Menstruation is the period in a girl’s life when she enters womanhood. It is a joyous celebration in many parts of the world but in Nepal, it is considered a taboo. It is the end of education and learning for girls in many remote parts of Nepal. Along with the religious belief of being impure during the menstruation period, society also conceives it as something unspeakable restricting the women from hiding it. Being considered a taboo issue, the women tend to hide away during their menstrual cycles and shy away when issues like menstruation are talked about in public. They are unable to express their concerns and continue to apply unhygienic menstrual practices. These practices have been passed down through centuries of misinformation. This bounds them from being a part of many things in life.
Subhu Sundar Samaj Foundation is an organization initiating the distribution of sanitary napkins to school going girls to promote education in Karnali Province targeting Surkhet District. This V.D.C has a total of 110,087 women between the age of 10-35 out of which only 4802 women can read with no writing capability and 52,066 women who can neither read or write. The main cause of this problem is due to the lack of proper sanitary facilities during menstruation. Many girls receive proper education till the 5th grade after which they tend to drop out of school. School going girls do not have proper hygienic and sanitary facilities causing them to miss out on school 6-7 days a month as well as sometimes drop out of school after not having proper menstrual hygiene tools. They do not have access to proper sanitary napkins due to the unaffordability as the annual source of income in a household per day is less that $1. The women in these villages use old rags, tree barks as reusable sanitary napkins and are banished into Chhaupadis for the entire menstruation period every month. These Chhaupadis are built away from the house in dark and secluded areas in the jungle making the girls vulnerable to many diseases as well as preys. Furthermore, menstruation being a taboo subject, these women try to wash and dry these rags in secretive places. These places do not have access to proper water and soap facilities. The places that these rags are dried in are usually dark and isolated making these rags a breeding ground for bacteria and germs leading to fungal and yeast infections, infertility and more serious life-threatening problems like cervical cancer in some women. These infections are left untreated due to the shame associated with discussion of women health issues. Further on, illiteracy makes it impossible for these women to, later on, compete equally with their male colleagues in the workplace creating a male dominant work environment.
The main goal of this initiation is to elevate the hygiene and health of these school going girls so that they have an equal opportunity at gaining an education. This allows them to become literate and someday, be able to contribute to the country’s economy as well which will benefit the country in the long run.
SSSF plans to identify the number of girls in each school in this district and purchase the targeted amount of sanitary napkins providing a packet per school going girl. The total number of schools in Surkhet District is 110 with 22000 girls between the age of 13-20. These girls will receive 12 packets of sanitary napkins per year and more if required. The cost of one packet of sanitary napkins is Rs 75. The direct project cost would estimate to around Rs 22,138,000.
The organization intends to boost the literacy rate in this V.D.C and lower the amount health issues caused by unhygienic practices. These unhygienic practices have caused damage to many lives. The organization also aims to hold awareness programs in these schools as well as to impart correct information regarding menstrual hygiene as well as to dismiss the concern that may arise regarding the use of sanitary napkins. The campaign will also encourage girls to not miss out on classes during their menstrual cycle due to the fear of leakage and other concerns. These packets of napkins will be handed over to a designated female teacher so that the girls do not feel uncomfortable during their cycles to ask for sanitary napkins.
This initiation hopes to create a safe environment for girls to receive an education without having issues related to their menstrual cycle from being a set back for them. The organization hopes to banish menstruation from being a taboo subject and encourage the free expression of menstrual hygiene and health in the villages. Further on, social and cultural practices regarding menstruation like Chhaupadis will also hopefully dismissed from the society so that it does not intervene with their education.