Classes missed no more!

College students learning new skills to make sanitary napkins

Students getting hands-on training to make sanitary napkins. Photo by: Dipika Joshi/Oxfam

"I did not have my periods and I was not aware of things to do during menstruation. I was very shy to ask others."
13-year-old Amrita Gurung

Sabir Ojha and Samana Bishynkhe, Gorkha; Dipika Joshi, Kathmandu

“After the earthquake there were no latrines for us in the school. We would be in the same sanitary cloth for the whole day. And if we felt like it was going to stain our skirts, there was no other option than to go back house by wrapping a shawl around, missing classes,”  recalls Sangita Gurung, a tenth grader at Manikam Devi Higher Secondary School in Laprak VDC of Gorkha.

Oxfam and its partners are not just raising awareness to maintain hygiene during their special times but also building infrastructures to ensure that this no longer continues. Oxfam in coordination with school management constructed eight latrines at Sangita's school. Among those, four were for girls.

“There were six latrines before the earthquake out of which four were for students, among them one was for girls," says Sangita Gurung, 15.The latrine had a place to throw used sanitary pads but when it would be full as there was no system to dispose it.

As an integral part of constructing girl friendly latrines in schools, Oxfam has been supporting the installation of incinerators to destroy the pads. The designs of these incinerators vary according to the requirement and location of the school latrines. "We no longer have to miss our classes because of our periods," says Sangita thankfully.

 

Positive changes have been seen in Kathmandu valley too. At Kirtipur Secondary School in Kirtipur, the construction of girls’ friendly Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities has significantly brought down the absence of female students. Bhawana Lama a student of grade 10 at Kirtipur Secondary School in Kathmandu remembers, “Earlier there were pads thrown everywhere around the toilets.”

The sanitary depot and the operation and maintenance fund set up by Oxfam and its partner is also found to be working well in these schools. The fund is collected every Friday during school assembly. It is used for extracurricular activities and for replenishing the stock for sanitary pads.

"I am thankful to Oxfam/Lumanti for the support to female students which is why we can attend school freely during menstruation period,” says Anisha Tamang. The students have found convenient way to maintain hygiene with the installation of water tanks, hand washing platform and containers. “The condition of toilets is far better now due to the sufficient water," says Tamang.

Menstrual Hygiene

Thirteen-year-old Amrita Gurung of Gandaki Lower Secondary school in Kerauja, Gorkha, did not know much about menstruation cycle and how to prepare for it. "I did not have my periods and I was not aware of things to do during menstruation. I was very shy to ask others, but Oxfam organized discussion on Menstruation Hygiene Management (MHM) which was very helpful to prepare ourselves for menstruation,” she says.

Such sessions have helped to break the taboo that exists in the society. Anisha Tamang, a 9th grade student of Kirtipur Secondary School, says she and her friends can now easily ask for sanitary pads from her teacher. Orientations on MHM and consultations with teachers and child club members have helped to lessen the stigma surrounding menstruation to a large extent. 

Learning to make your own sanitary napkin

Gone are the days for Rima Gurung, 15 of Gandaki Lower Secondary school in Kerauja, Gorkha who had problems maintaining female hygiene 

during her periods. She now makes her own sanitary napkins. "There is no market access from Kerouja and the sanitary pads available here are very expensive."

Oxfam with its partner decided to reach out to these girls and conducted workshop on preparation of homemade sanitary pad with the help of locally available materials such as sari, shawls, threads and needle.

“I had no idea that we could make sanitary napkins at home,” says Gurung, "but now I am motivating my friends to use the sanitary clothes available in the sanitary depot (set up by Oxfam)." She adds, “My queries have been addressed; now I can prepare reusable sanitary napkins at home and teach others on making one."  

Oxfam with its partners, ENPHO (Environment and Public Health Organization) and Goreto Gorkha have been conducting trainings on the preparation of alternative sanitary napkins in Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and Gorkha districts. To promote women entrepreneurship (cooperatives run by women groups) in the future and to make these sanitary napkins available in local markets, women groups and mother groups have been trained. School volunteers and teachers have also been included in the training to promote the use of sanitary napkins. “We are happy to get this opportunity to participate in this training. I hope to train others as well and would like to request for further support with materials (cloth, scissors),” said a Primary teacher of Devi Higher Secondary School.