Breaking the Shame

Centre of Excellence for Gender, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (CGSRHR) at BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University  has implemented 3 year (2015-2018)  long project ‘Breaking the Shame: Towards improving Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) education for adolescents and youth in Bangladesh’ funded by NWO-WOTRO Netherlands, in collaboration with Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, as academic partner, and, Unite for Body Rights (UBR) Alliance Bangladesh and BRAC Adolescent Development Program (ADP) as implementation partners.

The main aim of this project was to create the much needed understanding of how can we break the shame and silences around young people’s sexuality to better understand their needs and to increase their SRHR knowledge.

Under this project CGSRHR has developed five innovative educational materials for adolescents based on research findings.

  1. Booklet with cartoons on myths and misconception:

We have developed a booklet named ‘Let’s Debunk the Myths’ on 10 most recurrent myths and misconceptions mentioned by both male and female adolescents. The text is written in Bangla and English and uses references from authentic sources for factual information, which was further validated by SRHR experts in Bangladesh and Netherlands. The selected 10 most common misconceptions are:

  • Boys are always masculine, girls are always feminine,
  • White discharge, menstruation and wet dreams are bad for health,
  • Women should not expose their sexual desire,
  • Sexuality means sexual intercourse only,
  • Husband has the right to have sex with his wife anytime he wants.,
  • Male Masturbation is bad for health,
  • Hijra people do not have or have incomplete sexual organ,
  • Girls are responsible for their own sexual harassment.

Download the booklet here:

  1. Animated video on myths and misconception:

We also developed an animated 12 minute long video with same title, which briefly touched most of the misconceptions and presented the important facts. The video brings characters like a teacher, students and a genie to discuss sensitive and less sensitive topics. This tool may well be useful to use in an informal setting like adolescents clubs and also individual usage given that it has covered sensitive topics which adolescents would not feel comfortable to learn in a classroom setting with teachers presence as our findings suggested. The objective was to make the animation self-explanatory for adolescents hence the content and language was kept simple.

Watch the video here:

  1. Illustrated Booklet and Teacher’s Guide on coping strategies titled- “coping with strong emotions”

To introduce adolescents to coping strategies, we designed a tool which comprises of 3 classroom sessions, with illustrated booklet and video, also including a teacher’s manual. Teaching the youth social-emotional skills is less shame-laden than most other SRHR topics (although middle class boys struggle with shame around this, teachers less so), we decided to develop a tool that can be used in normal school context. We developed a booklet called “Coping with emotions”, which includes two sessions with engaging and illustrative case vignettes. The first session is about recognizing emotion through some steps starting from incident to behavior. The second session explained the concept of cognition and how it works, coping mechanism and three coping strategies (1. Distraction, 2. Changing yourself, 3. Changing the situation) adolescents can follow to manage strong emotions like anger, stress or anxiety. Written in Bangla and English, the booklet also included several group activities, exercises which helped the adolescents to learn the concepts better through practical learning.

Download the booklets by clicking here:

  1. Short-drama on coping with strong emotions:

The third session includes a 10 minute short-drama on different coping mechanisms in different situations, which shows coping strategies can vary depending on the situation.

A teacher’s manual was also developed with instructions on how to conduct all the sessions and exercises. Tool was made on the basis of the stories of the youth and expertise of the team. BRAC Institute of Educational Development (BIED) participated to create ‘stories’ with messages for youth that are familiar to them (e.g. fear of shame of menstruation, dealing with harassment, dealing with heartbreak). A Behavioral specialist that participated in making/testing a similar coping method in

The Netherlands, was involved in developing main messages of the tool and in creating the exercises.

This tool can be a good fit for formal classroom setting considering the topic is not culturally sensitive like others (e.g.myths).

The teacher’s manual should be self-explanatory. This tool can even be incorporated in normal school curriculum. The short-drama on different coping strategies was developed to make it suitable for individual or adolescent/youth clubs. The drama is meant to be able to use a standalone and is chosen as way of making it attractive for content that is not obligatory for adolescents.

Click here to watch:

  1. Animated Video on ‘How to Use Condom’:

Specific skill explanation of condom use was selected on basis of- 1. Regular mentions by adolescents during our research (both male and female); 2. Important themes according to sex educators. Since talking about condom use is a culturally sensitive and it is unlikely that it will be allowed to discuss in the formal classroom setting, also probably not in the youth clubs, we decided to make a self-explanatory tool which adolescents can use by themselves, individually. In collaboration with Soa Aids Nederland and Rutgers, an animated video on ‘”how to use condom’ was developed as a modified Bangla version of an existing Dutch instructional video on condom use. The video is roughly 2 minutes and explained how to use a condom, where one can buy it from, and how to dispose it after usage in a very simple way.

Click here to watch:

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