Her Drive
The term “period poverty” describes the inability of girls and women to afford menstrual products such as pads and tampons. Though these items are essential to women, many areas of the world still tax menstrual products and the products are not eligible for coverage under food stamps. Her Drive is an organization with the aim of addressing period poverty in order to empower and uplift girls and women across the world.

The Impacts of Period Poverty

Low-income women often cannot afford the costs of menstrual products and turn to less sanitary alternatives such as rags or paper towels. These alternatives pose health risks and increase the chance of infections and irritation. The inability to afford menstrual products also takes a mental toll on women, leading to depression and anxiety. Furthermore, period poverty can impede women’s professional lives, keeping them trapped in poverty. Improperly managed periods can stop girls and women from attending school or going to work, which keeps them in cycles of poverty. Period poverty is a pressing issue that hurts women’s physical and mental health and perpetuates the poverty cycle.

Menstrual Stigma

People often avoid addressing the problem of period poverty because of the stigma around periods. Many people think of periods as a shameful process that they should not speak of rather than a normal biological process. Menstrual stigma means women suffer in silence. Fortunately, with the rise of social media, organizations and movements aim to end menstrual stigma and educate people on menstruation in order to address period poverty. Through these advocacy efforts, campaigns and relief initiatives garner support to provide menstrual products to girls and women who cannot afford them.

Her Drive Addresses Period Poverty

Best friends Alexa Mohsenzadeh and Jenica Baron founded Her Drive in 2020. Her Drive got its start from a viral video posted on TikTok, a popular social media platform that allows users to post short videos. The pair’s first TikTok video simply intended to promote a tampon and bra drive, but after it went viral, the girls decided to transform their project into a Chicago-based organization.

Her Drive collects menstrual products to donate to “women’s shelters, indigenous reservations, Black-owned businesses and refugee support programs” as well as other vulnerable groups. The organization has held menstrual drives in more than 40 U.S. states and extended its reach to Canada as well. Her Drive has also provided guidance to organizations looking to create similar drives in countries such as the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. In support of vulnerable indigenous groups, Her Drive donated menstrual products to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund and the poverty-stricken Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Her Drive’s goal is also to “empower and educate the next generation of youth leaders to work to eliminate period poverty in their local communities.” Her Drive has collected more than 165,000 period products in addition to thousands of bras and general hygiene items. What began as a simple TikTok video grew into an international organization that is combating period poverty and helping vulnerable girls and women.

Impact of Social Media

Period poverty is still a prevalent issue, but social media is helping to create awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation. By leveraging social media, organizations are amassing volunteers and donors to help combat period poverty across the world.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in Myanmar
Period poverty is when women do not have adequate access to sanitary napkins and other resources to aid them during menstruation. This leads many women to use the same napkin for an extended period of time, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections. Period poverty in Myanmar is particularly prevalent.

Period poverty research is a relatively new topic. There are no formal records documenting how many women lack access to pads. Additionally, the investigation into period poverty is more recent in Southeast Asian countries. Based on the information that some have acquired, here are five facts about period poverty in Myanmar.

5 Facts About Period Poverty in Myanmar

  1. Women Often Stay Home: Period poverty has long-term effects on women. For example, when women are on their period, they tend to stay at home, where they are closer to sanitary napkins and other supplies. Women spend about 10-20% of the year at home due to their period and a lack of sanitary items. In addition, disabled women and women in prison have little to no access to pads.
  2. Organizations Providing Sanitary Products: Organizations such as Bloody Good Period and The Pad Project have been working hard to raise money to donate sanitary napkins to women in countries facing period poverty. Zuraidah Daut is a social activist in Malaysia who places empty boxes outside of storefronts to collect donations. Many people donate pads and sanitary napkins for those who cannot afford them.
  3. Adequate Sanitation Facilities: Another reason women and girls might stay home during their periods is a lack of adequate sanitation facilities at school or work. For example, in many schools, girls and boys share toilets, which increases the likelihood of girls staying home during their periods. Public facilities also do not always have soap, water or a place to dispose of sanitary products.
  4. Cultural Stereotypes: Many people hold stigmatizing cultural stereotypes about periods in Myanmar. For example, some people in Myanmar believe that periods are dirty. As a result, about 50% of women think periods are a disease. Furthermore, about 80% of women reported feeling embarrassed by their first period. People in Myanmar commonly believe that women should not wash their hair, go to temples or eat tea leaf salad to cleanse themselves during their period.
  5. Changing Mindsets: The good news is that women in Myanmar are improving their mindsets about periods. Burmese artist Shwe Wutt Hmon displayed an art exhibit exploring the shame surrounding periods and menstruation in Yangon, Myanmar. The piece involved asking 30 different women about their experiences and opinions of their period. Hmon encouraged women to accept menstruation and respect their bodies. Her exhibitions depict women eating tea leaf salad and kneeling with their legs chained and sitting beside one another, which are all superstitions the Myanmar people connect to the perception that periods as dirty. This effort and others like it are essential for changing long-held beliefs about women and menstruation.

Period poverty in Myanmar prevents many women from having access to sanitary products or adequate sanitation facilities. Cultural stereotypes around menstruation also make managing periods difficult for women. Fortunately, many organizations and individuals are intervening and educating others on better and safer practices. Over time, sanitary products will hopefully become more accessible as the stigma surrounding menstruation decreases.

– Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Flickr

Period Products Bill in ScotlandOn November 24, 2020, a groundbreaking moment occurred that changed the struggle against period poverty. The Scottish Parliament passed the Period Products Bill in Scotland. This new bill guarantees free access to necessary hygienic period products to all who require them. Member of the Scottish Parliament, Monica Lennon, championed the fight against period poverty in Scotland and played a significant part in passing this revolutionary legislation.

Ending Period Poverty in Scotland

Even with the United Kingdom being one of the world’s wealthiest countries, period poverty remains a recurrent problem. In 2018, more than 20% of those polled in Scotland stated that they either had limited or no access to period products. Another 10% had to sacrifice food and other necessities to afford them. One in 10 experienced bacterial or fungal infections due to a lack of sanitary products. These rates have gone up to nearly one in four during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new Period Products Bill in Scotland practically eliminates these problems. Accessibility to sanitary products must be made by the Scottish Government and organized countrywide. Public restrooms in educational institutions must contain a variety of period products without charge and it also allows oversight over local jurisdictions to ensure enforcement of the law.

Ending Menstruation Taboos

Menstruation has become a stigmatized topic worldwide, despite half the population experiencing it. The dangerous and outdated idea that periods are not appropriate for discussion and seriousness is damaging to those subjected to these taboos.

From South America to Africa, antiquated menstruation views have led to long-lasting negative consequences for those suffering from period poverty. In some cultures, menstruating girls and women must separate themselves from the rest of their community. In Nepal, so-called ‘menstruation huts‘ have dire consequences for women, with local organizations stating that many deaths associated with the practice go unreported.

The importance of ending taboos about menstruation is evident. The Period Products Bill in Scotland is a meaningful step to engage the rest of the world over these unsound presuppositions of menstruation and begin addressing period poverty globally.

Implementing Period Poverty Legislation Worldwide

There has already been worldwide attention brought to the neoteric Period Products Bill in Scotland. Lennon has been fielding communications from leaders and lawmakers around the world, ready to implement similar laws in their own countries. According to Lennon, “Scotland has provided a blueprint and shown how it can be done.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, logistical problems of supplying period products and economic suffering are causing governments to reevaluate the impact of period poverty. Countries with strong infrastructure can utilize Scotland’s approach to combat the worsening situation fast and effectively. The rest of the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have already taken note of the problem and Scotland’s practical policy.

Ending Global Period Poverty

In underdeveloped countries, Scotland’s lead in the battle against period poverty can pave the way for education and destigmatizing menstruation. Poverty-fighting organizations can create similar international implementation plans in developing nations with little investment. Thanks to Scotland’s leadership, period poverty may soon become as antiquated as the stigmas surrounding it.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Guatemala As young girls grow up in Guatemala, they are met with a challenge: their menstruation cycle. Period poverty in Guatemala weighs heavily on the country. The lack of access to hygiene management education and proper sanitation tools forces young girls out of school for days at a time.  However, as technology evolves and resources are found, many organizations are working to end period poverty in Guatemala and beyond.

Days For Girls

Days For Girls commits to supporting women in girlhood and throughout the rest of their lives. The organization begins this process by providing a Days For Girls (DFG) Kit, education on hygiene and sanitation, training and general support. Additionally, the group spreads awareness through global partnerships, mobilizing volunteer networks and working toward destigmatizing menstruation.

The DFG Kit consists of a multitude of necessities for a period. All the products are reusable, easily washable and durable. In fact, users of the patented kit say the items can last up to three years. Specifically, these kits have been made to use a small amount of water, dry quickly and keep users comfortable while going about their daily lives. Furthermore, Days For Girl also hand makes the kits and the bags they come in, giving them a touch of beauty.

Thus far, Days For Girls has touched the lives of more than 1.7 million females. The organization’s reach is spread across more than 140 countries, with more than a thousand mobilizing teams and chapters. Currently, they have over 15 countries with enterprises. Importantly, the group has an office stationed in Guatemala, focused on growing the team and production in the country.

GRACE Project (Guatemalan Rural Adult and Children’s Education)

The GRACE Project stems from a collaboration of groups in Southwest Florida. The project aims to educate, train and help employ the local Guatemalan women. The organization develops and implements workshops and home visits where they provide educational materials on reproductive health and local resources.

In addition to education, The GRACE Project creates handmade menstruation kits. All the products are reusable, washable and long-lasting.

Included in the kit there are:

  • Fertility bracelets with instructions
  • Shields that are barriers for any leakage
  • Flannel cotton pads
  • Soap
  • Gallon bag for washing use
  • Underwear

In the past year, 500 of the kits were given to women all over Guatemala. Along with these, the project has also passed out 800 Reproductive Health Kits within Central America. The kit provides up to three years’ worth of period products and a lifetime of birth control. The GRACE Project continues to grow production and delivery methods through workshops in Guatemala.

SERniña

SERniña Founder, Danielle Skogen, lived in Guatemala for three years working as a teacher. During her time, she noticed a need for health and hygiene education. Often, Skogen would watch girls drop out of school due to a lack of access to proper sanitary items and a lack of support from their community. Thus, she developed SERniña as an educational support program.

The SERniña program works with already established educational organizations to bring about curriculums to educate and help eradicate period poverty in Guatemala. The organization teaches a range of topics such as:

  • Understanding Your Human Rights
  • Sexual & Menstrual Health
  • Financial Literacy
  • Goal-setting

In the workshops, facilitators work with the women to be confident and take care of their hygienic needs. Trained local women who are certified facilitators for SERniña teach all of the organization’s lessons. The program allows for conversations and participation in a safe space with specific lessons focused on self-advocacy, self-care and overall self-love.  As a result, the program has delivered more than 400 hours of workshops to 180 girls and counting.

As shown above, the efforts of each organization play an important role in the Guatemalan community. Education, access and support truly uplift the local women. The work to eradicate period poverty in Guatemala can continue thanks to aid from organizations like these.

Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

ChhaupadiChhaupadi, a form of menstrual taboo, plagues the country of Nepal. Although it is a social taboo in Hindi tradition, the practice of chhaupadi is often practiced in the far-western region of Nepal and in Himalayan regions. This is because the event of menstruation, although a normal and healthy bodily function for females, is considered a form of sin and impurity. Although menstrual taboo exists in other regions of Nepal and in other South Asian countries, it is most prevalent in the Himalayan regions. Here, it is called chhaupadi, “Chhau” meaning menstruation and “padi” referring to women.

What is Chhaupadi?

Chhaupadi occurs during the female menstruation cycle. While women and girls are menstruating, they are considered impure, intouchable, and even perhaps, harbingers of bad fortune. During the menstruation cycle, any object a woman touches is deemed impure, including livestock, water resources and plants. It is believed that if touched, these objects need to be purified in some way. As a result, in regions where Chhaupadi is practiced, women are banished from their homes. During this exile, women and girls are often sent to a “chhau” shed, which is essentially a livestock shed, and the menstruating female will remain there for about four days. Girls who are experiencing menstruation for the first time may need to stay in the “chhau” for up to 14 days. Unfortunately, girls who may experience difficulties or health issues while menstruating must wait until their cycle ends before seeking medical care, which can worsen possible health problems and symptoms.

Even if women are not directly practicing menstrual exile, a 2018 study by sociologist Saruna Ghimire at Miami University found that 100% of girls are restricted by menstrual taboos during their cycles. These women are not allowed to touch food, touch the water tap or participate in normal family activities. The menstrual taboo restricts the resources available, limiting the autonomy of women and possibly damaging their self-image. Additionally, the Ghimire study found that 72% of females are subjected to menstrual exile due to Chhapuadi.

The Dangers of Menstrual Exile

Not only is the stigma associated with menstruation a problem within these communities but the actual practice of Chhaupadi poses many health risks for the women and girls involved. For instance, the temporary shelters used during Chhaupadi are unhygienic, which increases the risk of health complications such as urinary tract infections, diarrhea, dehydration and hypothermia. Additionally, women and girls living in these sheds are subject to the dangers of snake bites and other animal attacks.

Each year, at least one woman or girl dies during menstrual exile. These cases often go unnoticed by the media, leaving the beliefs of community members unchanged. Moreover, the isolation that comes with Chhaupadi poses dangerous consequences to the mental health of these females. Oftentimes, these women and girls will feel abandoned, insecure, guilty and embarrassed.

Law Prohibiting Chhapuadi

In 2017, the Nepali Government enacted a new law that prohibits Chhapuadi. Any family member that forces a female to practice Chhaupadi can be punished with a jail sentence of three months or fined 3,000 rupees, which translates to about $30. Although the Nepal Supreme Court previously banned Chhapuadi in 2005, the practice has been difficult to disintegrate as it is deeply rooted in traditional beliefs. Besides the legislative component, local police are given the task of destroying Chhapuadi shelters. At the same time, some activists argue that Chhapuadi, although rooted in the patriarchal aspects of Nepali culture, will be difficult to stop as many women choose to practice it. Yet, with the new law, women who choose to practice Chhapuadi are required to do so in a safer way, by isolating themselves from their families in a separate area or room and not a shed.

The Road Ahead

Although Chhaupadi stems from Hindu scripture, the practice is one that has existed for centuries. Thus, the actual practice of menstrual exile may not stop right away. Luckily, the Nepalese Government has made strides in reducing Chhaupadi through the law and police action, and if Chhaupadi is practiced by choice, it will be done in a much safer way.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in South Sudan
Period poverty occurs when women and girls struggle to afford menstrual products, including tampons, pads, menstrual cups, underwear and painkillers. Period poverty is present in both developing and developed nations and has negative effects on women’s education, work-life and health. Many women are subject to period poverty in South Sudan; however, even outside of the nation, South Sudanese women and girls are affected.

Since the beginning of South Sudan’s civil war in 2013, more than 2 million people have fled their homes, and many have landed in refugee settlements in neighboring countries like Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. In and around South Sudan, women without adequate menstruation resources face additional challenges in daily life.

Perception of Menstruation

Even though menstruation is a fact of life for most women, cultural taboos prevent conversations about this topic. As a result, many school-age girls in South Sudan are not taught about menstruation and how to safely care for themselves before getting their first period.

A 2014 study conducted across South Sudan found that 28.4% of young, female respondents consider menstruation to be a disease. In the Lopa-Lafon county alone, more than 60% hold this belief. Country-wide, 48.7% of respondents think that menstrual blood is dangerous, 58.2% believe that women are unclean during menstruation and 59.9% believe that if a woman has pain while on her period she is unhealthy.

Consequences

The consequences of upholding secrecy around menstruation in South Sudan are severe. Coupled with low resources, women in refugee settlements and impoverished communities often use rags, newspapers, leaves or banana peels as substitutes for pads. When these items fail and breakthrough bleeding occurs, women are often met with aversion and jokes. Since menstrual blood is considered dirty, women must bathe and wash their rags far from any communal water source. This reduces women’s capacity for frequent washing and increases their risk of infection.

Some, especially refugees, are forced to isolate themselves during menstruation because there is no other way to hide their period. This often prevents girls from sleeping at home or going to school. As a result, girls lose up to three months of classes each year, causing them to fall behind. Furthermore, when period poverty interferes with girls’ education, they are more likely to drop out of school and be married at a young age, often having children shortly after. Globally, the leading cause of death for girls ages 15-19 is pregnancy and childbirth complications.

Combatting Period Poverty

Period poverty in South Sudan is a threat to girls’ education and livelihoods. According to the 2014 survey, about 70% of girls in South Sudan do not have enough money to buy sanitary pads, and 27% of girls in primary school say pads are not available in their area. Fortunately, organizations are working to combat period poverty in South Sudan.

SmilePad gets its name from the smiles it puts on girls’ faces when they are given this reusable, cotton-and-plastic sanitary pad. The pad can be washed and reused for months and comes in a three-pack along with a couple of pairs of underwear. UNICEF funds the project and the NGOs that buy and distribute the pads to communities in South Sudan. The goal is to help girls manage their periods so they can stay in school.

The Freedom Pads Project has distributed 1,500 reusable pads to women and girls in refugee camps in Uganda and South Sudan. Founder Akeer Chut-Deng also tries to provide a space for learning about menstruation and women’s health in the schools and communities she visits.

Men4Women is an organization devoted to raising awareness and improving education about menstruation for men and women. While handing out sanitary pads in schools, they begin the conversation about the taboo subject, hoping that both girls and boys will grow more comfortable talking about periods to end the stigma and promote women’s health.

Moving Forward

While period poverty remains a significant issue in South Sudan, there is hope for the future. The efforts of these organizations to combat period poverty in South Sudan is essential. Moving forward, more work must be done to provide menstrual products and reduce the social stigma surrounding menstruation.

McKenna Black
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Cambodia
Period poverty affects women and girls around the globe who cannot afford safe, sanitary products or are unable to receive information about safe period practices due to stigma. Poor period hygiene can lead to many health risks, such as urinary tract infections and reproductive infections. About 50% of the people in Cambodia are women, but people do not talk about period poverty as they deem it a taboo subject.

As of 2019, the poverty rate in Cambodia was 12.9%. However, this number is expected to increase to around 20% due to the coronavirus pandemic. This rise in the poverty rate will leave millions of women and girls vulnerable. Here are five facts regarding period poverty in Cambodia.

5 Facts About Period Poverty in Cambodia

  1. Girls are often in shock when they get their first period. Periods in Cambodia are known as “mokrodou” or the coming season. Notably, many public schools do not teach health education or menstrual hygiene. Cambodians view periods as dirty, which makes menstruation a taboo subject within the country. Consequently, mothers pass down information to daughters, which causes the following of cultural, instead of medical norms. Girls may not shower during their period to keep their skin clean. Parents also forbid girls from swimming for fear they will dirty the water. Finally, parents forbid these girls from eating certain foods believed to disrupt the menstrual cycle.
  2. Of schools in Cambodia, 50% do not have a reliable water supply. In addition to not having reliable water, 33% of schools do not have latrines. Period poverty in Cambodia greatly affects girls in school. Even if girls learn about sanitary period practices, it is difficult to maintain sanitation when schools do not have water or toilets. UNICEF has found that a lack of sanitation facilities can increase a girl’s likelihood to skip school during their period. While at school, girls do not have access to clean, sanitary pads or private facilities to properly dispose of products. Therefore, they prefer to use a toilet and have privacy at home.
  3. Most people cannot afford proper sanitary pads. The national poverty line is $0.93 per person, per day. In Cambodia, a pack of six sanitary pads costs around $3 and they are often difficult to find. Consequently, girls and women often use rags for days at a time instead of sanitary products. This, in turn, often leads to infections, which left untreated can cause permanent health problems, like infertility.
  4. Some schools have implemented menstruation education programs. Snor Khley primary school has recognized the issue of period poverty in Cambodia. It has begun to implement menstrual health management classes to help students better manage their periods. The class encourages both boys and girls to talk openly about menstrual health to destigmatize the subject. The school has also introduced new, hygienic school facilities for girls to practice safe hygiene. Additionally, the school distributes the “Growth and Changes Booklet,” which discusses puberty, to all students. The book has helped more than 122,000 students gain a better understanding of the physical and emotional changes that occur during puberty.
  5. Reusable Maxi Pads are emerging as sanitary alternatives. Sovanvotey Hok started a business called Green Lady, which makes environmentally friendly and affordable menstrual products. Apart from making affordable products, the business also employs local housewives to make the products. The reusable pads last up to three years and 1,850 pads have been sold. Green Lady’s product prevents the use of about 96,000 disposable pads, most of which contain noxious materials such as bleach.

An End to Period Poverty

Period poverty in Cambodia is a threat to women’s health as unsanitary period practices lead to infections. Period poverty also affects women’s ability to receive an education as many schools do not have the proper facilities to support menstruating girls. However, as the use of reusable period products becomes more mainstream and continued education and programs in schools develop — hopefully, the stigma surrounding periods will come to an end.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

period poverty
Period poverty is an umbrella term that refers to the inaccessibility of feminine hygiene products, education, washing facilities and waste management, especially for menstruators with low incomes. Menstruators who lack the education or access to resources for safe period management often resort to risky methods such as using rags and clothing, which can lead to bacterial infections that can cause further physical health risks.

Today, there are over 800 million women and girls that have periods every day, yet they still face difficulties to properly manage their menstruation. According to UNICEF, 2.3 billion people across the globe live without basic sanitation services in developing countries. Meanwhile, 73% of people lack access to proper handwashing facilities at home.

COVID-19 affects menstrual health and hygiene by exacerbating pre-existing inequalities regarding period poverty worldwide.

COVID-19 and Period Poverty

As stated by Rose Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International U.K., “the virus is making the situation worse. We already know that the coronavirus outbreak is having a devastating impact on family finances all over the world, but now we see that girls and women are also facing widespread shortages and price hikes on period products, with the result that many are being forced to make do with whatever they can find to manage their period.”

The disruption of global supply chains and ceased trading of smaller-scale private sector enterprises has led to product shortages. This shortage is the primary issue affecting women’s access to safe sanitary products. The price of sanitary products has also increased during the pandemic. It is extremely hard for families to afford these products since the pandemic has also affected household incomes.

“As most shops have run out, I sometimes have to substitute in different ways instead,” said a teenage girl from the Solomon Islands.

“Prices went up as soon as there was a confirmed case of COVID19 in Fiji. Sometimes I have to forgo buying hygiene products as money will have to be used on food and bills,” said a young woman in Fiji.

Stigmatization of Menstruation

Most of the world stigmatizes menstruation. Social stigmas and taboos about menstruation is another key factor that prevents women and girls from properly managing their periods. In Nepal, people perceive menstruating women as impure. Their community expels them to huts for the duration of their cycles. In Uganda, non-governmental agency WoMena showed that many girls skip school when they are on their periods. The primary reason: to avoid teasing from classmates.

Since the rise of COVID-19, some people have associated menstruation as a sign of illness. Although having periods is normal and healthy, there are myths stating that menstruation is a symptom of the coronavirus and that menstruators have a higher chance of infecting others. These myths are badly affecting period poverty by increasing the stigma of menstruation. The negative perceptions of menstruation, such that it is a symptom of an illness and that it should be something to hide from others, should change in order to stop period poverty.

A young woman from the Solomon Islands said “Sometimes [I feel shame]. Especially when I am not able to clean myself during water cuts. I feel embarrassed to walk around my family.”

Organizations Making a Difference

I Support The Girls is an organization that collects and distributes bras and menstruation products to people who need them around the globe. The organization mentioned that it has seen a 35% increase in requests for menstrual products, bras and underwear since the outbreak of the virus. In response, the organization collected and distributed over 2,000,000 products, partnered up with businesses to distribute surplus inventory, and more.

Plan International U.K. is another organization that fights period poverty; it distributes menstrual hygiene kits to support women and girls disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Alison Choi
Photo: Unsplash

Women's Rights in Nepal
To women in Nepal, the thought of gender equality and the solidification of women’s rights is difficult to imagine. In Nepal, people discriminate against women socially, legally, culturally and physically. In an interview with thinkEQUAL, a project by the World Bank, a woman in Nepal said that “Women have fewer rights. If there was equality, life would be easier for us.” Here is some information about women’s rights in Nepal.

Poverty and Land Ownership for Women in Nepal

Nepal, home of Mount Everest, is a small country landlocked between China and India. In Nepal, gender inequality exists in marriages, property, menstruation and occupations. It also dramatically contributes to the number of impoverished women living in the country. The number of impoverished people in Nepal has steadily decreased from 25.2% in 2011 to 21.6% in 2018. However, women and men are nowhere near equal in terms of poverty.

The Nepalese constitution provides some protection for female citizens. However, the country has not fully enforced this protection. For instance, in Nepal, only 19.7% of women own land, and of that percentage, only 11% have control over their land. Thus, many Nepalese women’s lives fall into the hands of their husbands or fathers. The concept of owning land is essential to provide and promote women’s rights in Nepal. This is because it encourages men to see women as equals rather than a sexual or monetary object.

Marriage and Labor for Women in Nepal

Oftentimes, because women have little autonomy, their families arrange marriages for them. In Nepal, child marriage is extremely common, with 37% of girls merrying before 18 years of age. The pervasiveness of child marriage further diminishes women’s rights in Nepal. Child marriage reinforces traditionally domestic practices like staying home and taking care of young children. This is because these adolescents are often quick to become pregnant.

Since these young women are busy at home with their children, this leads to great disparities in the workplace. This further contributes to women’s poverty and, at times, a lack of respect and dignity from their male counterparts. In Nepal, the female labor force is less than half of the male labor force. Only 26.3% of women are in the workforce. Additionally, the national gross domestic product leaves out a woman’s unpaid domestic work. This further devalues the work that women perform, and further entrenching the patriarchal ideal Nepal runs on.

Menstruation in Nepal

Perhaps the most common instance of gender inequality in Nepal is the surplus of period poverty. Chhaupadi, a menstrual taboo custom in Nepal and other Asian countries, still exists despite its criminalization in 2017 by the Nepalese government. Chhapaudi occurs during menstruation and has existed for hundreds of years, despite many attempts for the practice to dissolve. The word Chhaupadi comes from a Nepali word that translates to some type of impurity. The practice of Chhaupadi forbids women and girls from staying in their homes. It also forbids them from participating in family or daily activities because they are menstruating.

While they are menstruating, people consider these women toxic. Therefore, they must stay in small huts, sometimes smaller than a closet, far from family members and friends. Rocks and mud typically make up the walls of these huts. The women essentially cannot leave until menstruation is over. Yet, due to the construction of these huts and environmental circumstances, at least one female dies every year from Chhaupadi. Oftentimes, it is due to the cold temperatures, animal attacks or smoke inhalation. During menstruation, women cannot return to their homes. This is because the tradition has made them and their families fear that bad fortune will come to them. Despite the efforts for ending Chhaupadi, the tradition is deeply ingrained in the minds of Nepalese people. As many as 89% of menstruating girls face discrimination.

Organizations Helping Nepalese Women

Despite the traditions and societal structure that dampen women’s rights in Nepal, nonprofit organizations based in the U.S. and abroad are hard at work to save, support and uplift Nepalese women. Organizations like the Women’s Foundation Nepal and Womankind Worldwide are making strides for women in Nepal. As a result of the work Womankind Worldwide has done with other Nepalese-based organizations, the Nepali Congress Party has shifted its focus to female leadership, reserving two seats for Dalit (oppressed) women. Additionally, Womankind Worldwide partnered with the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO). As a result, three Dalit women trained by FEDO joined the Nepalese Dalit Movement.

Through the Women’s Foundation Nepal, community programs have emerged. These programs provide safe shelter and psychological and legal help to victimized women and children. Since 1995, the Women’s Foundation Nepal has run a women’s shelter that currently houses over 70 women and children.

Nepalese women need more changes to ensure their success and welfare. Until then, several organizations have taken a stand. They will continue to foster a safe, comfortable and liveable environment for Nepalese women.

– Caitlin Calfo
Photo: Flickr

Eritrea’s Lack of Clean WaterEritrea is a northeast country in Africa, bordering the Red Sea coast. Eritrea has faced severe drought issues over the years. In addition, Eritrea’s lack of clean water affects over 80% of its citizens. This problem has negatively impacted its ongoing poverty issue.

Climate

Eritrea’s weather varies depending on the location. The variety of weather conditions is due to the differences in elevation between plains and plateaus. The average temperature by Massawa, or the coast, is around mid-80s Fahrenheit. However, on higher grounds, like plateaus, the average temperature is around low-60s Fahrenheit. The mean annual rainfall in the plateaus is around 16-20 inches. In the west plain, it is usually less than 16 inches. That is below average in many other parts of the world.

Effects of the Lack of Clean Water

Despite the fact that Eritrea has around 16 to 20 inches of rainfall annually, almost half of the country does not have access to clean water. As of 2020, 80.7% of Eritreans lack basic water services. This problem leads to consequential outcomes such as:

  1. Hygiene & the Contamination of Public Water Sources: Without the basic access to clean water, citizens of Eritrea are forced to use public water sources like rivers and streams. Citizens use public water sources to perform their everyday activities since they do not have safe accessible water at their homes. People will cook and shower with the same water. Thus, the sources become contaminated over time. The water contamination can then lead to fatal diseases.
  2. Diseases: Diarrhoeal disease is a type of bowel infection that usually spreads through contaminated water. Bacteria and viruses from water need a host in order to survive. It is unusual for the diarrhoeal disease to be deadly, but death can occur if a person loses over 10% of their body’s water. According to UNICEF, diarrhoeal disease is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Eritrea. Cholera is an infectious disease that contaminated water sources also cause. The symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdomen pain. This disease can be fatal if a person does not receive treatment on time because the body will eventually become dehydrated.

Effects of Poverty

Eritrea’s lack of clean water and poverty are linked to one another. Access to clean water means being able to cook, bathe and drink. Aside from covering basic needs, it also helps businesses run safely, keep children healthy and reduces vulnerability during a natural disaster.

  1. Businesses: Farmers and local business owners rely, to some extent, on the access to clean water. Farmers need to keep their crops clean by washing them. Local businesses also need clean water to create products or sell food. Without accessible clean water nearby, owners and employees have to leave their businesses to find a drinkable water source and sanitation facilities. By doing so, they could potentially lose customers.
  2. Girl’s Education: When girls hit puberty, they begin menstruating. If girls cannot practice proper hygiene or have access to clean water at school, they often miss out on education. Some have to skip class until their menstruation ends, which is around a week. During that week, they do not learn whatever their schools teach.
  3. Vulnerability During Natural Disasters: Clean water promotes good health. If communities lack strength due to unsafe water usage, citizens may have a hard time withstanding times of disasters. Houses would possibly be destroyed and businesses may be ruined. Thus, those in poverty would be forced to leave their homes and find another by traveling long distances. Many, without access to clean water, would struggle along the way because potential diseases from contaminated water would weaken their body.

Government Involvement

Eritrea’s state government has partnered up with UNICEF to improve citizens’ drinking water and sanitation issues. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) aims to increase accessible clean water and promote safe WASH practices in drought-prone areas of Eritrea. UNICEF is also working to connect many schools to community water supply systems.

With the state government’s involvement, Eritrea’s clean water crisis will eventually improve. The promotion of good hygiene practices reduces the spread of diseases. With many schools being connected to safe water supply systems, students will be healthy and girls will not have to skip school during the week of their menstruation. This brings hope for the future of Eritrea.

Megan Ha
Photo: Flickr