Phone in for information
Are there questions on sexuality that you wish to ask? Here is an NGO that can help clear your doubts.
PHOTO: K.K. MUSTAFAH
WANT TO KNOW?: Call this helpline.
Growing up can be fun. It's a time of learning and discovery. While this means lots of exciting things, sometimes certain issues, especially those pertaining to the changing body, can leave young people confused and unhappy. Worse, they can develop self doubts that can hamper successful emotional development, create health problems and prevent them from being happy individuals. That's why the roles played by organisations like TARSHI (Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues) are important. Based in Delhi, this non-profit organisation believes "that all people have the right to sexual well-being and to a self-affirming and enjoyable sexuality". Besides disseminating information through publications, public events, campaigns and sessions in schools and colleges to promote a healthy sexuality, TARSHI also runs a helpline (011- 2437 2229).
Young people form an important segment of TARSHI's callers. They need not be afraid that they might be censured or judged. "Our counsellors are trained on a number of aspects, like listening and counselling as well as on information on sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and rights."
The organisation also has interesting and informative books for school-goers. Called the Red Book (for those between 10 and 14 years) and the Blue Book (for those who are 15 years and above), they explain concepts simply and carefully. The English versions of these books can be downloaded free of cost from the TARSHI website.
The challenges that TARSHI faced are important indicators of society's attitude towards issues of sexuality. "We wanted to put an advertisement in the papers but a daily in the city refused because of the word `sexual' in our name," says Prabha Nagaraja of TARSHI.
Just as there are some questions that are difficult to ask, some calls are also taxing to answer. "Crisis calls, though not very common, are difficult to deal with. Since this is an anonymous service, we do not know the name and number of the caller. If they are in an abusive situation or suicidal, it can be difficult for the counsellor to deal with the aftermath of the call not knowing who they are, how they are and whether they are safe or not can be very emotionally demanding for the counsellor. Our training and supervision help counsellors to be prepared for such calls, to be able to accept the limitations of the service and refer callers in distress to other services that would be better able to address their concerns. Since the helpline is not advertised as a crisis line or a hotline, we have not received too many such calls over the years," says Prabha.
Young people needn't be shy about the nature of their questions. As Prabha says, "Most of the young people who call the helpline want general sex information, information about sexual and reproductive anatomy, masturbation, nocturnal emission, menstruation or conception." So there's actually very little that the counsellors haven't dealt with before.
Visit www.tarshi.net for more information.
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