nobody really understands the term CHC, but if we referred it as “Sarkari hospital”, we were able to evoke response.

We didn’t see any crowd there as well and we were surprised to see a clean gynaecologist room and a room for counselling for Adolescent Friendly Health Clinic. We also encountered a poster that read in Hindi “Surakshit Garbhapath” which meant Safe Abortion. We were so happy to see a poster providing such positive message in the middle of a small town in Jaipur.

We were really happy with the services available in the Community Health Centre and returned back to our bus ride to Jaipur. On our way back, we wondered about the reason for people to head to big referral hospitals in cities, wasting time and their resources when they have good services in their towns.

We do understand there is a lear gap between implementation of these policies, and also lack of interest on the sides of service providers in assisting people in these smaller health centres, but if we could de-congest the big hospitals and still make this a good opportunity for the service providers. It would provide a great deal of relief for the patients of the related area. Until then, these were some of the hospitals that we visited in Jaipur and generally had a good experience.

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. 

Excerpts from National Aids Control Organization ‘s FAQ

  1. How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?

Ans. Since 1992, scientists have estimated that about half the people with HIV develop AIDS within 10 years after becoming infected. This time varies greatly from person to person and can depend on many factors, including a person’s health status and their health-related behaviours.

Today there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. As with other diseases, early detection offers more options for treatment and preventative healthcare.

str1

What about having a tattoo or your ears pierced?

Ans. Tattooing, ear piercing, acupuncture and some kind of dental work all involve instruments that must be sterile to avoid infection. In general, you should refrain from any procedure if the skin is pierced, unless absolutely necessary.

 

Read more : http://www.naco.gov.in/NACO/Quick_Links/FAQs/

Image: http://www.naco.gov.in/NACO/Quick_Links/FAQs/