Cover Image: “Don’t feel shy – It’s just a period!” A mural created by Putali-Nepal in collaboration with Sattya, Media Arts Collective for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2016. You can find it on a zoo-wall behind the zoo in Patan, near the Sattya office. Image source: http://www.putali-nepal.com/final-mural/
It has not been long since people in Nepal have started to openly talk about menstruation. It still causes an awkward silence when a man passes by women having a “period talk”. Sanitary napkins are still covered in heavy layers of newspapers like it is something illegal you’re buying. All of this is not a surprise, when malpractices like Chhaupadi though abolished, still prevail in Nepal. The good news is that there are now organizations and individuals who’re speaking up and breaking the silence regarding women and menstruation.
We witnessed the beginning of slow change at the recent launch event of Ruby Cups and Menstrupedia Comic at Kar.ma Coffee, Gyan Mandala, Jhamsikhel.
Known for its good ambiance and cozy environment, it is not new for Kar.ma Coffee to be flooded with people of all ages. Some people go there to enjoy their special coffee with freshly baked cakes and cookies, while others attend a wide range of events organized there. This event was, however, a different kind. It was about nothing but the period, a period revolution.
Putali Nepal is an initiative started in December 2014 that empowers girls and women and also provides information and resources about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). Linda Kuehne, one of the co-founders of this initiative introduces menstrual cups as an eco-friendly sanitary alternative and shares that it could be a good option but not the only choice you have. Made by a Danish-German brand, Ruby Cups are menstrual cups manufactured from medical grade silicone, which can be reused for 10 years. A majority of the schools in the valley and almost all rural schools still are not “period friendly” i.e. they still lack access to water, soap, disposal bins for sanitary napkins and in some cases, have common toilets for both boys and girls. This situation sometimes discourages schoolgirls from attending their classes during their menses and hampers their education to an extent.
“The main motive behind the launch of these cups is to encourage school going girls to attend their schools even when they are menstruating and also making women aware of the less spoken but a good alternative to sanitary napkins,” said Linda. Ruby Cups are available with a cotton bag for storage and a 42-page mini guidebook for usage and product details.
We have seen all sorts of comics till date but this one about menstruation is highly fascinating, isn’t it? Menstrupedia is a friendly guide to periods, which illustrates and answers questions about periods, the curiosity before period, the changes happening in the female body, and real life incidences that most women go through after reaching their puberty. It also busts some commonly held period myths. This comic was written with the medical guidance from a team of doctors, nurses and gynecologists, making it medically accurate and culturally sensitive. Menstrupedia is recommended to children 9 years and above and is strictly not limited to girls alone as boys should also know and understand menstruation as a natural biological phenomenon. Menstrupedia is available in multiple Hindi dialects, Spanish, Nepali, and English.
Followed by the launch of Ruby Cups and Menstrupedia were presentations on Mero Lagi app and Lovely Lady Eco Sanitary Pads by Dharti Mata Sustainable workshop.
Mero Lagi (i.e. for me) is an interactive app made by PHECT-Nepal along with the help from John Hopkins University. This easy to use app has a galore of information in it; ranging from sexual and reproductive rights, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to menstruation, healthy relationship etc. A section in this app allows one to share stories and experiences, take quizzes and kill one’s curiosity by asking questions, which will be answered by Public Health experts.
Lovely Lady Eco Sanitary Pad
According to research, 90% of the material in the sanitary napkins is plastic. The use of sanitary napkins is having a harmful effect on our health and to our planet. There has been increasing allegations about the chemical gels in sanitary napkins aiding in cancer. What could be an alternative? The use of menstrual cups or cotton based sanitary napkins! Dharti Mata Sustainable Workshop is an initiative started by Claire Lin, which is based in Hasera Farm, Patalekhet, Kavre where local women are taught how to make these eco-friendly sanitary napkins. Keeping health and environment in mind, these napkins are available in six different designs, made up of multiple layers of linen with no use of plastic and can be reused for more than two years. The napkins are made with two grades of linen: one is machine made regular linen while the other is organic linen dyed with natural dye. It is mandatory for any cloth sanitary napkin to be sun-dried after being washed and it is the same for Lovely Lady Eco Sanitary Pads as well.
Ruby Cups, Menstrupedia, and Lovely Lady Eco Sanitary Pads are available for purchase at Kar.ma Coffee. Mero Lagi app is available for Android users on the Google Play Store.