Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day!!

For most of the girls in the schools of Sindhupalchowk and Gorkha districts, where Hamro Palo organizes four week long Her Turn workshops for the adolescents, the subject of menstrual hygiene always stands out. Asmi Budathoki, 13, from a school in Bhotekoshi, Sindhupalchowk, says, “at the workshops, we learned that menstruation is a natural process. Many families in my village send their daughters to a separate place (usually neighbor’s or a relative’s home) when she has her first period. Now that I know it’s a biological process, I discussed this with my mother and now I won’t have to go away from my home when I have my first period.”

Sonu Sherpa, 14, has a similar story. She says, “I liked sessions on menstruation the most as I learned about menstrual cycle in detail. At school, health is taught by male teachers but they do not go into details and we also feel reluctant to ask any questions related to menstruation. During Her Turn workshops, we could openly ask and discuss menstrual cycle and menstrual hygiene.”

It is sometimes also difficult for female teachers to openly talk about menstruation. One of the female teachers from a school in Sindhupalchowk shares “I used to hesitate to ask for half day leave in front of male teachers during a painful period, instead I would say I had stomach pain. Now, I explicitly tell them about menstruation when I ask for leave to rest when it is unbearably painful.”

IMG_20180524_103243 small

During the adolescents’ conference that we organized back in December 2017, the girls shared that boys tease them if they see blood stain on their clothes. Some girls mentioned that they are forced to go home. However, there were some boys who said they are ready to support the girls if the girls share the problems with them. One of the boys who had participated in His Chance workshop in Gorkha district said, “we will support as much as we can, because we have learned about menstruation and how difficult it is for the girls. We can ask teachers for sanitary napkin and also for leave during emergency.” One of members of School Support Committee, Nawang Lama, 15, from Shree Dhaneswori Secondary School, who had joined His Chance workshop, said “from the school safety project fund, we purchased materials for toilet reconstruction and water supply facility which has eased the girls to use the toilets, especially during menstruation. Sanitation is also well maintained which has improved the overall hygiene of the school for both boys and girls.”

Ganga Devi Sapkota, a teacher from Shree Ratna Rajya Secondary School, Sinchupalchowk shared, “girls are now more open and confident to talk about their menstruation which helped maintain their personal hygiene even in the school and reduce school absentees.” At the recent His Chance workshops in Simpalkavre, Sindhupalchowk, Krishna, 15, learned that menstruation is natural phenomenon, instead of considering menstruating women and girls untouchable or restricting their movements. He wants to support his sister and mother during their periods.

While the subject of menstruation is still considered a taboo, it is just wonderful to learn that adolescents are learning and preparing themselves to tackle social taboo and also maintain their personal hygiene. During our workshop evaluation survey, we learn that on average there is 22.5% increase in the students’ knowledge of menstruation.

To break these restraints of menstrual taboos that reproduce inequities, we know how important it is to involve adolescent boys and men. They play an important role in the decision making regarding the provision of menstrual hygiene services. It is crucial that we sensitize men and adolescent boys to break the silence and stigma around the issue of menstruation. We are very excited about adolescent boys coming forward to support adolescent girls and changing the stereotypes. Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day!!