Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal

by Aythos, Inc.
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Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal
Health & Hygiene Training for 1,000 Women in Nepal

Nepal has over 13,000 cases of coronavirus, though testing limitations likely make that number much lower than the reality. Nepalese migrant workers, whose remittances to their families in Nepal made up nearly 30% of the country’s economy, are heading home from lack of work around the world. In response to increasing numbers of cases, Aythos canceled upcoming field projects and implemented a work from home policy on March 17th, both for the health and safety of staff and volunteers, but also to prevent spreading the virus to rural communities where we operate. One week later, on March 24th Nepal’s government initiated a nation-wide lockdown, including restricting travel between districts.

While working from home, the Aythos team has focused on planning future programs in more villages of Sindhupalchwok and Okhaldhunga districts. The team has been on the phone with rural villagers and getting regular updates on their menstrual health and how their lives have been affected amid the crisis, and to reflect back on the menstrual health program curriculum and menstrual health products (i.e. reusable cloth pads). Phone conversations with past beneficiaries who can reliably spread the word have been the most effective source of communication to sustain Aythos program activities during the crisis.

Despite the lockdown, we ran into one story that validated some of our previous training. We talked with a 39-year-old single mother who was a part of Aythos’s menstrual hygiene training presented to a group of women working at a carpet factory. She told us that the training stuck with her and it has been valuable during the lockdown. After the training she and her 16-year-old daughter used cloth provided at the training to make additional reusable cloth pads.

Unable to work for two months since the lockdown began, she is facing significant financial hardship. The family members that she used to rely on to provide occasional financial support are experiencing their own hardship, and the network of mutual support is gone, leaving her with difficult choices. Disposable pads come at a high price relative to income in Nepal. She said with everything else she could not afford to buy pads for her and her daughter for the last two months. Having reusable pads as an alternative has saved money that she can spend on other things she needs. She said, “The cloth pads have been very useful for both of us today while the country is still in lockdown for the virus. What would have happened if we never knew how to make reusable cloth pads?”

Aythos has also been attempting help the women at the carpet factory to understand the virus and learn how to protect themselves, though this single mother admits, while giggling, that she’s still trying to remember how to pronounce coronavirus.

As COVID-19 continues to impact Nepal and the world. Aythos continues to share its ongoing commitment to quality health practices and information, even though we cannot meet in person. Aythos is closely monitoring the impact in the communities where we work. By following the World Health Organization guidelines, we communicate however we can to offer health awareness and strategies among partner communities on preventive spread of the virus.

Currently, Aythos is coordinating food and supplies relief to several rural communities. When it is safe for our staff to travel again, the Aythos team will be working with Dalit and Mushahar communities to again provide menstrual health and hygiene programs.

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Aythos is happy to share that in reaching 803 women and girls so far, we are well on our way to our goal of reaching 1,000 with health and hygiene programs.

Since our last update, Aythos focused on planning and delivering a remote training in the Nepali villages of Mandra and Singharche, neighboring villages of our previous programs in the Sindhupalchowk District. In our previous work, Aythos partnered with Namaste Nepal to deliver training programs. This project included both Namaste Nepal and US-based The MoonCatcher Project, both bringing new ideas to share with our beneficiaries.

The roads leading up to Mandra and Singharche villages were not accessible, leading to a challenging hike to gain access to these communities. These villages have extreme levels of poverty and no health facilities. The geographic separation of access to information and institutions that can talk about health challenges leads many to suffer through otherwise resolvable health problems. Common infections for women are exacerbated by using dirty rags and old clothes to manager periods.

The menstrual health management training was conducted in these two villages among 148 women and young girls in a span of two days. The training got started with a discussion among the women and girls with regard to their menstrual health. Women were shy to talk about these sensitive topics, though after a few jokes and some laughter, women started opening up more and speaking freely about their experiences. From the conversations, we found many engage in traditional practices of avoiding the kitchen and religious places during their periods because of the belief that menstruation is impure as they bleed impure blood. Additionally, many women complained of severe cramps, though few take medicines out of a fear of future infertility. Fortunately, very few of those that use disposable synthetic pads were disposing of such pads out to nature like rivers, forests.

With a better understanding of the current knowledge and challenges women and girls face, the training team began a formal training of reviewing basic information on health and hygiene and then playing the animated menstruation, hygiene, and nutrition video, Hello Periods. That is followed by a time for questions.

The approach taken by Aythos, and its partner organizations, attempt to remove stigmas attached to women’s health. Using focus group discussions after the training, we found women reporting positive feedback and retention of the concepts presented.

Over the next few months, Aythos will soon start its need assessment with Dalit and Mushahar groups. Dalit communities are traditionally faced with discrimination as they struggle to build self-sufficient lives for their families. Mushahars are a type of Dalit community, whose name translates to “rat-eater” after an old common occupation of catching rats and surviving off them due to extreme poverty. The conversation has already begun with the existing local government in these communities who are highly interested in collaborating with Aythos on this journey. We are excited to work with these communities to make a positive impact and hopefully make new friends.

Please help us get to our goal to reach 1,000 women and girls! Donate today!

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Pad-making training in Dansing
Pad-making training in Dansing

Approximately 172 miles west of Kathmandu, high in the mountain, there lies Dansing village largely populated by Magars, an indigenous ethnic group representing one of the largest ethnic groups of Nepal. With almost all the men and young boys migrating to foreign countries or joining the Indian military, they leave behind the women and young girls with responsibilities for households, childcare, and farming chores, but limited or no time to care for themselves.

Situated in the remote parts of the Syangja District, these communities have little access to health facilities or commercially produced sanitary pads. Women traditionally use dirty clothes during menstruation causing infections and other negative health effects. Working with Namaste Nepal to plan and implement the training, Aythos conducted training for women and girls in three sessions with 255 total participants between 9 and 70 years old. The trainings included our standard curriculum of basic hygiene, reproduction, nutrition giving ample an opportunity for questions. Women and girls in these communities had very little or no knowledge about menstrual health and hygiene management practices.

A 70-year-old attendee told us during the training, “I wish we could have had an opportunity to learn about menstrual health and pad making training back in our time. Then we would not have been forced to stay separately inside the cowsheds with our lungi (a traditional skirt) painted red and treated like animals. However, I am very happy for my daughters-in-law as well as my granddaughter who is very fortunate to attend such training and learn about women’s health and pad making.”

A similar situation exists in another village called Gati in Sindhupalchowk district, north of Kathmandu. There Aythos conducted two trainings with 140 participants between 12 and 70 years of age, including one for school-age girls and another for women in the community. We were able to compliment the training with a health education video called “Hello Periods” in Nepali language which is not always possible in rural communites.

In addition to the health and hygiene training, Aythos conducted surveys and focus groups of the communities to understand their circumstances better. Questions include sources of food and income, education levels, dietary intake and more. In addition to the women’s health programs Aythos tries to support the long-term health programs through our sustainable livelihood programs.

Prior to each training Aythos spends significant time and resources trying to understand the communities where we work. Over the next six months, Aythos will be working with even more organizations and communities to plan, coordinate, and implement training programs. Our work to support women and girl’s health initiatives throughout Nepal is only possible with support from our generous donors. Please donate today!

Gati Training
Gati Training
Learning about pad-making
Learning about pad-making
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Sarlahi Reusable Pad Training
Sarlahi Reusable Pad Training

During our last update we described training hosted on health and hygiene to women and girls in two rural villages and one urban carpet factory in Nepal, and conducting surveys to plan future activities. Since then we have been hard at work planning upcoming activities in the fall and winter and coordinating with other organizations to reach new groups of women and girls.

Since June, Aythos has worked with other organizations in our goal to find the right solutions for women and girls besides commonly used unsanitary old clothes. Commercial pads are available in urban areas with more limited supply as populations become more rural; though poverty requires knowledge of, and comfort with reusable pads in all areas of Nepal.

Working with Her Turn to provide free reusable pads during a three-day health conference, it is an opportunity to get feedback on different approaches. In addition, Aythos is coordinating with The Moon Catcher Project to focus on distribution of pads in coming weeks and working with Namaste Nepal to conduct training on health, hygiene, and making reusable pads in various rural communities. Aythos also worked with Girls Empowered by Travel to distribute reusable pads to 75 women and girls in the flood-stricken areas of the Sarlahi District.

The rural Chepang community of Nepal have little education or resources on health and hygiene. Faced with social stigmatization from other groups, even a simple effort to improve their economic position is pushed away by locals outside their community. High rates of childhood marriage and limited ability improve circumstances has led to significant levels of depression for these rural populations. Education is a low priority along with high illiteracy rates and strong cultural beliefs demonizing menstruation. Many impoverished women in rural areas of Nepal use unsanitary old clothes to manage menstruation, however, it is very common in these impoverished communities for women and girls to be separated from their homes during menstruation often using no menstrual cloth at all. We have heard common complaints of urinary tract infections and irregular periods, but no health facilities to seek treatment.

Over the past two months Aythos has been seeking out communities like these with limited access to health and hygiene training. We find new communities through a network of NGOs and individual networks. After we find a community we cannot simply walk into a rural village and expect to be well received. Rather, through local friends and partner organizations we seek introductions, work to build trust, understand needs and local culture, and eventually deliver a tailored training to support women and girls of these communities. These early stages are an opportunity to plan projects and budgets to make sure we are using donor funds effectively. This important early work also allows us to maximize our impact and develop long-term strategies for community support.

We are ramping up activities over the next few months, conducting training on basic women’s health and hygiene, teaching women and girls on the manufacture, care, and use of reusable sanitary pads, and conducting surveys to understand health and overall needs. This important work needs your help to make sure we can reach as many women and girls possible. Please consider a monthly donation and donate today!

Reusable Pad Distribution
Reusable Pad Distribution
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Health and hygiene training at a carpet factory
Health and hygiene training at a carpet factory

It is our pleasure to present the first report to our recent donors on women’s health and hygiene projects in Nepal. The first projects conducted in April and May directly reached 86 women and girls in three urban and rural communities, offering training in health & hygiene and menstrual pad-making. In addition, we conducted surveys and infomration gathering among 74 participants in the village of Palchowk and a local school. 

In 2018, we conducted a livelihood project with a group of Buddhist nuns wanting to learn jewelry-making skills to raise money for the nunnery. During that project we had a short health Q&A session, promising to come back and do a more thorough health and reusable pad-making training. With your contributions we did just that in April. The training included 15 women and girls between 10 and 44 years old. A training presented health and hygiene information followed by an opportunity to ask questions. A reusable pad-making training was also given with each person was receiving a precut cloth that included a pad with wings, three inserts, metal clasps, and a needle and thread.

The following day, the same training and materials were given in the rural Palchowk community. Training attendees included 37 women between 12 and 56 years old. The health and hygiene training presented lessons on menstruation, menstrual hygiene, and reproduction. Most of the community is illiterate making it important to present pictures to describe the topics clearly.

Last year, Aythos conducted health and hygiene training at a carpet factory in Kathmandu. The women that work at the factory often live in small quarters above the factory, making it a suitable location to bring women together for a training. In late May, we went to a similarly structured nearby factory to present the same training to 34 attendees between 12 and 43 years old. Women learned our standard curriculum of health and hygiene, followed by reusable pad-making training an materials. This training was followed by a blood pressure check and discussion of appropriate diet to control blood pressure, with some advised to see a doctor to assess them more thoroughly.

We have many more project to conduct to reach 1,000 women and girls we will need your help! Please join us by making monthly contribution to make sure our projects can reach women and girls with these important programs. Please visit our website, www.aythos.org, for more infomration about Aythos and our programs.

Carpet factory reusable pad-making lessons
Carpet factory reusable pad-making lessons
Survey conducted at a rural school
Survey conducted at a rural school
Group photo after the nunnery health training
Group photo after the nunnery health training
Group photo after the Palchowk pad-making training
Group photo after the Palchowk pad-making training
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Organization Information

Aythos, Inc.

Location: Little Rock, AR - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @aythos
Project Leader:
David Mabry
Little Rock, AR United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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