Name: Shreejana Bajracharya
When I reflect back, it’s already been more than 6 years, I am working as youth volunteer in Family Planning Association. I still remember the day, actually my first day in youth center of the organisation in Bhaktapur. The room was full of young girls and boys and in the middle of the room there was a young girl sharing her problem. She was an unmarried pregnant girl who was asking other young people in around her. I was given a card with doctor written on it and there were few more people arounf with card named sister, teacher, mother and friend. The young girl who was sharing her story asked me for suggestion after sharing her problem of unwanted pregnancy. I told her if she does not want to keep the pregnancy then you may wish to go for safe abortion which is right of a woman. With my answer, everyone else in the room clapped. Actually it was an exercise called ‘figure head exercise’.
After this there was no looking back. I was all ready to speak about my body, choice and access to sexual and reproductive health. Slowly I became more aware about the youth center and its work and with my involvement, I started getting opportunities to take part in many training and workshops. It was 2007 when I represent youth of Nepal in an international youth conference to present on Sex work, HIV and youth I got an international exposure. Similarly I got involved in different projects including advocating for Comprehensive sexuality education in Nepal in which my responsibility was also to conduct radio program, a popular radio program which is about young people SRHR. My team used to get lot of queries from young people in the program. I remember one of the questions we asked in radio program "From where the young people get SRHR information?" One of the listeners of our program SMS us "50% from books, 20% from internet, 10% from friends, 3% from cousins, 1% from teachers and 0.01 from parents" This showed that parents are uncomfortable to talk with their children about SRHR and young people are also not able to discuss their RH problems with their family members. This was a great lesson learnt and then I and my youth center team organized parent meeting where we noticed that parents also want any other but authentic place where their children could get information and services regarding SRHR.
Recently now I am working as youth consultant in Ipas Nepal and supervisor of World Bank project "Reproductive health classes for young women factory workers". Being a young woman and belonging to conservative society where talking about sex and sexuality is a taboo, I have seen young people struggling because they face RH problem in their daily life. This has been inspiration for me to work in the field of young people's SRHR. Young people are not a homogenous group. The young women working in the factories are marginalized group and vulnerable to high risk behaviors. Therefore Ipas Nepal with its youth led partner organizations is working to raise awareness about RH among young women factory workers by conducting series of RH classes (SRH rights, sex & gender, relationship, anatomy, puberty & menstruation, pregnancy, contraception and safe abortion)
One of the young women in factory shared, " oh god! I am a mother of two sons and till today I did not know about female genital organs. I did not know that vagina is where sexual intercourse takes place and urethra is for only urination." We also found that there is high sexual abuse among young women factory workers and unsafe sex behaviors. Most of the young women are unaware about legalization of safe abortion in Nepal. It has been 10 years after legalization of abortion in Nepal but still young women are unaware of the fact that it is young women's sexual and reproductive rights.
The best lesson learnt in my life experience is that, only peers can understand another young people’s SRH problem. Therefore active involvement and participation of young people must be there while planning policies and programs for youth.