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Want accessible information on health of girls? Spreading Your Wings, A Health Infocomic for Girls of All Ages is a great resource, in comic form that kids will find interesting.
We live in a country that changes the narrative of a natural disaster by connecting it to menstruating women visiting temples. So is a book like Spreading Your Wings, A Health Infocomic for Girls of All Ages a necessity? Absolutely.
Spreading your wings is a crowd funded book, published by Young Zubaan. The author Ariana Abadin-Heifetz has conducted numerous training programs for rural women and girls in Uttar Pradesh as a part of Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna, an NGO. The book addresses the main areas Ariana thought that women would benefit from, namely “information about their bodies work”, “why/how bodies change during puberty”, and “how to care for themselves”.
The book is divided into four major parts that cover all the above mentioned areas, and also ventures into tackling the myths associated with menstruation via facts and logic. It helps the reader with the big questions like “What do I do the first time I get my period?”, “Are boys different from girls or do they also go through puberty?”
What I really like were the analogies that all children can understand. Pretty early in the book, when the talking about the changes the body goes through, the example of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly is used, and later the same analogy is used to show that every person is unique and beautiful in their own way.
In the same way, the analogy of a boat sailing easily through a wider canal is used to illustrate that a grown woman with a mature and wider pelvic bone structure will find it easy to deliver a child, than a woman with narrow bone structure, and this is why it is important for girls to wait till a certain age to get pregnant.
The comparison between how we prepare for a guest by cleaning the house, making the bed with clean sheets, and preparing fresh nutritious meals, and how the uterus prepares to receive a new egg from the ovaries is very apt, and very well thought out, which makes this an excellent resource to use even in rural and semi-rural areas to teach girls about their bodies. (And boys about girls’ bodies, if I may say so!)
The process of puberty and the science behind menstruation is explained in a simple non-threatening manner throughout the book. Instead of a blanket assurance that every one goes through this process and there is nothing to fear, which might have come off pedantic and boring, simple examples are used. For instance, when Sonali talks about bodies changing, she says,
“Similar to how exploring a new place is both exciting and can make you feel nervous, when your body changes you may also feel nervous until you get used to your new unique and beautiful body.”
The book just does not stop with informing, but also connects the information provided to real life by specifying where and how young girls in rural settings can get help from. It also touches upon essential points such as advocating for clean toilets in schools, nutrition and hygiene.
When talking about the myths part, I couldn’t help but feel that that the team must have had long debates how best to address these myths in the book, give as logical an explanation as possible to demonstrate that certain myths do not apply any more, and some do not make any sense whatsoever, but also try and be politically correct without offending sentiments. It indeed is a hard balance to strike.
There are a couple of things that personally did not work for me in this book. It is in a comic book format and all information is conveyed as an interaction between 9 female characters. Unfortunately, I felt that the characters looked confusingly similar and I had to remember who is who by what they were wearing. Secondly I am not a big advocate of celebrating the uterus or theorising that women are sacred and are closer to god while menstruating! If making women feel impure while bleeding is one extreme, I find this elevating women to a pedestal the other extreme. I personally prefer striking a balance.
My 13 year old and 12 year old, both read the book. While my older one found the comic book format very relatable, my younger one thought that there were too many things to remember. I had to explain to her that the book aims to educate and to serve as a reference. The main takeaway points must be that we have the information to understand our changing bodies and to keep it healthy.
Though what we have in our hand is only a book, Spreading Your Wings (website) is more of a movement. The book will be available in both Hindi and English, and aims to be an educational/training resource that will transform practices around menstruation and feminine hygiene.
If you’d like to pick up Spreading Your Wings, A Health Infocomic for Girls of All Ages by Ariana Abadin-Heifetz and Pia Alize Hazarika, use our affiliate link at Amazon India.
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Top image via pixabay and book cover via Amazon
Anitha Ramkumar is a teacher, librarian, a dreamer and an independent spirit. She used to
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