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Talking about it: How two volunteers are breaking taboos on menstrual health

Volunteers Preeti Bhandari and Tara Leanne Hall worked to tackle female health issues in the rural community of Khurkot in the Sindhuli district of Nepal.

In this blog they tell us how they identified the most pressing issues and how, through setting up a link with the local hospital, their team were able provide health information and a vital check-up service to 184 local women.

Living in the rural community of Khurkot has allowed us to interact with local people and engage with some of the problems they face. An issue we found was not only the lack of female health knowledge the women of the villages had, but also the amount of undiagnosed or untreated illnesses they suffered from.

Gaining an understanding

Restless Development ICS team hold a women's health day
Working with local women to understand the most pressing health issues.

Our first step to tackle this was to fully understand their needs. A survey was conducted over a number of local villages, seeking to learn more about the health issues women face as well as their knowledge on some basic areas of female health. The results were not surprising. Many women lacked basic information on subjects such as reproductive health and menstrual hygiene. Many women had also been suffering from illnesses for long periods of time.

Women’s Health Days

Action needed to be taken. We set up a meeting with Dr Rajan of Shubha Jeewan Hospital in Khurkot. As he is a female health specialist, we were hoping to gather more information on the topics the women were most worried about.

By the end of the meeting, a Women’s Health Day over three local villages had been confirmed. These health days would include a free check-up, a seminar on women’s health and the sanitary product MoonCup, as well as referrals to the final health day in Khurkot, where ultrasounds would be free of charge and many other services discounted.

We were overjoyed and eager to start planning.

Women turn up for health day
Women registering for check ups at the Women's Health Day

Using our skills

As medical students back in the UK, volunteers Sebastian Stedman and Adelaide Price showed great interest in being involved any way they could. Their efforts helped Dr Rajan tremendously throughout, allowing more women the opportunity for a free check-up.

Seeing as many people as we could

Over the three days, firstly at Gwaltar, followed by Ghumaune Chainpur and finishing at Khurkot, we provided a check-up service to 184 women, the youngest being 17 years old and the oldest 90.

“Some had been suffering for years. We saw a lot of women who would not have come if the service wasn’t free,” said volunteer Adelaide Price.

“It shows that there needs to be more awareness of how illnesses can worsen if not treated.”

“Working with medical students was a pleasure. They collected much needed medical background, which made the check-ups very efficient. I believe the days had a positive impact on the whole community"
Dr Rajan
Female health specialist from Shubha Jeewan Hospital in Khurkot.

Sharing vital information

Alongside health check ups we held seminars on UTI’s, breast cancer and reproductive health which were attended by many women.

Menstrual hygiene

Another subject we wanted to tackle was menstrual hygiene. During this talk we decided to introduce the MoonCup.

The MoonCup is a reusable, washable, easy to use sanitary cup made out of silicone. Their popularity is rapidly increasing due to their simplicity.  Not only will these cups improve hygiene, they are very comfortable - they’re also a financially friendly alternative to buying sanitary towels.

An initial success

“This is the first collaborative health camp we have done” said Dr Rajan. He continued:

“Working with medical students was a pleasure. They collected much needed medical background, which made the check-ups very efficient. I believe the days had a positive impact on the whole community, not only creating a safe space to talk about female health issues, but also identifying diseases which would have gone undetected.”

Health talk
Conducting a health talk at the Women's Health Day

Ongoing action

Off the back of the Women’s Health Days is a collaborative Action At Home between the UK and Nepali volunteers. The project aims to create links with MoonCup providers and also fundraise to provide the sanitary cups to the women of the villages that signed up to the programme. During the seminars over 50 women gave their names, a figure which will rise as we reach out to more communities.

Preeti and Tara have set up a fundraising project called Wisecup, which aims to provide the women who attended the health days with sanitary cups.

Article originally posted on Restless Development website

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