WOMEN'S HEALTH & WELLBEING PROGRAM
Julie Hesmondhalgh is an IYH Ambassador and we are delighted that she has launched our campaign to raise awareness and to help end period poverty in Nepal. Please follow our social media links and blog to see what we are doing.
Please show your support by taking a selfie like this and tweet and/ or post on Instagram with a shout out for IYH. #EndPeriodPoverty #InYourHands #Nepal
This page is about our strategy. It became very apparent during our involvement with building in rural communities, that there is a huge need to help girls and women with health and hygiene issues.
We have spoken with some very experienced and passionate people who have explained some of the things that can be done to make life so much more healthy and easier.
We have teamed up with Jan McNeil from Rotary in Canada who will helped us to fund this program. We have identified health and well being projects as one of the areas they wanted to focus help on. This has become the perfect partnership with IYH because girls do not come to school when they have their period and are therefore missing a good education, simply because they do not have resources to help them such as sanitary towels and separate female toilets.
Our strategy is to help not only the children in our schools but the communities they live in. This is the reason we are extending the benefits of the program to all mothers, teachers, sister and females in each community we are working with.
Our strategy has involved partnering with a local organisation, Days For Girls, to deliver mobile workshops on menstrual health and hygiene, and the distribution of reusable sanitary kits. Our goal is for a sustainable impact and we're exploring ways to help our IYH communities become self-sufficient in the production of these kits.
The IYH Project Coordinator is Sue Adlam-Hill who has been a supporter of our work in Nepal since visiting our IYH communities in February 2018. You will see her updates and reports from 2018 and 2020 below. Really worth the read.
On this visit we worked in partnership with Days for Girls and TMO to deliver 4 inspirational women’s health workshops and distribute reusable sanitary packs:
What have we done so far?
In December 2018 Pauline Sanderson and Sue Adlam-Hill spent over 2 weeks visiting Nepal to launch the IYH menstrual health workshops. During our visit over 350 women and girls attended 5 workshops, receiving 2 hours of education and training before being presented with a pack containing washable sanitary kits.
It was an amazing experience to see women and girls arriving on foot from miles around for the workshops, queuing to get into the classrooms and participating in 2 intensive hours of learning about puberty, reproductive systems, the menstrual cycle, safe choices, reducing violence and trafficking.
We worked with the Days for Girls Nepal team who provided qualified and skilled trainers for the workshops, and whose washable sanitary packs are globally recognised as high quality, practical and designed with dignity in mind. Days for Girls is an American based charity that is a thought-leader on practical solutions to period poverty, particularly in developing countries, and they have proven themselves to be an excellent partner for IYH.
None of this would have been possible without the support of our local NGO, The Mandala Organisation, transport and logistics. In particular we are grateful to Lamin who helped with translation, community liaison and just getting the whole show on the road!
Why are we doing this?
Through our project we are providing school girls with practical and cost-effective sanitary kits that they can use during their periods – and we hope that this will help them continue their normal daily life, including attending school. This project is 100% connected to our focus on education - getting kids to school and keeping them there as long as we can.
Period-poverty is a real issue in many parts of the world, and that includes Sindhupalchok where many families can’t afford disposable sanitary products or simply don’t have access to them. Women and girls still rely on old rags which often leak, raising issues of dignity, hygiene, and limiting personal freedom. The Days for Girls reusable sanitary packs are attractively packaged and designed. They work. And as well as being cost effective, they are also environmentally friendly – very important in remote communities with inadequate refuse management. Will every woman and girl switch to using their new washable kit? Maybe not – but we see this project as being about increasing choices.
This project is about more than the packs though. We’re proud to be part of the growing activism to challenge the taboo around periods and to be helping educate women and girls about their bodies. The two-hour workshops address taboos and misconceptions. They help the women understand why periods are so important and what’s happening when they menstruate. And they also cover personal hygiene, safety and protection, all of which we see as being key to the empowerment of women and girls in the communities where we work.
[Note: Chhaupadi is a social tradition which prohibits Hindi women and girls from participating a whole range of normal family activities while menstruating as they are considered impure. The Nepali government has legislated against extreme forms of Chhaupadi including the banishing of menstruating women and girls to “menstruation huts”. There are still many challenges relating to Chhaupadi in Western Nepal, but such attitudes are much less common in other parts of Nepal, including the districts where IYH works]
What’s left to do?
We’re going to run our final workshop in Sundara Devi before the end of March – and we expect well over 70 women and girls to attend.
Once this workshop is complete will work with Days for Girls to do some measurement and evaluation – we want to revisit the communities to find out how they feel about the workshops and the packs after 6+ months. Questions we will be asking include: Do they remember the key messages about health and hygiene? Are they using the packs? Is there any interest in setting up a local enterprise to manufacture the packs in the villages?
This last question is a critical one for us. We want our work to be sustainable. We want to give the villagers the chance to set up a local business that will help them in their day to day lives and reduce their dependency on charity. Setting up a business enterprise is not for the fainthearted wherever you live in the world – it requires organisation, motivation and resilience. But if the communities have an interest then IYH will work with Days for Girls to train two local women to manufacture and market the packs, and to support them to set up a profitable business.
More news to follow later in 2019!Sue Adlam-Hill
Here is Sue’s report from a one week trip she made in February 2020 with Jane Halsall (another gem). This report is focussed on the Women’s Project.
It was fantastic to be at Shree Songhai Devi School for the last of our scheduled Women and Girls’ Health workshops. We’ve really got the hang of running these now, so no surprise that it went well. What did surprise us a little was the number of attendees. When we’d first spoken to the community about the idea they had estimated some 65 to 80 attendees. As we got closer to the actual date the number kept increasing, so to be on the safe side we ordered 100 Days for Girls washable menstrual packs. But it just wasn’t enough though for the 140 women and girls who showed up on the day! This fabulous turnout just brings home the appetite for health education and for dignity-based solutions to helping women and girls manage their periods safely and hygienically.
The organisation that should take most credit for the workshops is Days For Girls. We know the Nepal team well now, and they are a team of strong and professional women who manufacture the packs and deliver the three hour workshops right across the country. The training is all in the Nepali language. Our trainer this time was Rajani, a young social work student and Days for Girls employee, and she was brilliant at getting the message out there, working the very crowded room, engaging the audience and making them laugh. It’s no easy task to run training for 140 women and girls in such a tight space - the women were sat on hard wooden school benches, many holding babies. The room had no electrical supply and Rajani used a large flip chart sized book with illustrations and her very strong communication skills to get the messages across.
The training begins by talking about the human body, changes as we grow older, and a whole lot of discussion about reproductive organs (male and female) and why women have periods. It explains how periods are central to life, and to our ability to reproduce. It explains why it’s wrong to see periods as taboo, and as something to be ashamed of. There’s then a big focus on hygiene and on sexual health. Women of all ages attend these workshops and as usual, although shy at first, the interest soon picks up and some women begin to ask questions about their own issues and conditions. We’re also pleased that Day For Girls broach the issue of consent in their workshops, and there’s a short self-defence session to reinforce a woman’s right to feel and be safe. Only after the learning is complete do the Days For Girls washable menstrual packs get brought out. The contents of the packs are explained and then each woman receives her signed-for pack.
Everyone who attended the workshop has now received a pack. In a few months we’ll go back to do some evaluation work: Have the training messages stuck? Are the women using their packs? But based on what we’ve seen elsewhere we’re confident that this health educational event is one that can make a real difference to the lives of the women and girls in Nepal.
Thank you to our wonderful donors whose generous donations have allowed us to run 7 workshops in the last 18 months. Thanks also to Hari, the Head Teacher of Shree Songhai Devi school who helped get such a great community turnout for our final workshop. Thanks to the Days for Girls team in Nepal, whose courage and energy inspire us. And finally, thanks to the wonderful NGO team at The Mandala Organisation. Their local knowledge, logistical support and big hearts translate our dreams into reality.
Days for Girls: Mission Statement
"Days for Girls increases access to menstrual care and education by developing global partnerships, cultivating social enterprises, mobilizing volunteers, and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigmas and limitations for women and girls.
Together, we're creating a world with dignity, health, and opportunity for all.
Our movement has reached more than one million girls — and counting!
With your help, we can reach Every Girl. Everywhere. Period."
PERIOD POVERTY - Article by our IYH Youth Ambassador, Sophie Hudson
Too many girls and young women miss school because they do not have sanitary products.
So what is period poverty and why does it matter? Period poverty is when girls miss school because they do not have access to and/or cannot afford sanitary products and have poor knowledge about the changes that happen to them as they enter puberty.
Very, very many girls don’t go to school for a week each month during their period. They get behind on schoolwork because they don’t understand or cannot keep up. 7 out of 10 children enrolled in Nepal’s school reach grade 5, according to UNESCO. More than half of those children drop out of school before reaching secondary school. In rural communities, these statistics are so much higher.
The effects of period poverty.
The short and long-term effects are shocking. Girls, especially those in rural communities, who drop out of school early often end up in an arranged marriage. By early marriage, we’re talking about age 14 onwards. That’s year 9 and 10 for us in the UK. It is not only early marriage that is a consequence for these girls. Childbirth for these young girls soon after having their first period often causes frequent medical complications. At that early age, their bodies are just not developed enough to cope with childbirth. The lack of education on this topic also means an inability to progress and develop or change their own or family opportunity for the better.
What is the solution?
One way of helping these girls and young women is to educate them about menstrual health and provide each girl with a menstrual hygiene kit that includes reusable sanitary products. An often asked question is ‘Why not just buy sanitary products every month?’. The answer is simple. Disposable sanitary ware does not work in very low income communities. Most of these rural families live hand to mouth and do not have the money to spend on sanitary products every month.
In Your Hands (“IYH”) is a charity benefiting communities in Nepal. It has a Women’s Health Project to help combat this very problem.
One of the charity’s aims is to educate these communities about menstrual hygiene and health to enable all girls to stay in school for every week of the month. Its strategy involves partnering with an organisation called Days For Girls, based in Nepal, to deliver health workshops in the local language and distribute reusable sanitary kits.
IYH wants to help not only the children in the government schools the charity supports but also the communities they live in. They are doing this by extending the benefits of the programme to all the women in the communities the charity works with. Extending the programme to all of these women is important because the success of the project relies on the support of the older women to encourage and ensure the girls use them.
IYH is rolling out it’s first three menstrual hygiene workshops at the end of November 2018 to educate these girls women about menstrual health and hygiene. They will provide a reusable sanitary pack to every girl and woman who attends one of the workshops. Each pack for a girl is about £8 and a postnatal pack for women to use after childbirth is about £10. These packs will enable women to work during their periods and enable girls to go to school.
Sophie Hudson, aged 16
Sydenham High School, London
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