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Sexual reproductive health and rights no longer a taboo



An exhibition of photos and videos recorded by 20 young researchers highlighting the importance of breaking misconceptions around sexual reproductive health and rights was held at the GKCM Odissi Research Centre, here today.

Organised by Oxfam India, the exhibition aims to increase the understanding of the intersection between the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescent girls and boys. It also highlights the increasing levels of violence against women and girls and gender-based violence, including child and early forced marriage in Uttar Pradesh and Odisha.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Utkal University Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Sabita Acharya, documentary film maker Biren Das and Odisha correspondent for BBC Sandeep Sahu.

The exhibition, done in collaboration with Utkal University, is part of Oxfam India’s research project. 20 young researchers from Kalahandi district in Odisha and Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh are taking part in the research project. The researchers have taken photos and videos from their phones to raise issues and generate conversations. The project aims to be a platform for young researchers to be creative using their phones in identifying related to consent in relationship, taboos around menstruation, homosexuality and access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services in their communities.“Being part of the research, I could know my sexual and reproductive rights. It was very difficult to communicate on these issues with my father. Now, I can talk to him very easily about my right to choose my life partner and how to end stigma attached to periods. As a youth researcher, I have been using this participatory photo voice stories and videos to generate awareness on sexual reproductive health and rights,” said Manju Patra, a researcher from Borbhata Village, Kalahandi who is part of this project.

The project which started in June 2019 has been guided by feminist principles. The preliminary research findings and observations in the field suggest a shift in the attitudes, behaviour and practices of the 20 youth researchers who have been both “research subjects” and “research leads”. The feminist methods used in this research are both innovative and participatory.

“Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights constitutes four essential elements of life and well-being. It is high time to generate evidence-based information on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. We aim to educate our youth and to end exclusive practices and promote quality, universalised and inclusive health care to save the youth from gender-based violence and life-threatening morbidities and mortalities. Youth engagement in this campaign on SRHR can be a catalyst to national productivity and prosperity,” said Professor Acharya.

The exhibition also had the researchers conduct three sessions to talk about keys issues regarding SRHR. The first session captured the stigmas around periods and the youth researchers described their efforts to dismantle stigmas and create new norms.

The second session saw researchers talk about the importance of consent in promoting safety and dignity in relationship. The third session focused on the availability of SRHR services and the challenges for youth in accessing those and role of service providers in building a positive environment for promoting SRHR.

The research project is a collaboration between Oxfam Canada and Oxfam India. McGill University in Canada is also part of the research project. The project has been funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The exhibition was attended by students from Utkal University, Ravenshaw University, Ramadevi Women’s University, BJB Autonomous College, Adaspur Autonomous College, civil society members, researchers participated in the exhibition. “Oxfam India works closely with youth in communities and in universities and colleges. We feel that there is the need to forge conversations and actions on these issues. SRHR and gender-based violence are closely linked and the lack of SRHR leads to basic human rights violation. It has many facets. Through this research on SRHR, we have tried to generate evidence on the practice of SRHR by youth and to promote positive norms to advance their SRHR”, said Akshaya Kumar Biswal, Regional Manager of Oxfam India.

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