NCSSM senior Vaishnavi Siripurapu is an aspiring doctor on a mission to educate people about female reproductive health.
The impetus for her work, she says, came from her time as a child living in a fishing village in India. She says that the way she saw women being treated at such an impressionable age laid the foundation for the work she does now as an educator focused on the female reproductive system and sexual health. “I grew up in a really rural village… I witnessed a lot of disrespect towards women,” she says. She saw similar problems after moving to the United States. Now, she leads educational workshops and seminars about female reproductive health and produces her own podcast about the female reproductive system.
Siripurapu began this work, starting with the podcast — born out of a class assignment at her home high school in Mooresville, NC — in an effort to “demystify” women’s bodies. The name “Euvie’s Podcast” comes from the Greek “eu,” meaning good, and the French “vie,” meaning life. Siripurapu says that she wanted the name to be inviting rather than explicit so that it could be accessible to everyone, “like someone you could talk to,” she says. Each episode is thoroughly outlined and researched before a script is drafted. Siripurapu even consults with a professional podcaster to ensure the quality of her work.
Through her work, Siripurapu hopes to address some of the common myths and misconceptions that lead to stigmatization and undergird sexism. This was something Siripurapu picked up on even in her younger days. “People were really hush-hush talking about sex, and menstruation was a big deal. If you were a menstruating woman you couldn’t touch anything and you couldn’t do anything, you had to stay confined to a room,” she says of her time growing up in India.
From conceptions of virginity to stereotypes and cultural practices around menstruation, her belief that a general misunderstanding of female anatomy is behind much of the gendered mistreatment that women endure is a driving force behind her work. “When I came to America I thought that would change, but I noticed a different kind of inequality in America,” she notes.
In one of her history classes, a discussion arose around the human tendency to fear that which is not understood, from different religions and cultures to people with anatomical differences. “If I can educate people about the female reproductive system,” Siripurapu says, “then I can enable people to understand people with female reproductive systems.”
To make sure she is presenting accurate information to her audiences, Siripurapu consults scholarly sources like medical journals, while also consulting with two OB/GYNs, one from India, and one from the United States. She began leading workshops at her home high school in Iredell County. She has also taught lessons to church groups and at Boys and Girls Club meetings. For the past two years, Siripurapu has held a credit-bearing seminar for NCSSM students that is also heavily audited by curious peers.
The reaction to her work has not always been positive, though, she says. In the past, peers have teased her, and some adults have been skeptical of the appropriateness of her work. However, Siripurapu says that her experience of this has made her a braver person. “You can’t tailor your life to what other people want,” she says.
Now, Siripurapu functions as something of a campus confidante, with students approaching her online and in person for answers to questions they may have around this topic. NCSSM Humanities Instructor Elizabeth Peeples, the faculty sponsor for Siripurapu’s seminar, recounted hearing that Siripurapu had been seen holding an impromptu lesson on female anatomy to a table full of boys in the cafeteria for 15 minutes. Siripurapu has become known around campus for her work and reported that when she used the campus Fabrication Lab to 3D-print male and female reproductive anatomical models for her workshops, “no one batted an eyelid.”
Siripurapu’s work has been praised both locally and globally. She received an award from her local Boys and Girls Club as well as a scholarship for her undergraduate study, was featured in a video segment by NowThis News, and has been contacted by other artists and outlets interested in her story.
Next year, Siripurapu will attend UNC-Chapel Hill, where she plans to study biology and women’s studies. She hopes to pursue a career in public health, bringing critical interventions to people who need them the most. “If I had one specific goal, it would be to benefit women who are living in developing countries and rural areas,” she says. “Once we benefit the people who need it the most, then you lay a strong foundation.”