Reproductive Health Rights of Internal Migrant Workers

Well I was about to miss to write my blog on  Female Migrant workers. Thank you so much to ASAP’s Blog entitled : The Female Migrant Workers: What Are Her Reproductive Rights. This gave me inspiration to share  about my work.

Here is glimpse of my work.

I came across with many articles, blogs, posts in social media and even news regarding migrant workers on International Migrants’ Day.  But here migrant workers especially referred to people going another countries for employment.  Today my blog will talk about internal (within country) female migrant workers and their SRHR status.

Kathmandu valley is the city of opportunity  where dreams come true. People generally migrate from 75 districts of Nepal to Kathmandu in search of job, sustain their livelihood, education, health and many more. Nepal’s development strategies are centralized to Kathmandu valley therefore many young women each year migrate to Kathmandu valley and end their destiny to brick klins, garment factories and others to earn for their family. Most of them are seasonal workers. They rarely know about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

During my visit to brick factories in Bhaktapur I came across women from Rukhum, Sindhupalchowk, Ramechap who usually come  for job. I also meet couple of young girls aged 16/17 years old. Interacting with them I came to know they have just appeared their School Leaving Certificate examination. They are waiting for result which will take few months to publish. Meanwhile they were in brick factory to earn some money.

Female factory workers

Female factory workers

I cannot share you her expression when she knew her vagina has two wholes one for urination and another for sexual contact. She said, “Oh my god!! I gave birth to three children and I’m still unknown about my reproductive organs. I never knew there are separate organs for separate processes urination and sexual contact. Thank you so much for the information.” She is a young women working in the garment factory in the city near Kathmandu, Nepal.

It was actually difficult to approach the marginalized underprivileged group to talk about sexual and reproductive health. Bhaktapur a city near capital is famous as cultural city but has many cultural barriers among young people to speak openly about their own body and rights. Living in the capital city I have never realized the actual health status of women of Nepal unless I worked as RH facilitator to facilitate series of reproductive health classes in the factories within Kathmandu valley. It was beyond my imagination when the news article got my sight saying young women in Nepal get married early and have at least two children at age of 19 years.In the factories I saw the reality to the articles.

It was observed during classes that mainly female works for more than 10 hours a day in the factory and look after their

young women working in brick klins

young women working in brick klins

household works. The male partners are mostly migrant workers. It was difficult to convince the factory managers and even young women to be part of the RH classes as they have commitment to their work.

The young women are too shy and uncomfortable speaking about sexual and reproductive organs. They always hide themselves when the facilitators project diagrams of male and female reproductive organ. It was about demonstrating proper use of condom and the young women literally closed their eyes when we show them penile model. In some factories they even did not want to see the model.

While discussing about violence the factory workers shared that it is the right of husband to sometime slap or beat his wife. This shows that they have internalized the gender roles. On asking what you would do if your partner keep on abusing, the answer was silence. Most of them replied: by hook or by cook they have to stay with him and cannot leave. And now comes the session related to pregnancy and contraception. The young women have a lot of interest on these topics. They are happy to know about process of menstruation and pregnancy. They have many myths and misconceptions. Some of them are:

  •  Menstruation is the sign of impurity because during menstruation impure blood comes from the vagina.

    Young women factory workers participating in RH class

    Young women factory workers participating in RH class

  • During menstruation women should not go to temples, touch flowers, participants in any religious events, etc.
  • Use of contraceptive increase weight
  • Regular use of contraceptive leads to infertility
  • Condom is not 100% successful and it does not give any pleasure and might  burst while using
  • IUD may results in cancer and it might enter to heart and cause death
  • Implant and IUD once use have to keep for life long

We also provide them information regarding safe abortion and where they could access safe abortion services without any discrimination. Later many young women factory workers came to our contact through phone calls that they needed safe abortion services. We referred them to Family Planning Association of Nepal, Valley branch.

Well I am proud when there was a news Nepal achieving MDGs award on improving maternal health in 2010. But spending time in the factory and observing the scenario of young women factory workers I really think government of Nepal has to put its heavy effort in women’s sexual and reproductive health rights for internal migrant workers as well.