Home > Inspirational Women > Inspirational Woman: Niyati Shah | Sexuality Educator and Counselor

Inspirational Woman: Niyati Shah | Sexuality Educator and Counselor

10614246_1568762856689479_1954208578732643917_nTell us about yourself

I am a 39 year-young female, graduated with a commerce degree. I was however, a forced commerce graduate. I always wanted to do psychology, but coming from a typical Indian family I was put in a commerce college to be cared for by my cousin and brothers studying there. I worked with my father dealing in ball bearings. I never was a career oriented person, but wanted to learn and spend my time efficiently.

After I got married, I did my IATA and worked for travel agencies. Pregnancy changed my life and I focused only on my child. A few years down the line the idle time started to get to me, so I partnered with a friend to work on the India’s first toy and book online library which unfortunately had to be shut down with my second pregnancy and my partner losing his father. I trained for sex education after my second child in the year 2013 and did my counselling course thereafter.

During my first pregnancy, I decided I would answer all of my child’s queries honestly and ensure that he or she would never be afraid to ask or tell me about anything. Back then, the idea of sex education had never crossed my mind. In spite of being sexually abused by one of my uncles, I did not have the resources or guts to talk to my child. Sometimes we need help ourselves to be able to help our kids.

Whenever we mention sex education, mostly people think it’s ‘just’ about sex. But one day, my son had a workshop at his school where parents were enlightened on, ‘Why it is important to educate your child about sex?’ I realised that day I was honest with my son about everything but never discussed the ‘facts of life’, which are so much part of our everyday life. In that workshop, as a parent, I understood that sex education is not just about the sexual activity. There were questions like, “where do babies come from?” and I would try to answer honestly but fumble with words and the correct way of explaining.

Without wasting time, I joined sex education classes and learned even more. Once I started educating my son and answering all his queries related to sex, I realised it is so difficult to get over the initial hesitation and answer your child comfortably. I understood most of my family and friends would be facing similar situations, as our children are growing up every day and picking up lot of things from outside. They must be hesitating the same way as I did initially. I took up the cause; started talking to my family and friends, convincing them to educate their children about sex and everything related to it. And, AVERTI was conceived; it started shaping with the help of family and friends.

Tell us about any current projects you are working on

We are living in the age of media; youngsters have access to everything and therefore they are a lot smarter than we were as children. Children are highly exposed to sexual messages through every form of media. That’s why children nowadays go through lot of physical, emotional and sexual changes quite early in their childhood; therefore it becomes important that they learn about their sexuality through a correct and proper medium. AVERTI provides an excellent environment to promote healthy sexual development of our future generation.

As a trained sex educator, I conduct sex education workshops for children, their parents and other adults too. Launched in February 2013, AVERTI was conceived by me to be a premium one-stop-shop service for all training needs with regards to sexual health of children, giving them a better understanding of their body and helping them accept their sexuality responsibly.

Topics we currently help Understand:-
Appropriate Touch / Inappropriate Touch

One of the major concerns in the current scenario is that of child abuse. Sexual abuse, nowadays, has become the most sensitive and most important topic that we need to discuss with our children. Some parents think or feel that their children face little or no danger of being abused, and that they are too young to be made aware of this kind of possibility. Also, discussing such a topic will frighten them unnecessarily. But the facts contradict such a belief. One hopes and prays that such a thing would never happen to my child, but unfortunately if it does, the well-prepared child is more likely to face and survive it. As we all know, forewarned is forearmed.

Changes at Adolescence in Girls & Boys (8 – 12 years)

Adolescence means growing up. It is a transition stage from childhood to adulthood. This topic helps the children to understand the physical, emotional and sexual changes they will undergo.

Questions this workshop addresses include:

• My voice sounds different, have I got an infection?
• Why am I not growing a beard yet?
• My armpits smell, what should I do?
• Why am I bleeding from my vagina?
• My breasts are increasing, what should I do? Will the boys make fun of me?

Such questions should be discussed with the children before they face them in the outside world.

Need for Sex Education

This workshop is structured only for parents and teachers to enlighten them on why sex education is so important for children in today’s world.

Parents and even teachers hesitate to communicate about sex education while their children are being pounded with sexual messages all around; newspapers, TV, magazines, films and even toilet walls. These young minds are very vulnerable to these corrupt messages as they are not yet prepared to receive the healthy and legitimate information about sex and sexuality. This interferes with their development towards mature and healthy adulthood. It becomes our responsibility to help them, develop media literacy skills which is essential for helping children and young minds to understand, interpret and evaluate media messages and imagery related to sexuality, relationships and gender.

At AVERTI, we discuss these topics with children and adults to make sure they becomes confident to handle different changes and face challenges through their journey of life.

What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?

Challenge 1: Most parents think children are too young to understand sex until they are 16. Kids today are very curious and adults are reluctant. At age 10, many children already know about the sexual activity without even knowing the ‘what and why’ about it. Parent’s hesitation often result in kids going out of their homes to find answers. Information is at the tips of our fingers today. It is very easy for young people to get this information online but this information might be wrong. Children may carry this wrong information for their whole life.

Challenge 2: Parents and teachers often feel uncomfortable when it comes to communicating about sex and related topics with children. We carry our hesitation passed on to us by our elders. Parents don’t know how to address concerns and issues of children. Hence it takes a lot to convince them about the importance of sex education.

Challenge 3: It is difficult to change the conventional way of teaching sex ed. Even schools are not ready to change their conventional teaching method of imparting sex education to their pupils. There are many doubts and myths, which we all have been carrying right from our childhood. So it takes a while to unlearn to learn something new.

What has been your greatest achievement personally?

I have become more open, confident and patient in dealing with topics that I was hesitant about and were considered a taboo. I have since realised my potential as a speaker and a motivator.

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?

I would be running India’s first ever online toy library!

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

MY KIDS! It’s only because of them I have been able to take up a topic so controversial in our country and culture. The concern of them touching their genitals to googling and then dating has made me go in depth into this topic to understand where I can help my own children.

What does the future hold for you?

My aim is to create a strong awareness on this vital subject of child development in the minds of society, parents and also schools. I intend to learn all that I can on the topic of sex education and equip myself with newer and innovative techniques, develop more modules to gain and impart maximum knowledge to my students e.g. modules on menstruation, late teens, marriage and sex, pre-marital counselling, homosexuality, etc.

I want to reach out to as many schools and parents as I can. I want all schools all over India to start educating their pupils about sex in the right manner that EDUCATES them about the consequences, EMPOWERS them to make the right choice and ERADIACTES the taboo to help young people accept their sexuality.

For further information about Averti

This article was provided by WATC Mumbai Committee Member, Abhishek Chandola.
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