Dignity for women – End Chhaupadi!

Safe menstruation instead of stigmatisation and exclusion – access to reproductive health in Western Nepal

Subject:
Health promotion, maternal and child health and reproductive health

Location:
Bajhang and Bajura districts of Province 7, Nepal

Duration:
01.09.2021 to 31.12.2024

Budget:
633.000 €, out of which the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) grants 475.000 €. The balance of 158.000 € is funded jointly by Karuna Deutschland e.V. and Karuna Trust, Great Britain.

Target group reached:
3.683 women and girls from 36 villages, 2.735 girls in 16 schools, 50 traditional healers, priests, mothers and mothers-in-law, 2.400 men, 32 teachers from 16 schools, 354 stakeholders from local administrations and health stations; in total, 9.254 people are reached directly and around 20.000 people indirectly.

Challenges

In Western Nepal the humiliating practice of Chhaupadi is a wide spread one: Girls and women are regarded as impure during their menstruation and are regularly excluded from participating in social, economic and school life. They are locked out of the house and sleep in stables, have no access to public areas, are not allowed to eat certain foods and to have contact to men or animals. Young mothers are also ostracised as impure for four weeks after giving birth.

Sleeping in stalls often leads to hypothermia, respiratory illness, exposure to wild animals and to rape, resulting in high maternal and infant mortality rates. The custom is deeply rooted in this region and women believe that going against the practice will cause family or animals to become ill.

In addition, the situation is exacerbated because health care providers are often barely trained. The topic of menstruation is tabooed in schools and the situation with regard to water, sanitation and hygiene supply (WASH) is very inadequate.

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Project Goal

We improve women’s health in Western Nepal and decrease discriminatory practices related to menstruation. The project helps to empower girls and women to live safely and hygienically during their menstruation. Village communities and their religious leaders, traditional healers, and mothers-in-law are encouraged to change their assumptions and attitudes. Local health workers and administrators are trained and capacitated. In doing so we strengthen the right for safe menstruation.

Dancing women in a village in Bhajhang
Women met to dance in a village in Bhajhang.

Main activities

  1. Girls are trained at school and in girls’ clubs on hygienic and safe menstruation methods and are provided with menstrual hygiene kits.
  2. A curriculum for integrating menstrual health into the classroom is being developed and teachers are being trained.
  3. Women are encouraged in mothers’ groups to get regular medical checkups and learn to recognise medical problems by themselves.
  4. Community meetings are organised in the villages to discuss health issues and to work on how the situation for women and girls on site can be improved.
  5. Traditional healers and others who are concerned about the observance of traditions and customs, and who therefore want to preserve the practice of Chhaupadi, are inspired to change their thinking through field trips to non-Chhaupadi communities and exchange meetings.
  6. Other important activities include dialogue with the local government, training of health workers and the purchase and improvement of medical equipment for health posts and birthing centers.

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