Addressing Menstrual Health Challenges in Remote Areas of Nepal

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Dinesh Subedi

Rolpa

Menstruation poses significant challenges for teenage girls in remote areas of Nepal, impacting their access to education and overall well-being. Despite government promises of free sanitary pads in schools, many girls struggle to access them due to various barriers.

A 15-year-old girl from Nalgad Municipality-1 in Jajarkot district of Karnali Province has been struggling to menstruate during school hours. She used to feels bad for four days since her period has just started. I do not want to go to school because sanitary pads are not available. A 14-year-old girl from Rukum West Athabiskot Municipality-14 also says that she gets surprised during menstruation. I do not have enough money to buy pads and used to tear my mother’s old dhoti which makes it uncomfortable while using.

Like these two girls in Karnali, many people in remote areas experience stress during menstruation. Although the Government of Nepal has promised free sanitary pads in schools, accessing them is not easy for those in need, especially if the teacher responsible for distribution is on leave. Furthermore, it is difficult to ask for pads when male teachers are in charge, and some schools lack proper disposal facilities. The menstrual cycle, typically beginning between ages 9 and 15, is burdensome for women due to societal stigmatization, early genital bleeding, and insufficient information both at home and in schools.

In the earthquake-destroyed settlements, where there are no houses or schools, girls complain about the lack of a safe place to change pads, whether at home or in school.

‘The house collapsed, and everyone was together in one room. We all have to share the same toilet. The school toilet also collapsed, and we have started having more problems during menstruation. Boys and friends make fun of us more,’ said one teenager.

The locals, who endured winter under tarpaulin sheets, now live in tin tents during summer and face the havoc of water in the rainy season. In response, the Nepal Women Community Service Centre (NWCSC) Dang, Nagarik Awaaz Lalitpur, and The Global Uplift Project have distributed reusable sanitary pads free of cost to girls and students in some villages of Jajarkot and Rukum. NWCSC has been working in the fields of mental health, children’s education, health, women’s self-employment, and peace for the last three decades. Around 1,000 pads were distributed free of cost in Nalgad Rural Municipality-1 Anapani, Ward-2 Chhepka, Athbiskot Rural Municipality-11 Chisapani, Ward-13 Ghetma, and   Ward-14 Chhepare.

Local representatives, including Kalpana Neupane, Chairperson of NWCSC, distributed the free pads to girls and students during an informal program. ‘Initially, we operated collective peace kitchens to minimize the risk of earthquake impacts in these areas. Later, we provided hot soup kitchens during cold weather. Now, we are focusing on mental health issues. For the past two years, we have been distributing reusable pads because we have seen the stress girls experience during menstruation,’ said Mrs Neupane.

During the informal event, adolescent girls who gathered to receive the pads were also educated on monthly hygiene. Dipa Dhital, District Program Officer of the organization, facilitated awareness about menstrual hygiene and the use of reusable pads. Dhan Bahadur Magar, Ward Chairman of Nalgad Municipality-1, who was present at the pad distribution program, noted that child marriage and malnutrition are significant problems in the village. ‘You have provided pads to the children for their ease. Let us also work together to reduce child marriage,’ he said to NWCSC.

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