Pune/Kolkata: She is a petroleum engineer by profession and a state level boxer by passion. But a casual talk with her niece compelled her to quit her cushy job to address a social issue, which is a taboo in Indian society.
Meet Madhavi Jadhav, a 30-year-old petroleum engineer from Pune, who has chosen to remove the stigma associated with having open discussions on puberty related issues like periods, condoms and sex.
She reveals that the discussion took her back her childhood, when her mother couldn’t explain to her how to use a sanitary napkin, as she had never used one for herself. Nor could she explain a curious Jadhav, as to why she got her periods. “I was asked to seek the answers in my biology textbook. Talking about them was a taboo,” she recounts.
Realising that the same squirminess exists even today, made her take a call. “The monotony of my job as a petroleum engineer was killing me. This discussion gave me the courage to do something, which I always wanted to do – quit my cushy job and do something for the society,” she told eNewsroom.
Once she put in her resignation, she set up her portal, www.thatmate.org, which talks about things that generally parents don’t want to talk about. However, her blog was not yielding the desired result –reaching out to maximum people. Thus, Jhadav, began the second phase of her myth busting movement – collaborating with schools, NGOs and government bodies, to conduct workshops for young adults.
Now, Jadhav is all set to launch a trilingual comic book –Growing Up, which aims to eliminate taboos associated with puberty and sex education, in December. It took six months of neck breaking effort to bring out the first edition. “I had the concept ready. But then I am no artist. So, I went back to my alma mater Maharashtra Institute of Technology and there some of my juniors helped me develop it. The comic book will be available in three languages – Marathi, Hindi and English. We plan to bring out a second edition of this book, which will talk about sexual abuse, another uncomfortable topic that we fail to bring on to our coffee table discussions, at home.”
The 35 page comic book has relatable characters, talking about periods, pregnancy, periods and more. Jadhav, is all keyed up about making it a success. “I think, it become a handbook for all those kids, who can’t have their doubts cleared by their parents. Sadly enough, even today, sex is a must-not-named word. We need to educate our children about it all, as it eventually boils down to the issue of their safety. Every day at least eight cases of sexual abuse are reported, and this data is of child abuse, that we are talking of.”
Talking about her journey, she maintains that she got more resistance from her relatives than from people she tried to reach out through her programmes. “People have passed comments like, ‘Oh! She even talks about love and relationship’. The same relative’s daughter had eloped with someone. One of my cousin has stopped talking to me because of my work, had I been a gynaecologist would they behaved a similar way?,” she questions.
Not willing, to give in to sharp criticism that she has to face for taking on the role of an educator, who is willing to talk about issues about which no one wants to talk, she approached Tedx PICT (Pune) to give her a platform to break myths. “They loved my idea and soon I became a Tedx speaker, following which I even had a chat session with the Government college of Karad. These talks have been a huge booster for my morale,” she says.
Jadhav, knows that the path chosen is not an easy path, but then that’s the job of a change maker – beat up paths that are not tread-able into the most traversed.