Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia
Globally, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is on the rise, especially in South Asia. According to UNICEF, in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, the percentage of people practicing open defecation—a leading cause of child malnutrition, disease and death—fell from 65 percent to 34 percent. While these WASH initiatives have seen success, they often neglect one important aspect of hygiene that pertains to women, menstruation. The ability for women to menstruate hygienically and with dignity is vital to their empowerment. Here are five facts about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.

5 Facts About Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia

  1. There is a culture of silence around menstruation; discussing it is often treated as taboo. Females on their periods are often excluded from society because they are seen as impure. One study in Nepal found that 89 percent of respondents practiced some form of exclusion or restriction during a menstrual cycle. However, organizations such as WaterAid are working to break the silence through female-led self-help groups. When just a few women came forward to speak, it inspired others to share their experiences and start breaking the taboo.
  2. Many girls do not understand their periods. Because the topic is taboo, it is often ignored in schools. As such, 10 percent of girls in India thought menstruation was a disease, and 66 percent of girls in South Asia do not know anything about periods before their first menstruation. A study of 160 girls in West Bengal found that, though 67.5 percent knew what a period was before their first, 97.5 percent did not know where menstrual bleeding comes from. While schools often neglect to teach about reproductive health, this is beginning to change. UK Aid is creating audiobooks for girls dispelling myths and teaching them about their periods, and non-government organizations are creating extracurricular activities that teach about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.
  3. Menstrual hygiene in South Asia is vital for keeping girls in schools. According to WaterAid, a study done in South India found half the girls in school were pulled out at the time of their first period, often to be married. The girls who stayed in school beyond their first period reported poor performance due to anxiety that the boys in the class would find out they were menstruating.
  4. Access to feminine hygiene products is expensive. According to WaterAid, in a West Bengal study, only 11.25 percent of girls used disposable feminine hygiene products. The most common obstacles to obtaining them are a lack of awareness about them, the high cost, the lack of availability and the need for disposal facilities. Focus group discussions indicated that girls would prefer sanitary pads because they were more comfortable, discreet, and easier to use and carry. WaterAid is working to make low cost disposable sanitary pads as well as facilities to dispose of them. In the meantime, most women and girls rely on reusable cloth, which comes with its own problems.
  5. Maintaining menstrual hygiene in South Asia requires improved sanitation. One of the biggest obstacles to menstrual health is a lack of sanitation practices and infrastructure. Most South Asian women and girls rely on reusable cloth. To sanitize them though, they need to wash them in clean water and dry them in sunlight. However, cultural taboos around menstruation often pressure women and girls to try to dry them in dark places, potentially leading to infection. For those who might have access to disposable sanitary pads, they often lack the facilities to get rid of them. This is especially a problem for girls in schools. However, WaterAid and its partners are working on implementing WASH facilities that are lockable and gender-separated, with at least one toilet or washroom with an opening leading to an incinerator or dustbin for feminine hygiene products.

While countries in the region are making great strides in sanitation, there is still much to be done to improve menstrual hygiene in South Asia. It is vital they do so because the ability for women and girls to menstruate with privacy and dignity empowers them to pursue work, education and gives them the opportunity to have a voice in society.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

The Development of South Asia Through Integration
South Asia is considered one of the least integrated regions across the globe; yet in recent years, international organizations, such as the World Bank, are implementing strategies to unite the nations economically.

Understanding South Asia

South Asian countries consist of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. South Asia is considered one of the fasting growing regions within the world today, and the region is home to two very fast-growing economies.

According to the World Bank, the development of South Asia is projected to increase from 6.9 percent to 7.1 percent in the upcoming year.

Bhutan, alone, is currently the fastest growing economy — the nation reports that it will grow at a staggering annual rate of 11.1 percent. India is also one of the fastest growing economies as well, with a growth rate at about 7.73 percent from 2017-2019.

The World Bank emphasizes the importance of cooperation and trade among South Asia, and they believe that the growth rate is predicted to increase if these nations work together in harmony.

Path to Progress

Regional, economic entwinement is the way in which development of South Asia progresses — the World Bank recognizes such measures and has initiated plans in order to unify this region.

As one of the first steps, the World Bank brought approximately 100 students together at the Fourteenth South Asia Economics Students’ Meet (SAESM). Economic undergraduates discussed their academic and experimental research about regional integration and its advantages.

They also explained how to attain economic prosperity through cooperation and trade, and students developed long-lasting friendships that should unequivocally encourage future relations among South Asian countries.

‘One South Asia’

Not only has the World Bank encouraged millennials, but they also have a twofold program called “One South Asia,” which directly forms connections among South Asian countries. The first objective is technical assistance, which will offer economic opportunities to strengthen trade connections. The second goal is to increase conversation about regional integration and local investments.

They are also trying to work with both the public and private sectors. The development of South Asia begins at the engagement of all levels of the economy.

There has been many obstacles to achieve “One South Asia,” yet the World Bank is determined to merge these nations together so they are successful economically, politically and socially. The development of South Asia as a whole will be difficult, yet it is possible and can occur if the region continues on this trajectory.

The World Bank’s Influence and Steps to Development

The World Bank has many projects within South Asian nations — particularly Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan — to improve their economies individually. Most of these initiatives create jobs and opportunities for their citizens.

Regional integration is also crucial to the development of South Asia. The only way to reach prosperity is for countries to form a union — if South Asia mirrored the European Union, the opportunities for growth within each nation are endless.

This is a challenge, yet if international organizations, governments and the citizens of South Asia work tirelessly, they will surely reach their Sustainable Development Goals.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Google and the H&M Foundation Support Flood Relief in South AsiaWhile the United States remains observant and sympathetic to the troubles in Texas and Florida, on the other side of the globe 24 million people have been affected and over 1,200 killed by a record monsoon that hit areas of India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The natural disaster brought the worst floods the area has seen in years.

Google and their employees have committed to a $1 million pledge to Goonj and Save the Children to support flood relief efforts in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. They hope to support flood relief for 75,000 families across nine affected states throughout rural India. Google’s flood relief efforts include giving families kits with food, mats, blankets and hygiene items. Their goal is to help restore the communities’ roads, bridges and schools.

The Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz, widely known as H&M, has donated $200,000 to support flood relief in south Asia through the Save the Children Organization. The H&M Foundation works to enhance living circumstances by investing in people, communities and innovative ideas. While the H&M Foundation supports this transformation through access to education, water and equality, they also offer emergency relief from partnerships through global organizations.

Save the Children has responded in all three countries, as they believe children are often the most vulnerable in crises like these. Save the Children also provides child-friendly environments where children can acquire access to educational resources and free time, allowing liberation from devastation.

Resources like the U.S. federal disaster response system do not exist to provide flood relief in south Asia. This makes the work of companies like Google and H&M extremely valuable to affected communities, both now and in the future.

Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

Maldives Poverty Rate

Maldives is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean. While the country was a life expectancy of 77 years and a literacy rate of 98.4 percent, the Maldives poverty rate still allows room for growth.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that by 2016, only two percent of the nation’s citizens lived under the international poverty line. Similarly, Asian Development Bank reported 2015 that 15 percent of people in Maldives lived under the national poverty line.

Though this seems a bit higher, other South Asian countries show even greater numbers for the same statistic. For example, India’s is almost 22 percent, Nepal’s is over 25 percent. Bangladesh ranks higher than all of them, coming up at over 31 percent.Bhutan and Sri Lanka fall below Maldives—at 12 and 6.7 percent, respectively.

When looking at the death of infants in Maldives, 2015 data indicated that seven out of 1,000 babies die in live births. This country ranks the lowest when put side-by-side with Sri Lanka (8), Bhutan (27), Nepal (29), Bangladesh (31) and India (38).

When looking at 2012 data on the percentage of “employed population below $1.90 purchasing power parity a day,” Maldives settles in at 6.6 percent. This means that it still ranks below Bangladesh (over 73 percent), India (almost 18 percent) and Nepal (over 12 percent).

Similar to the statistic regarding the national poverty line, only Bhutan and Sri Lanka fall below Maldives in the list of six nations—both resting at slightly over four percent.

The Maldives tout an unemployment rate slightly below 12 percent, a GDP per capita at about $11,282 and tourist activities accounting for a quarter of its GDP.

However, it is important to note that a variety of issues still impact the nation.

The UNDP points out a lack of opportunities for female autonomy, a need for greater answerability within governing bodies and the dangers of environmental degradation.

Rural Poverty Portal also touches on problems the nation struggles with. It indicates that much of the country’s poverty exists on islands where fishing and farming predominate. Focusing on the less urbanized areas, it highlights that insufficient supply of natural resources, low credit and poor farming techniques all contribute.

Still, in relation to many of its counterparts, the Maldives poverty rate suggests much promise for the South Asian country. Although the nation must make improvements in a variety of aspects beyond those listed, its current status reflects its well-being.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

Education in Singapore
For the first time in history, Singapore has been named as having the top two universities in all of Asia. This includes the National University of Singapore, which rose 14 spots in the World University Rankings since 2012. The method for success goes back many generations, as education in Singapore instructs not only academics but teaches respect for authority and an understanding of the gravity of education.

Singapore, among other Asian nations, neared the top of the international league tables for over a decade. These tables measure child proficiency in reading, math, and science, with high scores showing the success of Singapore’s education system. Singapore’s education method is to approach classrooms with a highly-scripted way of teaching, making teachers ‘teach to the test’ instead of adapting to children’s different needs.

Students in Singapore ‘learn how to learn,’ a generally ineffective method that has been unusually successful in Singapore. Instead of checking the students’ level of understanding, teachers are instructed to check whether students can get the correct answer. The prescribed national curriculum sets the standard by which students learn, with little flexibility or deviation.

Singapore’s universities have been able to compete in the global economy by pouring financial support into research and strategically positioning each university. From the start, students are instructed on their expectations through primary, secondary and post-secondary education.

However, the first lessons students learn are how to know and how to love their country. By strengthening the pupils’ appreciation for their country, they then also appreciate the meaning of receiving an education.

Students in Singapore have been instructed since birth to follow the national and cultural standards that reproduce the instructional regime. Teachers instruct with a type of ‘folk pedagogy’ that reinforces the nature of their instruction, such as ‘teaching is talking and learning is listening.’ However, in recent years these policies have relaxed to lessen student stress.

Despite their unorthodox success, Singapore is realizing that balance is just as important as educational prowess. Education in Singapore has changed to accommodate more stress-relieving activities, such as white-water rafting, since experts in Singapore’s education system now aim to give students a more well-rounded life.

The goal is to move students from being academic-based people to leading emotionally-healthy lives, a change which should positively impact Singapore’s education system. With a combination of previous methods and these new changes, Singapore’s high status in education in Asia and around the globe should remain consistent.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Pixabay

Society_India_Integration SAARC
The 42nd meeting of the standing committee of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) took place in Nepal in mid-March 2016. India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, called for greater cooperation among member nations to increase overall prosperity and decrease poverty rates.

According to The Times of India, Swaraj emphasized the importance of regional integration and cooperation for the benefit of all: “We continue to face significant challenges in delivering food security, health, nutrition and education to our peoples. All this goes to show that while we are doing well individually, we have not been able to unleash our collective strength effectively. We must think innovatively and find solutions so that we may harness our economic complementarities and ensure a conducive environment for rapid growth.”

The SAARC comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. As a region, these South Asian countries have more people living under the poverty line than anywhere else in the world.

Swaraj acknowledged this fact in her speech, saying, “We must recognize that we have common enemies in poverty, illiteracy, terrorism and environmental degradation. We will need to fight these challenges together since we have a shared history and a shared destiny. Let us reach for it together.”

The historic tension between India and Pakistan has been one of the toughest barriers to regional integration among SAARC countries. Even so, new developments suggest that the relationship between the two countries may be improving.

During the summit, Swaraj met with Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Advisor, Sartaj Aziz, multiple times. Greater cooperation between India and Pakistan’s intelligence and criminal investigation agencies was a major topic of conversation between the two leaders.

In November 2016, the Indian Prime Minister will visit Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, for another SAARC summit. This visit could lead to an even greater relief of the tensions in India-Pakistan relations.

An article in The Indian Express asserts that the “SAARC countries have been held hostage by India-Pak tensions.” Thus, a stronger relationship between India and Pakistan would benefit the entire region.

India’s Foreign Secretary, S Jaishankar, has stated that only when India-Pakistan relations improve “will building a peaceful, secure and prosperous neighborhood yield rich dividends for all SAARC member states.”

Reducing regional poverty rates hinges upon greater economic integration among South Asian countries. Stronger India-Pakistan ties, along with increased cooperation in South Asia can help increase regional prosperity, secure peace and reduce poverty.

Clara Wang

Photo: Flickr

katchi abadisImagine Arthur Dent’s surprise when he woke up to the sound of bulldozers, reared back to demolish his home. That is the iconic opening to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Now imagine that instead of Arthur Dent, an entire community faces such a predicament.

This was the case for the low-income community of Afghan Basti in Pakistan. On May 21, 2014, government-backed workers armed with bulldozers came to commence with roadworks. The Central Development Authority (CDA), which holds municipal responsibilities for Islamabad, had already demolished 25 stalls and five rooms nearby as part of the work.

According to Tribune journalist Maha Musaddiq, the bulldozing team was met with outcries as elders and children came out in protest of their forced eviction.

Enter July 2015. Despite protests, the CDA demolished sector I-11 in Islamabad. The sector was a low-income community similar to Afghan Basti. Both communities are known as ‘katchi abadis’.

What has motivated these evictions are claims on the part of the CDA that katchi abadis house criminals and terrorists. Umer Gilani, a lawyer for the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, challenges these allegations, seeing them as unfounded. He is not alone.

Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui, an urban planner, has called for a paradigm shift in urban planning, taking Islamabad’s katchi abadis as an unfortunate example of what happens when a city is planned for the rich and fails to account for those laborers who might work for them.

According to the Tribune, Siddiqui has since proposed a solution to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in Karachi, a new city district called DHA City is being constructed. But to some, the plan has committed the mistake Siddiqui outlined: there are no residences marked for drivers, housemaids or other staff.

A proposal has been submitted to the prime minister for a low-cost housing scheme.

Where protests in Pakistan have occurred over urgent circumstances — forced eviction with bulldozers at-the-ready — Indian koliwadas, or fishing villages, have protested their classification as slums.

Specifically, it is Mumbai’s Worli Koliwada, a historical fishing village, home to the Koli people who make up the city’s oldest residents.

Times of India journalist Priyanka Kakodkar reports that the land in question has been seen as valuable by property surveyors — and classifying the koliwada as a slum would open up the historical area to development.

The plan, however, was abandoned after locals vehemently objected to it.

It has instead been suggested that the local community try to develop and rehabilitate the area.

– The Borgen Project

Sources: Times of India, Tribune 1, DNAIndia, Tribune 2, Pakistan Today, Tribune 3
Photo: Wikipedia

Hypertension in South Asia
The Duke Global Health Institute will begin a study this year to find cost-effective ways to fight hypertension in South Asia.

The study will enroll 2,500 people from 30 rural communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, where heart attacks and strokes caused by hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, are major causes of death.

“High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for premature deaths globally,” the study’s lead researcher, Tazeen Jafar said. “The findings from [our study] are likely to provide a roadmap for effective blood-pressure lowering strategies that are sustainable…and have the potential for saving millions of lives and reducing human suffering in South Asia and possibly beyond.”

According to the World Health Organization, 82 percent of premature deaths caused by non-communicable diseases like hypertension occur in developing countries. That’s 28 million deaths per year, and health officials say these deaths are entirely preventable.

Jafar’s study will focus on four strategies. The first is to educate patients about the beneficial effects of diet and exercise on hypertension. In addition to regular weekly exercise, diets high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables while low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and alcohol are considered to be the easiest ways to measurably reduce blood pressure.

His team will also attempt to improve referrals to specialists, train doctors to manage high blood pressure with cost-efficient medication and develop special services at clinics to serve patients with hypertension.

They will then compare their results to traditional health care systems to find out if they can effectively fight hypertension in South Asia within the economic means of patients in developing countries.

Reducing hypertension and other non-communicable diseases will be a priority for policymakers over the coming years, as they work towards achieving the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda.

An economic impact study from the U.S. Institute of Medicine suggested related diseases in Brazil have caused up to $72 billion in productivity loss — a problem that persists because these diseases are passed down between generations. For countries in South Asia facing similar consequences, fighting hypertension-related deaths is more than a matter of public health, it is an economic imperative.

Ron Minard

Sources: Duke University, Mayo Clinic, WE Forum, WHO
Photo: Torange

Tiny_Hands_InternationalThe Christian-based nonprofit Tiny Hands International is an innovative organization helping abandoned children and fighting sex trafficking in South Asia.

Tiny Hands is headquartered in Nebraska and operates in Nepal, Bangladesh and India. The organization targets poverty-stricken areas of the world and focuses on child ministries and human trafficking.

The prevalence of drug abuse among orphaned, abandoned and abused children often results in a life of prostitution, disease and violence. Once identified, the organization places these children with a family in one of their dozen children’s homes in Southeast Asia.

The organization offers a plethora of unique programs that contribute to its success. Prevent a Second Tragedy is a program designed to help child victims of natural disasters. Young victims of natural disasters in developing countries tend to become vulnerable due to familial separation during the aftermath of these disasters.

In addition, Tiny Hands utilizes three primary methods to combat human trafficking: data collection and analysis, prosecution and intelligence-led investigations. Data collection and analysis are executed through interviews of human trafficking survivors.

The qualitative data allows the organization to compile valuable information. The method of transport, recruitment, the distance and destinations are examples of the areas of focus. These types of research allow the identification of trafficking trends and international networks.

The information collected is also useful in the prosecution of human traffickers. As of February 2015, the organization has been involved in providing supporting evidence for 28 cases that are legally active against human traffickers.

The last method that they use is intelligence-led investigations. The model of investigations that are normally conducted by NGOs is known as anti-trafficking missions.

These investigations are usually in destination or transit countries. The aim of these sort of investigations is to recover current victims of trafficking and, upon recovery of the victims, prosecution of the traffickers. The main target areas are those with large numbers of victims.

The organization’s methods are innovative and unique. The target of the research is to successfully identify the establishments, networks and structures which enable human trafficking.

The primary aim of the investigations is the prevention of human trafficking, intervention to help current victims and prosecution of human traffickers. Destination, source and transit countries with high rates of poverty are the locations of focus.

 

Erika Wright

Sources: Non-Profit Facts, Tiny Hands International
Photo: Flickr

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Moringa oleifera, the moringa tree, has been aptly nicknamed the miracle tree for its nutritional value and medical qualities. The moringa tree is native to South Asia and is known for how quickly it grows.

Many parts of the tree are edible, making it a valuable source of food in impoverished, rural areas especially in times of drought because the tree is very hardy.

Nearly every part of the moringa tree can be used. Although the wood from the tree is not very high quality, the fruit, leaves and pods are all edible.

The moringa tree leaves have a very high level of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin C as well as vitamin A. One cup of moringa leaves offers two grams of protein and more than 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and riboflavin. One cup of moringa pods offers 157 percent of the daily allowance for vitamin C.

The leaves have twice as much calcium and protein as whole milk when compared ounce for ounce. Considering approximately 670,000 children die from a vitamin A deficiency every year, the moringa’s nutrients are very valuable.

Moringa oil is extracted from the seed of the tree. This oil’s special quality is that it does not quickly go rancid. In impoverished areas where refrigeration is not an option, the oil can be a very good alternative to other vegetable oils.

One of the significant attributes of the moringa tree in light of global poverty is the purification quality of the seeds. There is a coagulant found in the crushed seed that can be used to reduce turbidity and alkalinity in water. There is also an antiseptic property withing the seed that helps purify it.

The nutrition within the tree makes the moringa a valuable asset in the alleviation of global hunger. The success of the moringa tree is evident as organizations have incorporated it into their programs for hunger alleviation. The Peace Corps in specific implements the use of the tree into the programs.

Iona Brannon

Sources: Epoch Times, Fox News, International Journal of Development and Sustainability, Kuli Kuli, SABC
Photo: ytimg