WHAT HAPPENS TO NEPALESE FEMALES DURING THEIR PERIOD?
They are considered unclean, and are therefore forbidden to touch anyone else for fear of causing others to fall ill. They are barred from consuming dairy products, meat, and other nutritious foods, as it is believed that doing so will bring a curse upon those goods. Instead, they must survive on a diet of dry foods, salt, and rice while living in these less-than-ideal conditions.
They are banished to a room or a shed outside the house, and are not able to step out. This increases the possibility of wild animal attacks, fatal snake bites, and even violent rape.
They are not allowed to go to school. Hence, as more classes are missed, they fall behind in their studies and often end up dropping out of school completely.
Most girls and women cannot afford, or do not have access to sanitary pads. When they get their period, they often turn to unhygienic alternatives like dirty rags, dry leaves and sometimes even ashes. This increases the risk of infection.
What do you know about what girls in Nepal go through when they are on their period? What do you do when you are on your period?
Deborah: I don’t know much about the conditions these girls face, but I imagine that it must be quite tough, pretty unsanitary, and uncomfortable. It might be similar to what my grandmother experienced in the past. She told me that she used to use leaves as pads, or she would sew her own pads from cloth and use string to tie them together.
Rachel: It has rarely crossed my mind that periods might be different for girls in other societies, and I have little knowledge of it. I am actually guilty of staining my pyjamas pants and bedsheets on multiple occasions because I tend to not keep track of my period cycles, so when it comes, I am unprepared. Coming from a girls’ school and growing up with a sister, I am used to talking openly and freely about periods/PMS/cramps and receiving support when I need it.
Deborah: When I am on my period, I usually need many pads for the first day and would wish that I have thin comfy pads and really tight undies so that it is more comfortable with a lower chance of leaking! Also, if I could, I would want to shower once more during the day so that I feel clean.
What have you learned about the situation in Nepal from the workshop and how do you feel about it?
Deborah: In comparison to the girls in Nepal, I am so fortunate to live in Singapore where affordable pads are available, and I don’t need to worry when I have my period. I feel indignant at the injustice that the girls in Nepal on their periods go through — being banished from their families, having to rewash their torn and used pads in dirty water from the river, and even having to miss school. I cannot imagine how inconvenient it is to have a lack of pads, and to be “kept away” from society and isolated.
Rachel: Aside from poor hygiene and a disruption to normal life, what shocked and saddened me a lot is that the Nepalese girls are put in such unsafe circumstances during their periods. They are in a run-down shed far away from their house, unprotected against harsh weather conditions, dangerous wild animals, and even bad people.
Menstruating is not just a physical experience but an emotional one as well due to our hormonal changes. Thus, I always feel that girls should ‘take it easy’ during their periods! I feel for these girls who are in such a vulnerable state, and do not receive support and care.
Describe the process of making the sanitary pad. Do you think we take sanitary products for granted?
Deborah: I felt very determined to sew a pad that is tightly stitched well and pretty. I was thinking to myself that this pad will likely be reused many times and hand-washed. I was wondering if the thread would come loose and worried that it was not sturdy enough.
I definitely take sanitary pads for granted. I usually buy them in bulk as I fear not having one when I need them. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to purchase these necessities without a second thought.
Rachel: I liked the idea of the reusable pad! It’s environmentally-friendly, low cost and most importantly, it’s something that one can call her own! Sewing is an activity that requires focus and time, and it was a good chance for me to slow down and reflect on the struggles that girls in Nepal go through on their periods. I also love that the end product will be given to a girl in Nepal because a tangible gift is encouraging.
I have always viewed pads as a necessity, so I don’t scrimp on them. So yes … I have taken them for granted.
What do you intend to do now that you know more about the situation of the Nepalese girls?
Deborah: I’m open to participating in future workshops to assist other girls in making these pads and have conversations with other friends to share the new knowledge I gained through the workshop!
Rachel: Be thankful for my access to clean sanitation, pray for girls in Nepal, and share about the Nepal situation with my girlfriends in Singapore.