Seti, Ritu and Tarchum Tamang have always felt uncomfortable regarding menstruation, hygiene and intimate problems, as do many other women still in Nepal today. Little knowledge and no educational work on this topic put it in a strict social taboo, leaving women often alone and ashamed. In a training on menstrual hygiene management initiated by Caritas Nepal, women not only learned a lot about the female body and what they should do during menstruation, but also lost their fear and sense of shame.
“Before,” says one of the girls, “we were using everything” to absorb blood during menstruation. Because disposable sanitary napkins were too expensive for the young women from Kispang Village, Nuwakot district, they would have used any type of fabric, regardless of the hygiene or effectiveness of the materials. Their lack of knowledge about alternatives often led to irritation, infection and general discomfort. In addition, girls never had the opportunity to talk about any problems and insecurities regarding this topic. An improvement of the situation was also not in sight, as the discussion of menstruation and female genitalia seemed to touch a taboo in society, reinforcing the general sense of shame. “In that times, in some people’s house, if man or boy is there they would feel ashamed,” explains social mobilizer Mrs. Melina, her face on the floor to imitate girls in this situation.
Four months after training, their habits and view of menstruation and hygiene have changed radically. They use light clothing and cotton today to make their own reusable sanitary napkins. They got knowledge about hygiene in general and the effective use of the pads. If these are changed every 6 hours, no irritation will occur because the pads are flexible and will be scalded after each use. This also helps them to save money: “Now we are not buying those expensive pads from the market and it is saving our money which we can utilize in some other productive things,” the girls claim. In addition, the three young women are no longer afraid to put this topic up for discussion in their village. “It’s a natural process, we cannot feel ashamed.” They even allowed the visitor team to take pictures of them without having a problem exposing themselves. This shows how confident they feel about this topic now.
However, these three women are not the only ones in their village who have received such training. All 24 members of her women’s group have participated and use this type of pad. In addition to the knowledge of menstruation, they were also taught about other aspects of hygiene that they now practice in their daily lives and pass on to their children, parents and grandparents. Moreover, they are no longer left alone with problems in the genital area. They can now consult a specialized person who helps them with such issues.
Not only does the training seem to result in minor changes in the women’s lives, but it has also motivated them to increase their livelihood on a much larger scale:
“We have to utilize this learning from the training and promote this homemade sanitary pad in market for selling. It could be life changing moment for us!”
One of them even sees this knowledge as an opportunity to start a business. All three thank the NGO for its contribution to improving the quality of the women’s life in the village and are highly motivated to learn more: “They want more training, they have lack of knowledge about hygiene, and there is no other NGO there because it’s far, so these trainings can change their lives so much. Do not leave the village early, please extend the programme!” Says Mrs. Melina.