Giving Compass’ Take:
• Sabina Pokhrel, a sexual and reproductive rights advocate in Nepal, describes the lack of education and agency regarding their menstrual and sexual health.
• How are you supporting activism abroad?
• Read more about menstrual health solutions in India.
When Sabina Pokhrel was in the fifth grade, she got her period for the first time. The experience was so traumatic that it has been seared into her brain ever since.
“I didn’t know anything. I thought I had diarrhea, and I [ate] indigestion tablets. When I saw blood in my underwear, I cried,” she told Global Citizen.
Pokhrel’s first period came just a day before a large family celebration in honor of her brother, but because she was menstruating, Nepalese cultural customs mandated that she could not attend. So, while her family members embarked on a trip outside of Kathmandu for the celebration, Pokhrel was sent to her uncle’s house, where she was banished from the kitchen and pooja room — a prayer room in the home — until her period ended.
Pokhrel’s story is not just hers alone, but rather emblematic of the experiences of many females in Nepal. As a predominantly Hindu country, there are numerous cultural and religious rules that Nepalese girls and women are expected to follow during their period.
Menstruating girls and women — seen as “impure” — are commonly barred from going into kitchens, visiting temples, or touching men. Some girls and women are also made to stay in isolated huts as part of a practice known as chappaudi, according to Pokhrel. Though the cultural practice has been outlawed by the Nepali government, 44% of girls in Nepal’s far and mid-western regions were asked to continue the custom on a regular basis, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Several women and girls have died in recent years due to accidents in these huts.
Pokhrel said a general lack of education and awareness around these issues has been one of the biggest challenges in tackling not just menstrual health and hygiene, but also sexual and reproductive health in Nepal.
Read the full article about menstrual health education by Gabrielle Deonath at Global Citizen.
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