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Three-Point Strategy to Address Nepal’s Menstrual Taboos
Close to 90 percent of Nepali girls are still bound by restrictions in terms of mobility and are subject to social exclusion during menstruation
Nepal, a country rooted in its traditional values, is still battling with many taboos, out of which menstruation is a much-hushed topic.
According to Echidna Global Scholar Gautam Gupta’s research, beliefs and restriction surrounding menstruation are two of the primary factors that obstruct girls from achieving success with education in South Asia.
Close to 90 percent of Nepali girls are still bound by restrictions in terms of mobility and are subject to social exclusion during that time.
Furthermore, many girls miss out school in their initial menstruation cycle for almost a week and about 3-4 days in the following cycles. Added to this, girls are also subject to discrimination from families and communities.
Listed below are some of the restrictions faced by menstruating girls in Nepal:
Isolation and confinement to floor corner in the house or a neighbor’s house
Restricted access to the kitchen and prayer room
Conditional access to family events and celebrations
Unavailability of pills during excess pain
Unavailability or no access to sanitary pads, especially in low-income families who find commercial sanitary pads expensive
Leakage issues and embarrassment that follows
Added responsibility of washing clothes and scrubbing the floor during menstruation
Increased responsibility on younger girls in the family when their mothers or other women members in the family are menstruating every month
Insufficient resources such as running tap water and trash bags to deposit pads at schools
Safety concerns when asked to stay in other people’s houses during that time
Lack of nutrition due to restricted access to kitchen, especially in the absence of family members
The impacts of these practices can have lasting impacts on the mental and physical well-being on the bearer. Lack of information on menstrual hygiene can result in anxiety and physical signs like rashes, infections and prolonged illness.
In addition, inability to manage school, pending lessons and doubled household work turn many young girls into school dropouts.
The recent success at enforcing laws to end the cruel practice of Chhaupadi is a big step towards stopping inhuman practices against menstruating girls in Nepal.
To ensure a better future for Nepali girls during the time, Gupta has come up with a three-point strategy that works to address the problem from the root:
Educating girls about Menstrual Health: According to Gupta’s research, girls can fight against societal taboos if they are aware of the science behind menstruation, get proper information about menstruation hygiene & management and knowledge of their rights. Additionally, girls who have gained training on menstrual hygiene management (MHM) use clean homemade pads and have educated other girls in maintaining the same. Furthermore, girls-centric empowerment programs inculcate leadership development, build girl-lead community events, and spread information about how health, safety, rights and resources contribute to the holistic development of girls.
Enhanced Parent-Support: If girls get parental support, it reduces the number of obstacles in attending school. However, it is a big challenge as a parent do not easily give-up on such practices built over a long time. A systematic approach would include educating parents through literacy and gender-awareness programs. It has been noted that support from fathers encourages girls to continue their study. Some of the girls that Gupta spoke to said that their fathers were very supportive during their periods by buying sanitary pads and letting them sleep in their regular beds.
A Supportive School Environment: At the school level, girl is confronted with many challenges. As per Nepal data, 50 percent of the schools in Nepal have separate toilets for girls. However, out of them, only a few had basic facilities such as running water, soap and trash bins. About half the adolescent girls miss school to avoid gender-unfriendly MHM facilities. Interestingly, two rural districts in Nepal were instrumental in proving that the availability of WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) facilities in schools including separate toilets increased the attendance of girls in schools and built their confidence to talk about menstruation. Moreover, the availability of female teachers in schools also has a positive impact on girls, the more the female teachers, the better the approach in dealing with menstruation issues.
Let’s hope that schools and communities implement the three-point strategy to land another milestone for Nepal.