Local government promoting Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in Bajhang, Nepal
Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) has been working with communities in Bajhang in Nepal’s remote far west through the CS-WASH funded Sanitation, Hygiene & Water Management (SHWM) project. Through the project, NRCS has advocated and supported changes to traditional practices related to Chaupadi. While banned in 2005, this is still observed in some in many parts of the district.
Following the recent decentralization restructure of the Nepal government, new programs are being launched at a local level to respond to community's need. Durgathali Rural Municipality recently launched a program related to improving knowledge and practices related to nutrition, sanitation and MHM. Menstrual hygiene is not commonly discussed, due to cultural taboos and knowledge gaps. Most women in this area do not own underwear, use old rags or paper as pads and when they are able to leave their house during menstruation often resort to wearing 4-5 trousers to hide staining.
Keura Devi Rokaya, is a local resident and a government-appointed Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV). Through the NRCS project, she has participated in a range of training and other capacity building activities that has expanded her understanding of hygiene, including MHM practices, and how to produce re-usable sanitary pads. She explains, "Being a FCHV, we always discussed health especially family planning, safe motherhood and different vaccinations in the community but after the implementation of SHWM project, we have been incorporating messages related to sanitation and hygiene."
She has been recognized by the Rural Municipality as being skilled in promoting MHM and appointed to facilitate a two-day orientation for 12 female teachers. This included developing practical skills in making and using re-usable pads. These trained teachers are now expected to promote this information and training in their own schools and communities. Keura is hopeful that with Local Government now recognizing the challenges women face related to MHM, this will also strengthen knowledge and commitment throughout the community to addressing the dangerous practices related to Chaupadi.
 Women and girls are isolated from their homes and families while menstruating, as they are considered “impure”. Traditionally they stayed in a cattle shed/makeshift hut, were not allowed to consume milk, yogurt, butter, meat, and other nutritious foods or perform daily functions like taking a bath. Girls were restricted from going to school.