Meet the multi-talented, Reema Ahmad, co-founder Candidly. An organization that is breaking the stereotype, thinking and bringing a change in the thought process of children as well as the adults. They are busy focusing on spreading the right kind of words around gender and sexuality education through some amazing workshops. We were fortunate to get some time to interview the vivacious Reema Ahmad and here’s the exclusive version.
B.V: What inspired you to form Candidly?
Reema Ahmad: Candidly’s co-founder, Amita Malhotra and I go back a long way. We were in college together and it was during those years that our understanding of issues like gender, sexuality, and abuse really became more defined. It was something that moved both of us. I am also a child sexual abuse survivor and have struggled with the effects of that history. I had been working on abuse awareness for some time when Amita urged me to come on board with her in December of 2016 and expand our ideas together. Both of us felt that we needed to build a warm space where sensitive issues could be discussed without inducing guilt or shame.
B.V: A word that describes you the best?
Reema Ahmad: Resilient.
B.V: Do you think that regular workshops in schools on sex education, child abuse etc. would make our kids a little safer and less afraid?
Reema Ahmad: Absolutely. What we need to understand is that sexuality education includes information on sexuality, gender, body safety, abuse awareness and relationships and it promotes a sense of well being in children. It’s not just sex education. Comprehensive sexuality education teaches kids to have autonomy over their body and decisions and gives them the vocabulary they need to report abuse, bullying or lack of consent in relationships. It is the best preventive safeguard for children of all ages and ensures that kids learn to respect others’ boundaries as well.
B.V: Do you think that excessive media usage affects behavior and increases sexual aggression in children? And does it also put a strain on the parent child relationship?
Reema Ahmad: Media is the most impactful tool that kids use and it affects them in multi-sensory ways. It’s everywhere. Early exposure to images, videos, movies,and violence without any sort of consistent background information on consent, relationships and empathy, will lead to disturbance in natural rhythms of understanding. Kids are exposed to much more than they are equipped to understand or handle. They see content where stalking and violence are glorified in mainstream media and because not many people realize how dangerous that is, they adopt practices unthinkingly. Thus,of course,there’s a marked increase in the aggression of all sorts.
Parents today are struggling with media management because there’s just too much availability and also because they themselves are unable to regulate their notification anxiety. A home environment dominated by tech usage will naturally lose warmth and empathy.
B.V: How important is Sexuality and right touch education for the parents and teachers?
Reema Ahmad: Firstly, it’s important to note that touch should be described in terms of safe and unsafe and not right/wrong/good/bad because intimacy or touch is so nuanced that it can generate very polarized reactions in kids. Parents and teachers must be especially aware of how to talk about abuse awareness, body image, gender, and sexuality because all of these are intertwined and complex. Too much fear based or negative information can alter a child’s perception of intimacy, sexuality, and relationships in the long run. We need to teach them how to protect themselves and speak up but not that all touch is bad. Teachers and parents have the most influence on kids and they’re also affected by all our cultural and social taboos around sexuality. They need to internally examine their own basic understanding to teach kids in a positive way.
B.V: A Message for the society
Reema Ahmad: Speak up. Be candid, open and honest in your day to day conversations. We’re headed towards disaster if we keep adhering to age-old notions of propriety and seemliness. I want people to understand that talking about issues that affect us in our personal lives is important for the future of our kids. It’s okay to address things that make us feel guilty, vulnerable or ashamed. Healing and growth can’t happen unless we learn to discuss things that make us uncomfortable. Encouraging warm conversations in schools, homes, and communities can solve so many problems. It can help so many kids who may be suffering and also those who may be inclined towards offensive behavior. They need help too. Looking at things as black and white/victim and the aggressor is too simple. The fact that sexual misdemeanor in young adults is increasing is also an indicator of what we’re doing wrong.
B.V: A quote you live by
Reema Ahmad: I adore this powerful quote by Maya Angelou- ‘I can be changed by what happens to me but I refuse to be reduced by it.’ Her writing never fails to uplift and hold me.