Happy Period for 600 Nepali girls in 7 schools

by HELP CODE ITALIA ONLUS
Happy Period for 600 Nepali girls in 7 schools

Menstrual health and equity are major factors in gender equality, a situation acknowledged by the UN Human Rights Council in recent years. Integrating menstrual health into programs for sexual and reproductive health and hygiene, sanitation and clean water is an important step in achieving SDGs 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality) and 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). The United nations are calling upon states to “address the widespread stigma and shame surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene by ensuring access to factual information thereon, addressing the negative social norms around the issue and ensuring universal access to hygienic products and gender-sensitive facilities, including disposal options for menstrual products.”  

Helpcode as humanitarian organization promote in Nepal the support of 7 local communities in Chitwan to address the physical challenges of menstruation (obtaining, using and disposing of menstrual products), but also the societal challenges (stigma, social norms and education) with the project HAPPY PERIOD. 

Menstruation signals a girl’s entry into womanhood, sexual activity, and reproduction and as such, is a crucial time for adolescent girls to learn about their bodies and their health. In Nepal, less than half of adolescent girls have adequate knowledge about menstruation, and only one in ten practices good menstrual hygiene. Adolescent girls’ inability to effectively manage menstrual hygiene affects their education, physical health, psychological and emotional well-being, and general quality of life. 

Menstruation is a natural process that signals a girl’s entry into womanhood. While it affects around 50% of the global population, discriminatory practices and policies prevail around the world. In Nepal, 8.8 million girls and women face a complex set of challenges relating to menstruation, these challenges are often influenced by deeply entrenched cultural and religious beliefs. 

Thanks to the HAPPY PERIOD intervention, Helpcode was able to support total 4000 sanitary pads to girls in Chitwan for a total of 9 schools. Sanitary pads were provided to schools and Menstruation hygiene awareness was also conducted in the schools. Moreover, 150 dignity kits were distributed in Chitwan school adolescents. total of 610 adolescent girls received the kits and orientation at schoolsHelpcode staff conducted orientation on Menstrual Hygiene Management to all the targeted girls who receive the hygiene kits in all the Secondary and Lower Secondary schools in Chitwan in 2021, thanks to the funds raised by the campaign. 

Covid-19 situation 

Nepal is currently experiencing the second wave of COVID-19, with far greater effects and deaths than last year. As of 26 October 2021, 904,513 people have tested positive. According to a national data, up to 68 per cent of the population may have been exposed. With 11,337 deaths reported, making Nepal among the highest fatality rate in the Asia Pacific when compared to the country’s population. 

As the current situation of lockdown and social distancing that is still very strong in Nepal rural area, Helpcode staff find very difficult to reach the place to distribute the items, as many schools are closed. Moreover, floods and landslides during the monsoon in November 2021 affected 72 districts across the country, including Chitwan. Communication and transport are very complex, with many roads blocked due to floods and landslides. This situation creates the condition for Helpcode to slow down these activities and close the fundraising campaign 

We would like to express a big thanks you to all the globalgiving friends which supported the HAPPY PERIOD project, which represented a strong message on the importance of girl’s health and education for all in Nepal! 

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After several months of relatively low daily cases in Nepal, cases began to increase rapidly in mid-April 2021, rising from 150 cases per day in early April to over 8,000 cases per day since 5 May. Over 44% of COVID-19 tests nationally are coming back positive, suggesting that case numbers are much higher than reported (United Nations).

The recent surge in cases has resulted in an unprecedented need for medical supplies including oxygen, medicines, ventilators, diagnostic kits and vaccines - said an WHO rappresentative in Nepal. While WHO and partners are supporting the Nepal Government’s endeavors in mounting a robust response, fighting the pandemic necessitates international solidarity. I appeal to friends of Nepal from around the world to come forward and help with fulfilling the needs of the hour.”

Millions of people in Nepal are struggling not just with the direct health impact of COVID-19, but also with hunger, malnutrition, devastating economic losses, and other health needs that are being overlooked.

Helpcode Nepal is strictly monitoring the situation in Kathmandu and Chitwan, where the schools are closed and lockdown has been extended since May.

Helpcode staff are facing the devastating broader impact the current COVID-19 surge has on children and young people in Nepal. We do not want them to be cut off from vital support networks, as they are losing parents and caregivers, and witnessing scenes no child should ever see.

It’s particularly alarming to see the number of cases rising in rural areas, where health services are woefully ill-equipped to handle this surge in critically ill patients. Someone from a rural part of the country might have to travel seven or eight hours to get to the nearest hospital -- many of which are understaffed and under resourced -- and with few ambulances available, life-saving treatment is out of reach for many" said Sheila, Education Officer in Chitwan.

Because of Covid-19, other medical treatments have come to a halt, which is especially dangerous for young children and pregnant mothers who desperately need access to healthcare. The longer this crisis goes on, the greater the disruptions to vital health services, putting even more children at risk of illness or even death. The nationwide lockdown, whilst essential to control the virus, threatens to push even more children into poverty as families lose their incomes. One thing is certain; children in Nepal will feel the effects of this crisis for many years to come."

Also Bikesh, Protection Officer report us that "non-COVID patients are reluctant to visit hospitals for fear of getting infected; people of hill, mountain regions not going for tests, opting for self-medication. On the other hand, I learn about a pregnant woman who tested COVID-19 positive and has been abandoned by husband, kicked out by landlord. Neighbors bar her from coming to parents’ home".

In this dangerous situation, we need your help to support the health and hygiene of girls in Nepal and prevent interrupted childhoods in Nepal from being lost for good.

Donate now to HAPPY PERIOD, a concrete way to improve life conditions of vulnerable girls in Nepal

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In December 2020, schools reopen in Nepal, after a long closure due to the pandemic. Conduct training and gathering of many people were restricted. Schools are conducting class in a regular basis just from January 2021. This allow Helpcode staff to conduct orientation on Menstrual Hygiene Management to all the targeted girls who receive the hygiene kits in all the Secondary and Lower Secondary schools in Chitwan.

Sheila make aware of targeted girls and other participants about the misconception, general practice, hygienic behaviour on monthly cycle and the negative impact of unhygienic practice on women health.

Hygiene kit were distributing to 500 adolescent girls of different schools: each kit was composed by 2 set of reusable sanitary pad; 1 packet of reusable pad, 1 piece of underwear, nail cutter, 2 pieces of soap, 2 face masks, 1 comb, 1 set of toothpaste and brush.

The target schools in the municipality of Ichchhakamana in Chitwan were the following:

  • Sarbashanti secondary School: 150 girls
  • Triveni Barah Secondary school: 110 girls
  • Shree Secondary School Dhungre: 37 girls
  • Shree Majhgaun Secondary School: 45 girls
  • Shree National Basic School Fishling: 22 girls
  • Shree National Basic School Pamdada: 15 girls
  • Shree National Basic School Chanaute: 11 girls

Also Shree Pashupatinath Secondary School in Makwanpur reached 110 girls, so to a total of 500 adolescent girls that receive the kits and orientation at schools.

Sheila asked the girls how they manage menstrual hygiene during the previous month with school closure. During the period of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, majority of the girls have used the traditional type of pads made by old cloth pieces. Some of the girls from nearing highway have used the non-reusable pads.

The impact of sanitary pad in the rural community school is very positive and milestone for those girls who usually being absent in school during the menstrual period. Similarly, Helpcode interventions break the misconception and misunderstanding about menstrual process. Girls and teachers feel free to talk about menstrual hygiene.

Helpcode staff did the awareness program before distributing the educational materials to the all students. Moreover, Sheila and the teachers are frequently monitoring the impact of re-useable sanitary pads too. Everyone feel easy and safe to wear.

It is important to see that after this awareness activities, many girls feel comfortable to speak about their menstrual cycle, their practice of hygiene management in public. Even boys do not feel boring and hesitation to hear in the awareness program in the mass.

We are very grate to all the people that contribute to spread this project to favour girls’ education and women empowerment in the management of their health. Moreover, local authority and Nepal government has started to supply sanitary pads in community schools from this year. This is an important achievement to increase sustainability and the participation and retention of girls at schools.

With happy period, we are happy to improve girls’ health and wellbeing!

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If things had been normal, Mashida would have been in the final year of high school and looking forward to going to college. Instead she is uncertain what the future holds.

The National Examination Board has cancelled the exams which Mashida was supposed to take in April and told schools to conduct their own examinations. She has not heard anything about this from her school.

“This was supposed to be the last year at high school, but the academic session hasn’t started yet and I am still stuck at my home,” said 16-year-old Mashida from Fishingl in Chitwan district.

In the meantime, she is relying on distance learning programmes provided by a local radio station to stay productive and motivated. However, she is worried about falling behind, citing distractions at home and financial hits from the lockdowns.

“Although my parents encourage me to focus on my studies, I am also expected to do the cooking, cleaning and babysit my little brother. I spend more time on doing household chores than studying,” said Mashida.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that 1.6 billion children have been pushed out of school since March, including 111 million girls in the world’s least developed countries. Studies conducted by UNESCO and UNDP said financial uncertainty unleashed by the Covid-19 can lead to girls being pushed into child marriage, child labour, human trafficking, sexual violence and other forms of exploitation.

The worsening of the economic situation is having a negative impact on the period poverty, with many girls not affording to access to hygiene materials and sanitary pads.

In Chitwan, Helpcode is supporting girls to go to school. During these months, Sheila, the educator officer, keep in contract with teachers and students I order to monitor the children situation in the lockdown.

We cannot just wait until the school reopens to find out whether or not the pandemic pushed girls out of school. It will be too late, and any reactive programmes will be less effective by then,” said Mr Bharat, Director of Helpcode Nepal.

When parents face crises because of limited income and resources, they are likely to neglect or deprioritise daughters. These girls are forced into staying back at home, doing household chores and some even end up getting married,” said Sheila, Education Program Manager at Helpcode Nepal.

During the lockdown, Sheila has been reaching out to dozens of girls through phone calls, personal visits or text messaging to follow-up on their educational progress and on their family situation. “Most of the girls are having financial problems at home and this stress is impacting their studies,” she said. “I listen to them and try to give them suggestions and motivate them to stay focused and optimistic.”

She also talks to the parents to explain the importance of girls’ education. “We want to send a message to the parents that no matter what, they must never compromise with their daughters’ education,” said Sheila.

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COVID- 19 pandemic has impacted each and every sector of human life around in the world. In response to the Nepalese contest, in March 2020 Nepal government has ordered a nationwide lockdown as emergency measure to prevent spreading of the infection. Almost every household, community, organization, sector and nation has been facing devastating impacts on health, economy, food security and livelihood. Public activities are discouraged, families are largely restricted to their homes, all schools are closed and children are out of school across the country.

There are, and will continue to be, clear negative effects of COVID-19 on children’s education, social life, physical and mental health. In such critical condition, it is difficult to manage menstrual hygiene properly.

Sheila, who’s working with Helpcode in Nepal by 10 years, reported that in regular school time, adolescent girls have been received sanitary pad in their own schools but nowadays every student have been out of school and stay at home.

In settings where we are working with the poorest rural girls, they commonly use washable traditional type of sanitary pad. The reason is financial stress may lead to families to prioritize other needs such as food or essential utility bills over purchasing menstrual hygiene materials. On the other hand, they do not have excess to buy sanitary pad in their village. In the urban area, shops are closed since 2 months ago, so girls are facing problem to buy hygiene products. In rural area there are no shops where they can buy sanitary pad to manage their menstrual hygiene. Helpcode had provided hygiene kit to 120 adolescent girls of targeted schools before the lockdown. In this critical days those girls may have using the received readymade pad.
I have been contacted to respective focal teachers and principals in weekly basis. Actually they are not well informed about how girls are managing their self-care and hygiene on monthly cycle because in the rural scenario it’s the matter of shame. Even teacher may feel hesitate to ask about the sanitary pad using condition of their girl’s students at the time they are staying at home with their parents. They just to know that they are using cotton or old clothes folding pads for their menstrual hygiene management because most of the family (female) members have habit to use the traditional pad.

Helpcode is mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 and menstrual health and hygiene for girls and women in communities by providing menstrual materials to avoid disruption of access to menstrual hygiene materials, particularly disposable menstrual hygiene materials that require monthly replenishment. In many remote area shops went out-of-stock or increased price as a result of panic buying, supply chain disruptions in supply chains due to stay-at home orders or simply increased demand due to recommendations to keep “extra” essential supplies on hand.

The COVID-19 pandemic will have secondary impacts on girls’ and women’s ability to manage their menstruation and their health. The impacts will vary based on the country context and ability to respond through social protection and health systems. Similarly, the most affected will be the poorest and most vulnerable to economic and social shocks. Certain occupations will bring greater vulnerability.

The COVID19 pandemic is putting at risk the smooth progress the rural community in gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services.

Thanks to the HAPPY PERIOD project, we were able to support Nepali adolescent girls to be more informed about their body, to improve their hygiene management and to have access to menstrual hygiene products for free.

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HELP CODE ITALIA ONLUS

Location: Genova - Italy
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Twitter: @helpcodeitalia
Project Leader:
Alessandro Grassini
Genova, Italy
$9,382 raised of $15,000 goal
 
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