Dear Rachel, Scott, Cristi and my vof friends,
It was really hard this time to understand how exactly it should be.As i am posting this draft to you after a research and some perspectives of others, i want your suggestions and comments and please tell me if i made it a real frontline. I desperately wait for your feedback!
A BIG THANX TO MY MENTOR TAMI AND CRISTI FOR HELPING ME TO CHOOSE MY STORY ANGLE AND HOW WE CAN GIVE A VOICE TO THE ISSUES THAT HAVE NOT BEEN DISCUSSED BEFORE BUT HAD BEEN THERE FROM SO LONG AFFECTING OUR LIFE!
EMIE, THANK YOU FOR YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT AND MOTIVATION AND MAKING ME UNDERSTAND THIS SO EASILY.
here it comes..............
Going school was tough at that time due to cold. It used to be snow in the winter season and even in summer there were hardly the very hot temperature to leave jacket at home and go out. I was born in Dolakha- a mountain area and I had my first crush on the Mt. Gaurishankar in one fine morning when the sunshine had kissed the mountain and it glowed like heaven as I have heard in the stories. Named after the Gauri-goddess and Shankar-god in Hindu religion, climbing mountain is prohibited because of the religious belief and respect. But I have always imagined, going close to the mountain to hug it every time I see the heavenly view.
Imaginations, dreams and assumptions were the part of life when I was growing up. In other part the changes that were happening in my body while growing up were the weird experience for me. It was shameful to ask parents about physical changes and even mom never told me what exactly happens in our body while we grow up. Our culture, custom didn’t allow us to talk freely about our physical changes or reproductive or sexual health, even now.
Due to cold my cheeks were kind of redder than usual that day; I was 12 at that time, I was feeling some strange pain on my belly and I could feel my underwear was smelly. I still remember that day I was wearing yellow underwear and Later at home, I observed the red color on that. At first I thought it’s a stain I may have got while playing as it was too dark red. Then the questions begin to strike on my mind- maybe I got stomach cancer, maybe I got some wound on my intestine, maybe it cause death....and I was trembling with fear seeing strange thing in my life. I couldn’t be sure that it was menstruation because our woman elders used to say- ‘nachhhunu bhayapachhi nidharma tika lagchha’ means ‘we get mark on our forehead when we have our first menstruation’. I didn’t see any mark on my forehead. I don’t even understand now why they said like that. I was too afraid to tell my mom so I wore three stockings (trousers) and went to school. Whole day I was nervous thinking of the heavy bleeding. I didn’t know anything about menstruation except my mom not touching anything for 5 days in a month.
The nepali word for menstruation is ‘nachhunu’ which means ‘untouchable’, it means while we have menstruation we are considered as untouchable or impure for 5 days and everything we touch becomes impure. When we have first menstruation, for 22 days, we are not allowed to touch any male, we are not allowed to enter into the kitchen, prayers room, we are not allowed to see top of our house; we have to use separate utensils. Touching father or brothers is a big taboo. Even seeing the mirror during menstruation is considered as it brings the bad luck they say. The superstitious belief says- menstruation is the punishment of the sin that we did in our previous life.
So when our housemaid noticed the blood on my dress after coming from school, she immediately told my mom. They packed some of my dresses and told my dad to go out of house so that I couldn’t see him. I went with our house maid to her home which was almost 1.5 hours far. There I was given a dark room with no sunlight and given one plate and glass to use for eating. People there used to say- ‘timi aba thuli bhayau’ that means now I am grown up. Ohh…grown up means I had to be careful from then, not to play with male friends, not to stay out for long, not to go out often and all. I used to cry while I was alone for being grown up with the one simple natural thing in my body. I hated that blood which made this sudden change.
I had to use rags as at that time I even didn’t know that there are things like sanitary pads. Using rags was unhygienic and I was even unaware of washing it carefully. Days were so hard and even more than that all the restrictions were even worst. I was even not sent to school during those days and thinking of questions that my friends and teachers might ask after re-attending used to scare me almost. I had experienced that many of my friends in school, after they had menstruation, got married as menstruation symbolizes ‘grown up’ in our culture. And many of them missed school during their menstruation which had affected their study.
I was supposed to stay there for 12 days but luckily my mom allowed me to enter on 7th day. That day I was given new cloths and new things. I entered home after they sprinkled gold water (they put gold in water, for it is taken as to pure something). I was told that I shouldn’t touch my dad for 22 days and shouldn’t enter into the kitchen, prayers room. I was my daddy’s gal so I couldn’t stay without talking to my dad, I ran to my dad and hugged him and I cried a lot. That day I was feeling worse for being grown up which didn’t allow me to be close with my father. People stared at me and scolded me and told it was a sin which depressed me for long after that.
District Report- According to the Monthly Monitoring and Annual Performance Review Worksheet (2008/9/10), in Dolakha, estimated target population for health service user were 224,982 and the service users were 235,674, including migrated people. Female health service takers are increasing by 2/4% per day which can be considered as the awareness or more health problems. Out of which, In the year 2009/10 there was average 96 cases of menstruation disorder (in married and unmarried) per month in District primary health center-Dolakha.
Awareness- There is little promotional health service through advertisement in TV, Radio, and Newspapers which only includes some major diseases but it doesn’t include any of the awareness on menstruation hygiene. Hygienic practices during menstruation are of considerable importance as it has health impacts in terms of increased exposure to various infections. Due to lack of awareness, hygiene is neglected by girls, especially in the rural areas. The renowned INGO like Water Aid is one of the major organizations working for awareness of sanitation including menstruation hygiene. In a study According to a 2009 survey by Water Aid, an international NGO, the key reasons girls were absent while menstruating was a lack of privacy, unavailability of sanitary disposal facilities and water shortages. They are also seen to avoid going to toilets during menstruation as most schools do not have separate latrines for girls and most of them have missed school during menstruation. According to Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES), only 41% of schools in Nepal have latrine facility with only 26% of schools having separate latrine for girls. To avoid humiliation - especially teasing by school boys - the girls would rather go home. This is one of the reasons why they lose interest in going to school and they result poor performance in school. One of the studies has also that they are likely to get depressed during their first menstruation.
Our Education- The primary health education is included from the class 1 to the class 10 in the new study course. There is a subject called ‘science, environment and health’ under 5 class and above that there is subject called ‘population, health and environment’ which is not enough for the complete knowledge on basic reproductive health. Though there are some chapters about the reproductive health, due to the new course and untrained teachers it has been ineffective. The girls are too shy to ask about this and teachers themselves do not teach about it clearly due to our cultural limits. And gender barriers still exists in some of the schools in rural part.
According to Govinda Raj Sedhai, secretary of District Education Office, Dolakha, education ministry is bringing the new literacy program to the adult - the adult/elders literacy classes which will include the 3 days of health education too which may help woman to know about their menstruation and reproductive health too.
National Health Policy- the NHP was adopted in 1991 to bring about improvements in health conditions of the people of Nepal through extending the access and availability of primary health care system. The primary objective of NHP is to extend the primary health care system to the rural population so that they benefit from modern facilities and the services from trained health care providers. Under the government there are 3 kinds of health services- preventive, promotional and curative health services.
Global Perspective In total, women spend around six to seven years of their lives menstruating. A key priority for women and girls is to have the necessary knowledge, facilities and cultural environment to manage menstruation hygienically, and with dignity. Yet the importance of menstrual hygiene management is mostly neglected by development practitioners within the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, and other related sectors such as reproductive health.
In many countries like Nepal, women are considered to be “impure” during their menstrual cycle and are prohibited to take part in social life and they are treated as ‘untouchable’ during menstrual cycle. But the truth is as we all know; menstruation is a natural phenomenon that should be celebrated as a feminine force. We talk about girl’s education and their rights to education. And when we talk about girls' education, we cannot only focus on scholarships or building toilets. We need an incorporated approach that involves gender sensitivity among teachers and the need to educate the mothers also on the issue of menstrual impact on girls
My voice: There are many cultures in Nepal, some of them treat the menstruation in a good way and some of them even treat it as if it is a big curse. The majority of girls learn about menstruation from their mothers, sisters and girl friends but what happens when they are themselves unknown about the menstruation hygiene? And what happens though they have knowledge, they lack some facilities to them for their hygiene? As a result some of them suffer from depression and some get different infections. Many girls prefer to stay home which leads to their poor performance in school.
Being in rotaract is the proud thing that I have in my life but it became so much part of my life as well as many other girls when we got the girls toilet project through our Rotary club of Charumati which is funded by Rotary Club of Matilda Bay- Australia. We have completed the project by now and I am working voluntarily in that school to raise awareness on menstruation hygiene as well as other basic teenage problems. As I have just stepped on the first stage of my mission, I am still learning, I am still seeking the new ways and ideas to include both gender. And I am happy that they don’t have to suffer in the same situation as I had to during my menstruation.
It depends upon the culture how do they practices the menstrual hygiene but it is very important part of health education like other major health problems. It’s only possible to increase menstruation hygiene when not only health officers but teachers and parents play the important role in transmitting a message of proper menstrual hygiene. This wouldn’t only save girls from many health hazards but would break the barrier to their regular study. And we woman can play the most significant role through communicating with each other in creating menstrual hygiene in our family and in our community.