Last week after our biggest festival, Tihar I met bunch of enthusiastic young girls. We were there in Female Friendly Space to discuss about disaster and its effect on young girl’s menstrual health and hygiene.
One of the young girls shared that when the devastating earthquake hit Nepal in 25th April, she was due with her menstruation. The ground was shaking so her uterus too. However she had bleeding for a day. She was worried and there was no one to talk about as continuous aftershocks were killing people mentally. Likewise, another girl shared her menstruation was delayed almost two months after earthquake. She was worried about it but was happy enough as she did not need to stress about her period when everyone was facing trouble due to earthquake.
It has been almost eight months after the earthquake. People in Nepal are still living in temporary shelters. It was really difficult when we started our relief activities for earthquake victim in affected areas. Our intervention was to access on SRHR need of affected people. They did not want to learn about menstrual hygiene and its importance. In some places, people even rejected to take sanitary napkins that we distributed. Therefore, we thought to work with schools and teachers in affected districts on menstrual health management. It requires more young facilitators to approach schools and train young girls on menstrual hygiene and home made sanitary pads. We trained about 15 young girls on menstrual hygiene and mobilize them.
Meeting these wonderful young girls and orienting them on menstrual health I came across with different stories. We talked about their first menstrual experience. One of the participant shared she was alone at her home when she had her first bleeding. When she woke up, her bed sheet was stained with blood. She did not know from where she bleed. Shock checked every where but she could not figure out. Later her mother gave her cloth to place in underwear. But her mother did not explain her what actually happened. She had to learn herself.
All laughed when she shared her story saying I thought I had serious disease that led to heavy bleeding continuously from her private part. She shared she cried thinking she is going to die soon before she gets married. Well marriage in our culture has high regards and its that important that every girl dreams of it.
Now, we have huge team to aware and educate other young girls about their menstruation before they bleed without knowing anything. We named the team as menstrual hygiene champions. The journey begins and our champions have already started to approach schools and train school students on menstrual hygiene and preparing home made sanitary pads.
One of our champions who being to schools and met teenagers shared the girls think talking about menstruation is an embarrassment. Another champion shared that even teachers thinks menstrual fluid is impure. This means we have started to intervene in traditional understanding of menstruation. We believe change take times and our menstrual health champions are change makers.