Nepal’s menstrual movement
How ‘MenstruAction’ is making life better for girls and women in Nepal — month after month
Ruth Evans, Valerie Broch Alvarez
Published by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, May 2019
Although menstruation is a natural process that signals a girl’s entry into womanhood, discriminatory practices and policies prevail around the world. In many low-income countries, such as Nepal, adolescent girls face significant challenges to managing menstruation hygienically and with security, dignity, and confidence. Cultural constraints and lack of access to accurate information can prevent girls from participating fully in society during menstruation. In addition, lack of proper toilets and sanitation facilities can make having a period a very undignified and traumatic process. Due to the high cost and unavailability of menstrual products in many places, girls are compelled to use unhygienic options, such as dirty rags, ashes or dried leaves.
Social, cultural and religious factors play a strong role in influencing attitudes and beliefs about menstruation. In the Far- and Mid-Western regions of Nepal, according to some religious and cultural beliefs, menstruating women are considered ‘untouchable’, dirty and impure and have to endure being separated and isolated from their families for the duration of their monthly period. Although this practice, known as Chhaupadi (see page 8), was declared illegal by Nepal’s Supreme Court in 2005 and was criminialised in 2017, it still continues.
In Nepal, millions of women and girls are believed to face a complex set of challenges relating to managing menstruation and deeply entrenched cultural and religious beliefs. These challenges can also have negative impacts on their health, education and human rights.
This report describes both, some of these challenges, and the considerable progress that has been made in Nepal in the last few years to address them — improving millions of women’s lives in the process. From being a taboo subject that few people talked about a short time ago, a ‘menstrual movement’ is taking place in Nepal, and menstrual health and hygiene management (MHM) is now at the forefront of many development initiatives.
A few years ago, only a handful of organisations concerned themselves with these issues, but now more than 50 different public, private, government and NGO organisations are working on at least 80 initiatives. The formation of a MHM Practitioner Alliance two years ago has also improved coordination of this work, enabling members to share experiences and information, and strengthen efforts to drive the menstrual health and hygiene agenda forward.