Emma Folkerts- Volunteer, Seattle Washington

At SNHP, I learned a lot about India and women’s empowerment work. I am from Washington State, USA, near Seattle, and work with non-profits in the states. One aspect of interning at SNHP that stood out to me as unique was the opportunity to take initiative, and within that, to collaborate with diverse groups of people. From problem solving daily tasks with other AIESEC International interns who were from all over the globe to figuring out workshop logistics and participating in community outreach, collaboration and initiative were critical.

After spending three weeks in the village of Waghali, Jalgaon, and traveling to Northern India, I was excited to be back in Navi Mumbai. I enjoyed life in the city and jumping into work with Safe N’ Happy Periods (SNHP) was exciting. Admittedly, a few weeks before, on my first day in India, the cows chewing in the middle of the road, monsoon rains pounding throughout the day, slums juxtaposed to shiny skyscrapers, trains bustling with people, and vibrant colors were a shock to my jet-lagged system. However, I learned to go with the flow, adjust to the constant honks emanating from rickshaws and cars, ask for “less spice, less spice” (still expect spice), and carry an umbrella. I loved being immersed in the culture of ingenuity where people are adaptable and problem solve with available resources. This empowering culture was especially notable in the grassroots non-profit organization that is SNHP.

Sarika founded SNHP because she wants to change the stigma and conversation (or rather, lack thereof) regarding menstruation. Like many others, she acknowledges the negative consequences of menstruation being treated as taboo on women’s lives and societies all over the world, including India, and decided do something. This is a great example of using one’s resources, abilities, and interests to empower others and be a part of creating a more just world. Sarika’s story inspired us interns to creatively employ our own experiences and abilities to contribute to the cause, including researching, language skills, writing, and web design.
As we brainstormed ideas to spread awareness, we turned to social media, calling specific educational institutions, and campaigns on local trains. For social media, we interviewed each intern about their experiences with menstruation. We also posted pictures and workshop reflections on the SNHP Blog and social media platforms like Facebook. These interactive workshops were led in either Hindi or English, depending on the preference of the group, and interns assisted Sarika in the schools, community rooms, and organizations in which they occurred.

Moreover, from cell phones that would not call Indian numbers and misunderstanding accents to taking wrong turns when traveling to meet with interested schools, interning at SNHP refined my communication skills, sense of direction, and above all, my problem solving skills. I saw how taking initiative and implementing ideas resulted in positive outcomes and opened a whole new world.

As interns, we traveled by train to get to Sarika’s office and home and saw hundreds (if not thousands) of people everyday. Thus, our time on the trains became an incredible opportunity raise awareness about menstruation and SNHP through flyer distribution and engaging in one-on-one conversation. While it was a bit intimidating, it was also fun to talk to strangers and spark a connection over issues that impact our lives.

My experience working with SNHP taught me how to be more independent and action-oriented. It showed me the value of informed and empathetic approaches to making a difference, and that listening and learning is a crucial part of being a force for respectful and ethical change. Through the process of making the world more just, I believe collaboration and challenging one’s self to push beyond boundaries and limiting constructs are absolutely essential. It’s a big world, and to me, the diversity in the human condition is awe-inspiring. Every life matters. Through SNHP, you will touch individual lives and be a part of a grassroots movement to make India – make the world – a safer, healthier, and more empowering place for girls and women, people, to live. The chain reaction is real; be the link that sets others in motion.

If you want to contact Emma about her experience with Safe N’ Happy Periods, please e-mail her at Folkerts.emma@gmail.com

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