By: Naseem Kapdi
We’re constantly inspired by our mentors who are blazing paths forward and our mentor, Kaumudi Nagaraju is no exception. She is a remarkable mentor who’s driving change through her advocacy in Hyderabad, India.
Kaumudi and I were paired during a mentor meetup focused on breaking taboos. For anyone that has joined these events, you know that time goes by too fast and you don’t want to leave the conversation.
Kaumudi has been driving change through her NGO called Learning Space Foundation, which focuses on supporting girls who are interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Through her work, educators sought her support on other issues, such as sexual abuse. Kaumudi didn’t have the knowledge or resources at the time and wanted to do more to support the community's needs.
This drive transpired into an expanded 4-month program that addressed taboo topics in hopes of shifting mindsets by normalizing discussions with teen girls and boys.
We host workshops for boys and girls together. Only a couple of topics about sexual and reproductive health are facilitated separately. Each session begins with a discussion on safety, respect, and boundaries. These intimate workshops can only work if we come from a place of respect. As each community member has their own preferences, it’s important to “respect others' preferences and to not judge,” she says.
Over a period of four months, she discusses a myriad of topics, including respect for each other - "teach[ing] boys to accept no and respect that.” Boys need to be taught this and should be included so that real change can take place. Other topics include healthy and harmful relationships, personal safety guidelines, and bullying. In addition, sexual and reproductive health is discussed with the girls, to educate and build confidence. Acknowledging feelings so the teens know that they’re not alone and that changes in bodies and feelings are normal is important.
We need to start somewhere and bringing taboo topics to light is one step towards real and lasting change. Kaumudi says, “If you want to make the community better you have to step forward. Don’t wait for anybody, find like-minded people, and work with them.”
To learn more about Kaumudi, check our her Learning Space India's Facebook page