Challenging the stigma around menstruation in Nepal
Today is Word Menstrual Hygiene Day (28 May 2019).
The day brings together organisations like UNICEF, the Red Cross, World Vision and more to help promote Menstrual Hygiene management and end period stigma.
Our school projects deliver more than books
Our schools’ programme builds, repairs and improves schools in remote regions of Nepal and in turn provides access to education and a better future for Nepali children.
Since 1990 across Nepal we have constructed in excess of 300 schools and refurbished well over 2,000. Our work improving access to education has, to date, benefitted almost one million students across the country.
Last year we delivered what we call ‘minor’ refurbishments to 105 schools. This can be something as simple as the delivery of new desks or books, right up to the building of new toilet blocks.
Clean and gender-separate toilets are incredibly important for female students. Also vital, especially in remote communities in Nepal, is the provision of sanitary pads. By offering these we as part of our projects we have seen female student attendance levels sky-rocket.
As well as the provision of toilet facilities and sanitary pads, our teams also work on education programmes in rural communities, educating on the knowledge, attitudes, belief and practices of menstrual hygiene.
My first period
Though Nepal is increasingly developed in many senses there are still some subjects which are considered ‘taboo’ in some cultures. As a result there are many misconceptions around the subject of menstruation.
A recent survey found that 25% of women in rural Nepal thought that, or did not know whether, menstruation was contagious. Myths like that have meant that of those surveyed, 51% considered it unsafe to even share a room with a woman during her period.
Emma (not her real name) is 15 years old and attends a school in the Myagdi district of Nepal. She is in year ten and is top of her class. She is currently studying for her SEE (Secondary Education Examination) for which she is hopeful of achieving an A+.
“I am working very hard for my final examination. It means a lot for me as it will open doors for pursuing my career.”
Without intervention from The Gurkha Welfare Trust, Emma’s education would have been a very different story.
“My first menstrual experience was horrible. I missed school due to cramps. And then this happened every month. I regularly missed school for 3-4 days as the cramp worsened with time”
We recently distributed reusable sanitary pads to many schools, including Emma’s, for both students and teachers. We also worked with the schools to deliver education around menstruation. The results have been really positive.
Recently focus groups across the region identified the following outcomes from the programme:
• Drastically increased attendance rates
• A more conducive learning environment
• A feeling of more dignity and empowerment amongst female students
• The promotion of awareness and menstruation among their family
A sample of the students found that 100% of them had used the sanitary pads provided and found them simple and comfortable. 100% also confirmed that they had been able to attend school during their menstruation period.
Emma is incredibly grateful for the support she’s received and hopeful about the impact it will have on her future:
“After receiving information from awareness programmes and reusable pads from GWT, I have been sharing the knowledge to my relatives. It is so comfortable to use. Now, I can attend school regularly; that is why I can aim to achieve good marks for my SEE examination. Thank you GWT for valuable support for providing learning environment for me and my friends.”