There seems to be an unspoken stigma surrounding the topic of sex and the menstrual cycle. Though it is a prevalent issue among youths these days, the topic is only discussed in a discreet manner.
“People will obviously give you awkward glances if you were to have an open discussion on sex education. Though more has been done to normalise awareness about menstruation, it still remains a huge stigma in our society.” said eighteen year old, Khaleeda Nabila during our conversation.
Khaleeda comes across as a regular teenager. However, behind her friendly and cheerful disposition, lies a bold young woman driven to empower and make an impact in her local community. Her involvement in youth-led organisations like RedTalks and SPOT, shows her dedication to a cause close to her heart – educating young girls about the importance of taking care of their bodies and female hygiene.
Khaleeda’s all-girls’ school education
Born in Perak and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Khaleeda developed a passion to champion social causes as a student in an all-girls school. Having a strong support network of female friends encouraged Khaleeda to reflect on issues concerning the well-being of women.
“Being surrounded by my group of girls, I naturally became interested in topics like women’s health care and the concept of intersectional feminism,” she admits.
Breaking the taboo
Soon, Khaleeda found herself volunteering with two youth-led foundations, RedTalks and SPOT to empower young girls on female health and hygiene. Awareness programmes include raising awareness on menstrual hygiene, the lack of access to sanitary products and sex education.
As a young volunteer in both organisations, Khaleeda has been involved in a few notable events such as the recent DearHer Festival which saw the participation of social activist, Marina Mahathir. Khaleeda took charge of educating visitors/participants at the forum on period poverty (a term used to describe used to describe the lack of awareness on menstrual hygiene and the lack of access to sanitary products).
“I’ve learned so much from both organisations and a part of me wishes everyone had the same privilege, too; to be able to join organisations that empower women and society.” She is currently excited for her next volunteering gig from the 6th of November to the 8th of November.
Personal transformation and making an impact in society
Asked whether her involvement has been worth it, she exclaims, “Yes, absolutely!” By volunteering in these two organisations, Khaleeda has not only grown to be more comfortable in her own skin. It has also taught her to be more confident in standing up for herself.
“Previously if anyone were to say something offensive, I would just correct them in my head. But it’s funny, now I would clarify with them. Apart from being confident, I defend myself way better now. Anyone who personally knows me, know I love cuddles and hugs. But it is only when I am comfortable with the person. Now, I would flinch if I’m uncomfortable (laughs!). Safe and unsafe touches are also something that needs to be addressed and I wish I knew that much earlier.”
What lies ahead for Khaleeda
When asked about her future plans, Khaleeda states that she is determined to continue her journey in empowering youths – “In the next 5 years, I would have graduated from college. In the long run, I want to be a scriptwriter, writing for a show that focuses on empowerment and discusses social issues for teenage viewers. Cliche, I know. I would also like to be able to empower at least 1000 people by the next 5 years. It’s a big dream, but I feel like it’s nice to have a goal.”
Regardless of how big our dreams may be or how impossible it may seem, all that matters is taking the first step to achieve that goal. As the saying goes – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Good luck in your future endeavours, Khaleeda!
* Featured image sourced from Khaleeda Nabila