Menstrual Hygiene Champions 

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.

IMG_2460

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.

IMG_2412All 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 theIMG_2518 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.

 

 

Advertisements

Youth Champions during Humanitarian Crisis

Youth Champions Nepal were planning for its country seminar to introduce itself among network working in dedication to young people’s sexual and reproductive health & rights when Nepal was struck by its worst earthquake in nearly a century on April 25, 2015. The earthquake destroyed nearly 600,000 and damaged almost 300,000 homes, and displaced some 2.8 million people. More than 8.800 people were killed, tens of thousands were injured. The people are still frightened by aftershocks and the devastation was compounded by number of powerful aftershocks.

Once the earthquake struck our cities, there was urgent need for food, water, shelter and other basic stuffs including first aid. There were numerous causalities reported in district hospitals. The first step of our Youth Champions Network in Nepal we distributed rice, dal, water, sugar, oils, traps & tents, etc. This is what we immediately understood about a humanitarian crisis of this nature. This was the first experience for us living in Kathmandu valley and dealing with natural disaster. But in-coordination with Asia Safe Abortion partnership we realized, there is also an urgent need to provide life-saving reproductive health services and to prevent and respond to gender based violence. Asia Safe Abortion Partnership allowed to use funds to prepare “Hygiene Kits” and distribute among women and girls being affected by earthquake.

“I am sharing about the situation in my community “Bhaktapur”. Since Bhaktapur is a very old and traditional city, most of the houses are made of mud and wood. The earthquake had destroyed most of the old and traditional homes of the Bhaktapur city. People are now staying in open places like field, party palaces, ground and even in dumping sites. We have been calling those places as “CAMPS”. As, the earth has decreased its vibration and we are getting after shocks which we are used to, people who have their house safe and fine to stay have returned to their places.


Among the people in the camps, there are limited tents, electricity, water and food. The people who have lost everything and do not have any alternatives are staying in the camps. As per our team’s observation, there are many pregnant women in the camps. In particular camp, there are 2- 3 women who are pregnant and 1-2 women who recently gave birth to their child. There are more than 25 campsites in Bhaktapur. Some of the places are unreachable as the pathways are closed due to destruction.

Since, there is no work at all and most of the people are emotionally challenged, alcohol has been the best alternatives to pass the time and means of entertainment in the camps. This is also affecting young women and they might be in risk of sexual abuse in coming days. Likewise, smoking among men has been tremendous which is in directly affecting pregnant women and women who just have delivered. As we have set-up our HELP DESK in Bhaktapur Hospitals, there are many changes regarding pregnancy after the devastating earthquake. I personally attended a couple, who were 3 months pregnant and came to visit hospital after the women started to feel the pain on her stomach as she jumped to escape from falling home. But the case was not serious.

Other remarkable affect on women’s health is there are physically and mentally been challenged by the situation. In one side, they have lost their near and dear ones and on other side they have lost their properties. In same time, there is overburden of the work to single women as they have lost their husband and now they suddenly have the responsibility of running the house. Other major effect is on sanitation. There are no proper toilets in CAMPs. Similarly scarcity of water, people are defecating wherever they like. There have been spread of many diseases and women have been the worse affected.

People in camps are mostly provided with raw noodles and biscuits. Proper nutritious food is not available to young women, pregnant women and women who have just delivered. Essential medication like TT, ANC/PNC, iron tab, etc. is also not available. There is a scarcity of contraceptives and we are unable to provide with much help, there are also women who had miscarriage during the situation but there is no care available for them. Health camps are being conducted by different organizations and medical teams have been mobilized but no one is focusing on women’s Sexual and Reproductive health.”- one of our Youth Champions Nepal

Likewise, our youth champions working in coordination with Bhaktapur Youth Information Centre were engaged in assessing pregnant women, lactating women, adolescent girls their SRH and VAW. By, there were many articles online as well in print media which had been reporting continuously about women and girls in crisis situations who face special perils. Pregnant women need ante-natal care, a clean, safe place to give birth and medical attention in the event of complications. new mothers need vital nutrients and postpartum care. And women and girls of all ages need protection from gender based violence, including sexual violence, which tragically follows in the wake of most humanitarian crisis.

“There is a drunken man in our tent. We are mostly girls and women in the tent and we don’t feel safe, him being around. I went and told the camp management committee but they told me to come and complain only if something happens, but won’t that be too late? It’s a day time, but he can do anything to us at night.” A young girl taking shelter in a temporary camp in Kamalbinayak, Bhaktapur.”- One of BYIF volunteers

One of our Youth Champions met Mrs. Sarita Fhutuwar of Balambau, Changunarayan. She is a mother of two daughter and now is pregnant of 8 months. She thought she would have a normal delivery as before but due to earthquake she is in deep thought and is not sure about her post pregnancy. Her house is also badly collapsed and now.lives outside the house in tent. This is the time where she (every pregnant women)has to be given especial care but situation is just the opposite. Keeping in mind her health and situation we BYIF supported her with.some supplements like horlicks, nuts and biscuits(which is enough until delivery). She was also assured that with help of FPAN we will refer her to hospital nearby for safe delivery. This has made her feel much secure and relief.

Then we released we need to come up with a kit that address immediate need of pregnant women, lactating women, adolescent girls and children. Youth Champions Nepal planned to develop hygiene kit with materials like maxi, sari, towel, soap, panties, comb, cream, mosquito coils, sanitary pads (home-made), socks, tooth paste, tooth brush, diapers, supplemental food for babies, torch, napkins, ear buds, nail cutters and more.


Nepal and Nepalese are rising from rubble. The crisis in Nepal is far from over. As Monsoon is here, it has been followed by landslides. Aftershocks are regular occurrences but monsoon has made it difficult for locals to clear all rubble. Meanwhile, human traffickers are targeting the region to abduct vulnerable women and girls. In many ways the dangers are as great as ever.