March 8, 2015
Commemorating International Women’s Day 2015, MITRA Samaj—a NGO working in various areas with a vision of touching lives positively—launched ‘MITINI-Breaking Taboos’, an initiative aimed at “Empowering Adolescents and Women through Education” amid a function at Embers Restaurant, Pulchowk, Lalitpur on March 8.
Speaking at the event, Vivek Singh Thakuri, Executive Director of MITRA Samaj said, “Providing modern sanitary napkins to the adolescent girls enrolled in community schools of rural areas, we can help them in reducing school absenteeism and this is what MITINI will do.”
Explaining about the modality of the initiative, he said, “MITINI Service would include placement of dedicated sanitary napkin disposal bins in female toilets of various organizations. Trained female staffs of MITINI initiative will clean those bins regularly and the disposed napkins will be sterilized using an autoclave—a pressure chamber used to sterilize supplies.”
He added, “A nominal service charge will be tagged for the service which will be utilized for purchasing new modern sanitary napkins for free distribution among adolescent girls enrolled in various community schools of rural Nepal in collaboration with Child Reach Nepal, Nepal chapter of Child Reach International, an INGO which is working with various schools.”
As much as 41 percent of adolescent girls remain absent from school due to lack of privacy for cleaning and washing their reusable menstrual pads since majority of females in rural areas use reusable cloths to absorb menstrual blood, according to ‘Is Menstrual Hygiene and Management an Issue for Adolescent Girls?’—a report published by WaterAID, an INGO working in the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) sector.
Similarly, according to a report published by World Bank, if a girl misses 4 days of school every 4 weeks due to her menstrual cycle, she will miss 10 to 20 percent of her school days, thus affecting her academic pursuits.
Use of modern sanitary napkins can address this problem to a larger extent, majority of adolescent girls and women in rural areas of Nepal do not use disposable sanitary pads primarily because they cannot afford it.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Shibhesh Chandra Regmi, Development Consultant and Senior Advisor of MITRA Samaj said, “Though the initiative looks like addressing a single issue, it has huge impact—spanning across educational, physical, emotional and financial empowerment of women.”
Problems associated with menstruation are not only evident in rural Nepal but also in urban areas. Due to lack of proper menstrual management services in restrooms and washrooms of various private, non-private and public companies, institutions and organizations, female staffers and visitors of such organizations are compelled to dispose their used sanitary napkins using flush toilets.
While the lack of proper hygiene management services have hampering the productivity of female staffers, toilet management has become difficult for management team of such organizations because forceful flushing of used sanitary napkins has caused gutters to be clogged.
Various organizations have maintained some level of hygiene in their toilets, restrooms and washrooms by placing trash bins and dustbins but waster workers are infected with various health problems such as eye problems, respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal ailments, skin infection and allergies while separating these non-biodegradable napkins.
As a solution for these problems, MITRA (Measures for Intervention Training Research and Action) Samaj started ‘MINITI-Breaking Taboos’, an initiative to provide female sanitary services.
It is expected that use of reliable modern sanitary napkins will help adolescent girls control their menstrual bleeding, ultimately helping them in ensuring school attendance.
To bring meaningful implementation of ‘Make it Happen’—the theme of International Women’s Day 2015, MITINI has started to provide sanitary services to over 25 restaurants operational in Kathmandu Valley.
Sharing about the implementation of the initiative, Pratistha Swar, Program Officer of MITINI said, “Earning the faith on the initiative was very easy because everyone supported the initiative with ease making us to partner with over 25 supporters within a month.”
Speaking at the event, Rabin Shrestha, Proprietor of Reef Restaurant said, “We were actually thinking about such services but did not know where to approach. When I was approached with the initiative, I agreed to receive the services no matter how expensive the services charges would be.”
Similarly, Srijana Karki, Area Representative of World Neighbors questioned, “When Nepalese people can help Nepalese people, why do we need financial support from foreign donors?” She added, “If we can sustain ourselves through initiatives like this, why not support it?”
While the initiative has already started to gain momentum through few supporters, the initiative is all set to gather more in the near future. When health and education are key factors in country’s bid to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDG), MINITI is fast advancing in ‘Making the Initiative Happen’.