During their stay in Baltar, the venturers from phase 2 formed a strong bond with the women’s group. These influential women are keen to improve knowledge and hygiene practices within the community, and were all too happy to attend a session at the groups shelter. There, young women from across the world sat down to discuss the biology behind their menstrual cycles as well as the key principles of menstrual hygiene.
Lolita and Mamata, both young mothers, view menstruation as a normal part of womanhood. Historically, menstruating women in Nepal have slept separately, stayed apart from religious ceremonies and refrained from preparation of food or drink. Lolita and Mamata do not cook while menstruating, but aside from this, their lives carries on as normal. Due to the price of disposable sanitary pads, they use clean cloths to line their undergarments, which they wash with soap and hang to dry in the sun. This is a great improvement on old practices, where women left cloths to dry in dark corners of the home for fear of them being seen, leading to increased risk of infection.
It was during this session that Poppy Nash (above, centre), a UK Venturer with a background in textile design, introduced the reusable sanitary pads, made from cloth that was both colourful and absorbent, which are already being used in Kathmandu. Lolita, owner of a sewing machine as well as mother to two teenage girls, was keen to make and sell the products.
Poppy said, “I was a little nervous about going to Lolita’s home to show her the mechanics of making the reusable pads. I thought the language barrier might be an issue, but once we started working together we were just using our hands and there were no problems at all. I also noticed a few men popping in and out of her house to see what was going on – this made me feel that the activity was acceptable to the community.”
The final Water, Sanitation and Hygiene lecture delivered by the venturers was also, for some, the most inspiring. Attending the local secondary school, the venturers ran parallel sessions for boys and girls which enabled both sexes to ask questions without embarrassment in a supportive environment. Lolita’s daughter, Susmita, is 16-years-old and her worries are those of most teenage girls: will her cloths soak through? Will they smell? Will the boys guess she’s on her period and tease her?
Eden, a venturer from Israel, said: “It was amazing how the girls opened up to us, sharing their worries and asking questions.” After Poppy handed round the reusable sanitary pads there was general excitement, and Susmita soon had almost a dozen orders for her mother to make.