The Freedom Kit Bags Project, Nepal
Breaking the stigma for Nepalese Women
When Nepalese women have their period, they are referred to as ‘chhaupadi’, which translates to ‘untouchable being’. The women also have to deal with the stigma that is still attached to menstruation and there are many problems that stem from not having proper sanitary protection. Not only are women vulnerable to chronic vaginal infections that can lead to pelvic inflammation and infertility, but because of ‘chhaupadi’ women and girls also suffer from low self-esteem and lack of dignity. Lack of sanitary management of menstruation stops women and girls from achieving their full potential.
A movement led by Nepalese women against these taboos has been gaining traction for years now. Beni Rani Ghale and Dr. Rosa Matheson have led these campaigns and together developed Freedom Kit Bags with the aim of enhancing women’s health and quality of life. A Freedom Kit Bag includes washable pads for daily and night-time use, pad-holders, patterned panties, a pretty carrying purse, a waterproof bag for used pads, soap, a washing line and pegs, and a bright holder-bag to keep it all safely together. The items are vibrant and colourful to help empower the women, and with care they can last up to three years. The kits are distributed together with a training day where both men and women are taught period health management and trained in the ‘care of the kit’.
Since 2018, Exodus have sponsored many hundreds of Freedom Kit Bags, costing just £25.00 to assemble. Since 2019, we have been providing sewing rooms, sewing machines, material, and training to local women’s groups in remote villages to make their very own Freedom Kit Bags so that the impact of the project can reach even further. Not only will this help tackle menstruation stigma and period poverty, it will also enable local women by teaching skills that can be used in an employment context.
In 2021, between COVID-prompted lockdowns, the Exodus Travels Foundation funded a training course for 4 Exodus local staff through the Community Kickstart Project. Whilst they were inhibited from taking our travellers on adventures, Subita (who works in our local office in Kathmandu), Bikash, Tenzi and Sukman (who all lead treks for Exodus) were trained on how to distribute the Kit Bags and deliver the associated training. As part of this training, the Foundation funded 25 Freedom kit bags for a small ‘practice’ distribution within the course. We then sponsored a further 400 Kit Bags, which were distributed in the local villages where our staff come from.
” When the opportunity to become an ambassador for Freedom Kit Bags arose, I thought it was important to get involved as this is a challenging issue for women in our society.”“In Nepalese society, women don’t talk openly about menstruation. They hide all their pain, sufferings, and experiences until they get sick and need emergency medical attention. The Freedom Kit Bag training and distributions are great support, and they give women the confidence to speak out and be heard.”Subita, Operations Manager and Freedom Kit Bag Ambassador, Nepal
To read more of Subita’s story, take a look at our International Women’s Day 2022 blog, here.
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