Today was only our 6th day of GROW, but I feel like I have been here for months! I have learned so much more about SOVA in this first week than I could have possibly imagined. Seeing as we primarily focus on learning about the GDA program during the year, I was completely unaware of the number of impactful and crucial communal programs overseen by SOVA. In between learning about SOVA’s wide variety of projects, my absolute favorite part of this first week has been getting to know Prasanta, one of SOVA’s head staff members. We have spent our long car-rides and evening chai times this week talking with Prasanta and getting to know each other on a more personal level. If you ask any GROW team member after this week, they would likely describe Prasanta as one of the most wholesome, driven, and progressive people we have ever met. We talked with him about his desire to be an advocate for the often overlooked adolescent population that makes up over 20% of India’s population, about the different forms of birth control available in India versus the U.S., and about various other topics that we had expected to be off limits with someone we had just met. I think we are all a little bit jealous of Prasanta’s drive to promote change and challenge social norms in his community.
Today was the first time we got to see Prasanta in action and we became even more impressed with the impact he is having on the Dhenkanal community. We accompanied him and Mr. Mishra to SOVA’s fifth sensitivity training on the PC&PNDT Act at Anchalika Junior College. The Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act was put in place to combat the rapidly decreasing sex ratio in Dhenkanal. The decrease is stemming from the deeply rooted preference for male children over female children. The act prohibits the use of diagnostic techniques that allow parents to find out the sex of their child before it is born. The goal is to prevent the termination of pregnancies solely due to the child being female, as this is the major contributor to the decreasing sex ratio in the area. SOVA’s project, led my Prasanta, is working to educate adolescents about the current situation and make them aware of the PC&PNDT Act.
The training began with a room full of rowdy 15 and 16 year old boys and girls. Prasanta quickly captured their attention with his energy and the room quickly went silent. He began his presentation with a series of facts and pictures that reminded the students how proud they were to be from Dhenkanal. This slowly transitioned to addressing the decreasing sex ratio and its posing threat to the existence of their community. Prasanta concluded the training by asking everyone to close their eyes and try to picture a world without women. The look of realization that swept across their faces revealed that they had indeed learned something valuable from Prasanta. After spending thirty minutes or so interacting with students, we left the college, beyond impressed by how Prasanta had so gracefully delivered such an important training.