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Anwesha Clinic: Educating Adolescents About Menstruation and Mental Health

Anwesha Clinic in West Bengal is an initiative in creating awareness around menstruation, mental health, and hygiene among adolescents.

Talking about menstruation and menstrual practices is still bounded by taboos and socio-cultural restrictions in India. Due to which adolescent girls remain ignorant about their menstrual hygiene and risk a lot of health problems. In West Bengal, Anwesha Clinic is an initiative to provide counseling and medical facilities to the adolescents relating to menstrual problems, puberty, unwanted pregnancy, depression among others. The program focuses on making adolescents participative towards healthy development by identifying the problem and creating awareness. 

“When it happened to my daughters, they never told me so I did not know about it. When I saw it for myself, I taught them how to use a cloth, in fact, now instead of cloth everyone is using a pad. It is traditionally believed that a girl should not pray or do other such things while on her periods, this is wrong and should not be practiced,” said Nilima Katchhap who is also an Asha worker. 

Anwesha Clinic ensures equal participation of both girls and boys, who come from a poor socio-economic background, and are engaged in various daily wage jobs, in earning jobs, or migrant laborers. With the help of Auxiliary Nurse Midwifery (ANM), Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), and Anganwadi workers, Anwesha clinic brings together a group of trained professionals and counselors. Menstrual problems and awareness, usage of sanitary pads, amenia, mental health, depression are some of the cases they deal with. “We are trained at the clinic if a woman gets raped or due to some other medical reasons, if she’s hiding from her home,we tell them that if there is a problem they can always turn to us,” added Nilima. 

Through mutual interaction in the meetings with the adolescents, they tend to work on creating awareness, relevant to the ongoing adolescent health and hygiene practices. Similarly, they also build communication in identifying issues and needs. “Mental health, substance abuse, nightfall is something we also discuss with the children. Some children dealing with depression think of themselves as extremely sick and wonder what to do. So we sit with them and discuss what they are going through,” said Partho Hazra, counselor at Anwesha Clinic. 

In a scenario where menstruation is considered to be a ‘women’s issue’ or ‘ladies problems,’ there have been cases where girls are taken to quacks to address menstrual problems. Where talking about mental health is still considered an illness, clinics like Anwesha seems promising and reliable to take care of some of the apprehensions and nervousness that adolescents go through. 

Video made by Community Correspondent Harihar Nagbansi.

Article by Grace Jolliffe, a Member of VV Editorial Team. 

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