Three grade 11 IB in the US decided that they wanted to make a difference for girls in Nepal. Here’s how they did it in their own words.
Menstruation is a natural biological process for all women. Yet, sadly, in Nepali society, as in other parts of the world, it is still associated with restrictions and the deeply-rooted cultural and religious beliefs that menstruation is spiritually polluting.
Nepali women encounter many difficulties relating to their menstrual cycles, more so in remote villages where menstrual hygiene is considered taboo and there is a distinct lack of awareness surrounding it. Sanitary products can be difficult to access and are often prohibitively expensive which can force women to resort to unhygienic and dangerous options, including rags, clothing, and even leaves. According to the BMC and Mayo Clinic, such practices can increase the risk of contracting tract infections and more serious diseases like cervical cancer.
A 2016 report on menstrual health in Nepal found that 83 per cent of menstruating girls still use cloths or other unsanitary means while only 15 per cent use sanitary pads (The Kathmandu Post, 2020). This number alone is staggering and demands action to be taken — which is exactly what we did.
Now, as Nepal is facing even more severe hardships as a result of the pandemic, many are concerned that “period poverty” (the term for when women are deprived of basic menstrual health requirements, such as bathrooms, showers, health education and safe sanitary products) is rising.
To address these challenges, we initiated a project serving The Small World organisation. The three of us wanted to provide enough reusable sanitary pads for all of the girls in a children’s home in the Salleri region of Nepal so that they could have hygienic and comfortable menstrual cycles.
To fundraise we reached out to our community, asking for donations to help us in purchasing fabric and for shipping. The support we received from our community was tremendous and exceeded all of our expectations!
The money raised allowed us to create complete pad kits for the girls attending the school in Solukhumbu, Nepal. We were lucky enough to have amazing family and friends who helped us cut and sew to create over 400 pads. We also got into contact with Soap Cycling HK (an organization that collects and donates unused or expired soap), who were kind enough to donate soap for each girl. Additionally, we created and included an informational pamphlet with the aim of teaching girls about the normality of having a menstrual cycle and how to take care of themselves.
As the support we received was more than anything we could have hoped for, we were also able to purchase winter jackets and backpacks for all of the students. The pad kits will ensure the girls are comfortable throughout their entire menstrual cycle; the jackets will keep them warm during the harsh Nepali winters, and the backpacks will help them on their learning journeys.
If you are interested in learning more about The Small World Organization and the amazing work they are doing in Nepal you can visit https://www.thesmallworld.org/.
They were also kind enough to write an article about this project which if you like to read you can see at https://www.thesmallworld.org/current-news/2021/4/22/three-students-for-nepal.