How Youth Leaders Of NGO Project KHEL Used TikTok To Spread Awareness About Periods

Project KHEL is a Lucknow-based non-profit organisation that uses play and outdoor activities to create an impact in the space of Gender, Pluralism and Sense of self.

Project KHEL is a Lucknow-based non-profit organisation that uses play and outdoor activities to create an impact in the space of Gender, Pluralism and Sense of self.

Their core work lies in imparting 21st-century life skills education through experiential learning and Ultimate Frisbee coaching, with additional programmes designed around menstruation, child sexual abuse and adolescence-related issues.

Youth leaders create own TikTok account

The pandemic-related lockdown affected Project KHEL’s work immensely, with all their partner institutions shut since the middle of February. In light of this, Project KHEL has been using a variety of online platforms to engage with the 26 Youth Leaders that work with them (Youth Leaders are children who have graduated from Project KHEL’s programmes and are now working part-time with them).

With fairly good penetration of cheap internet services and inexpensive smartphones, TikTok has reached the farthest corners of India. Project KHEL had been experimenting with the platform since last year, facilitating TikTok competitions among their Youth Leaders on themes that encouraged them to explore the word Freedom and at the beginning of this year to create videos with verified information on CoViD-19.

So, while ideating on ways of engagement during the lockdown, TikTok seemed one of the best mediums to tap into, to not just get the Youth Leaders to create content, but also take the same to a bigger crowd. This year, in the month of May, with great encouragement from the Youth Leaders, the organization took the plunge and finally started their own TikTok account!

The first theme taken up was menstruation

With Global Menstrual Hygiene Day being observed on May 28 and menstruation being an important part of the work Project KHEL does, it only seemed right. There was an extensive conversation among the Youth Leaders to decide inclusive themes that represented issues beyond what is generally shown.

The month was divided into 4 weeks, with each of them being assigned a theme for the video, to be shared for seven days. The themes were:

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  1. Feelings and Emotions around Periods – To keep the first week breezy and talk about some general thoughts and emotions around periods, aspects that are already spoken about and understood.
  2. Men and Menstruation – To imagine realities where men were not kept away from all conversations and actions around menstruation.
  3. Kill the Shame – To explore the aspect of shame in the context of periods and how cultural structures become restrictive of what and what not girls do or how they do the same things differently during their periods.
  4. Representation and Inclusion in Periods – To talk about Menstruators who are most often missed out in even the most woke conversations around periods.

These themes were decided under the mentorship of Project KHEL’s Menstrual Educator, Angana, who is popular in the sector for her use of humour, action songs, dance and stories to drive positive conversations around periods.

Each of the videos under the themes was decided by the Youth Leaders and the content designed by their selves. After watching all the videos, I can say that they did not just come across as well thought out and supported with catchy music, but I was also bowled over by the simplicity with which each complicated topic was depicted.

This initiative, that brought down the power of content creation from the hands of the adults in the team to that of the young people from the community, is a positive step towards Youth Empowerment and is absolutely worthy of applauding, and only watching the videos will help one understand why.

Videos of conversations around periods

Below is the list of some of the most powerful videos that help build conversations around periods:

  • In one video, a young girl gets her periods while sitting in class and there is a male teacher in there. She asks if he has a pad that she could be given. Such a simple imagination of a new normal!
  • Talking about shame is mostly restricted to wearing white or stepping out of the house or feeling poorly about themselves during Periods, but these people have used their real-life experiences to share the truth. There is a video which shows a young girl walking up to the dustbin to dispose of her used pad, with her brother standing right there. This video seems to have stemmed out from a time when one of the Youth Leaders, who also happened to be a badge holder in her school had to check bags after a student reported missing some personal item. During this search, she stumbled upon a girl with a section of her bag full of used sanitary napkins. There was a lot of chatter on how this girl was of unstable mind till one of them bothered to ask the girl what led to this and it was shared that she never found the dustbin by itself, there was always some man standing close to it!
  • In the Men and Menstruation week, there is an adorable video of a boyfriend offering flowers and chocolates and food to his girlfriend who was suffering from menstrual cramps. The video ends with him gifting her a pack of pads.
  • The same video is repeated, with the same music and actions, but for a homosexual couple, in the last week that was dedicated to representation and inclusion.
  • The videos from the last week are among the most powerful and inclusive themes seen both on TikTok as well as conversations within the menstruation domain itself. There is a transwoman who shares that she doesn’t menstruate, a woman who menstruates but doesn’t want children and believes she is as complete as anyone else, and a woman who does not menstruate and believes she is still a complete woman capable of doing everything that a woman does.
  • Popular conversations around periods are mostly restricted to discussing the needs of young girls and women and recently a lot of people have started talking about including men in the conversation too. There has been no talk about Men who Menstruate! The last video in their TikTok series is also the most powerful one, that shows a couple where one of the partners is a transman. Transmen are individuals who believe they are men and also dress up and act accordingly, but are biologically born in a female body and that is how they become the men who menstruate. The fact that menstruation is not just “a thing that happens to women” is beautifully covered.

A lot of organizations have been working relentlessly in the context of periods during the pandemic. I imagined that this work would pan out best by providing access to flow management products and meeting sanitation needs of the female migrant workers travelling back or helping out women in the lower-income groups who are out of money and menstruation is not a regular woman’s priority.

When I saw that Project KHEL had created a TikTok account, I was much disappointed. My immediate reaction was that it seemed these people are losing their novelty and jumping into the bandwagon and that too such a toxic one! However, as the content kept being shared, I must confess, I stand corrected.

It makes a lot of sense on how these people have tapped into such a popular medium to talk about themes that matter. One other aspect of the pandemic is that people are at home and using their smartphones and internet much more than usual, so reaching out to them with such simple content that creates such a powerful impact is also another way of working on periods during the pandemic!

I am told that their next theme is on Consent and I can’t wait to see what they have to share!

First published here.

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About the Author

Pallabi Ghosh

A Human Rights Activist with experience in Anti-Trafficking, Child Rights, Migration, and Gender-based violence. read more...

4 Posts | 22,673 Views

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