The facilitator asked them how the exercise was. She smiled and looked at the rest of her sisters. Her hands were under the table fingers crossed praying that the facilitator won’t pick her to answer the question. Everyone in the room was looking in another direction. Nobody volunteered to answer. Besides, they all thought the exercise was personal and what they had ‘seen’ would remain between them and the mirror. The facilitator picked the girl seated next to her. She felt so relieved that her crossed fingers had done the magic. When asked for her feedback, she kept quiet and smiled. The smile of embarrassment.
The facilitator told them that she was not going to let them off that easy and that they had to repeat the exercise in the evening. She asked them why they were embarrassed to look at their own bodies.
That had a pretty obvious answer, it is simply not good. It is not allowed. It was an unspoken sin to look at the vagina. The perception the society had instilled in them is that when you look at the vagina you will be tempted to touch it and if you did, you will be committing a sin against yourself and God. It was also the most unclean part of their bodies and you really didn’t want to see where blood passed through every month!! Plus only ‘bad’ girls would dare look at the vagina and she wasn’t ready to be one of them. She had seen instances where some girls had gotten pregnant and wondered if they had touched their own vaginas in addition to having sex. The way they were treated made her even shyer to look at hers. Their friends would be warned by their parents not to associate with the ‘bad girls’ because they would also get their ‘bad habits’ and would begin to sleep around and finally get pregnant. They were highly alienated and whenever parents wanted to teach or pass a message to their daughters, they would quote them and say, “continue talking to boys and you will end up like that girl who got pregnant” or “that is what happens when you don’t listen to us.”
She never wanted to be the example the community would use when advising their children so most of the times she would stay indoors and only get out when she was sent to the shop. She never wanted to talk to boys, first because of what people would think about her and second because if her parents were told, that would have been the cause of world war three. She learnt that good girls are often silent, don’t ask questions and did whatever they were told no matter how unfair they thought it was.
The facilitator told them to embrace their bodies and they shouldn’t let a book or anyone else to tell them how their vaginas looked like and yet they had it and could look at it. The final statement was given. The facilitator would not teach the sexual and reproductive health rights session until they re-did the exercise.
What the facilitator told them still rings in her head. Society gives a lot of rules on how women should behave and how they should treat their bodies and yet the body belongs to us! She remembers how when she did that exercise, the fear that she had whether people would somehow read her thoughts and know that she did it… she actually looked at her Vagina!! It wasn’t hard. She waited for something to happen but nothing came. No punishment from God and she discovered that no one would know unless she told them. She usually had the common belief that she would somehow feel guilty and ashamed for looking let alone touching but she felt nothing. Did society lie? Was everything they said about her sexuality a lie? Was it trying to programme girls to do what it thought was right or manipulate them according to its beliefs?
Mentoring and Empowerment Camps Alumni
Group of 2015