This post was written by Rija Shrestha, Women LEAD’s Communication Intern
Menstrual Hygiene Day, celebrated on May 28th is a day when individuals break the silence and come together to talk and spread awareness about menstrual hygiene. On this day, women and girls around the world speak out about about managing menstruation in a hygienic way. Since 2014, WASH united and took the initiative to help women and girls become more confident to talk about the topic and run awareness campaigns. Apart from spreading awareness about menstruation and female hygiene, this day also dismantles the taboos and silence around menstruation. This day also brings boys and men together to be menstrual hygiene allies.
Ever since 2010, Women LEAD has been providing lessons on sexual and reproductive health, menstruation and safe menstruation practices to its program participants. During the session, our LEADers learn about reproductive health where they discuss various reproductive functions and various family planning devices.
Women LEAD has been helping girls become aware about their menstrual hygiene and preparing them to help others as well. There’s still a lot of social stigma around the topic of menstruation. To culminate these practice the LEADers are willing to take a step and break the stereotypes and help bring change in menstrual taboos and hygiene.
Sharing her experience LEADer Prasansha expressed “I had my periods when I was 11. I had no idea how to use pads, I was with my father and since he wasn’t able to help me, I was taken to my aunt’s place since my mom wasn’t with me at that time. It was a very hard experience for me and the culture that we were brought up to did not allow us to go the kitchen. We could not even be with our male family members. Period is a natural thing but people are not accepting it.” In the same note Erika stated, “From a very young age, we are told that we cannot go inside the kitchen and we need to set some boundaries. Back then, I had no idea why, but slowly I learned that it is wrong.” Similarly, LEADer Rabina told, “We are treated as water untouchables when we are menstruating. I need to keep in mind that I don’t touch the family water bottles, because that would make it impure.” Mahima who eagerly wants to end the menstruation stereotype that exists in our society said, “ I feel really negative during my periods. I feel like being isolated in some island due to the practice in our society. Girls have to miss out on so many family functions and festivals. We have to clean up everything, the stigma is so deep-rooted.”
Women LEAD recently partnered with Putali Nepal, an organization that provides information and resources about menstrual hygiene management in order to empower women and girls in Nepal. It has taken action on Ruby Cups, a revolutionary sanitary option for improved menstrual hygiene management and distributed the menstrual cups to our LEADers. Since most of the women use sanitary napkins during their periods, this is a new alternative that we introduced to our LEADers. They gave a very positive response and were curious to try the cup.
We are working with our program participants and partnering with similar organizations to break the taboo associated with menstruation.