Hands up for gender transformation

MERP | Paul Tyndale-Biscoe from MERP, on 21/12/2017 08:37 AEST

Shova Sejuwal is a Female Community Health Volunteer in Salyan District in the Mid-Western Province of Nepal. Her role is to provide outreach on health matters to communities in her jurisdiction, and so she has been very active in the national ODF campaign that has led to Salyan being declared ODF. Now, with the support of SNV’s project, she is part of the Total Sanitation movement that is assisting communities such as Sirubar Tole to achieve the country’s six key indicators and be declared a Total Sanitation Community.

This work is having a more profound impact in communities and homes, and is changing the way men and women interact by challenging traditional practices. For example, the practice of Chaupadhi—or segregation of women during menstruation—is widely condemned but still common in Nepal. Both men and women believe that if a women uses the family toilet, touches food, milks the cows, attends the temple and so on, misfortune will fall upon the household. However, the ODF campaign convinced people that everyone should use a toilet all the time—including menstruating women and girls—and through experience people realised that this did not lead to misfortune. Now this is expanding to other taboos as well. For example, Shova told us “my husband would not let me in the kitchen during my menstruation, but still wanted me to serve him his dinner. I told him that if I can serve him dinner, then I should not be restricted elsewhere and he saw the sense of this and agreed”. As a result of the ODF movement, women like Shova are no longer constrained by Chaupadhi.