In West Nepal, women and girls have limited or no access to toilet facilities, rubbish collection, clean and easily sources water, and education about their bodies and menstrual cycle. Women and girls also have limited funds, mean means that even if menstrual health management tools were known of and available, they are difficult to afford. These factors can mean that girls miss school, feel humiliated and dirty, and are exposed to increased risk of sexual exploitation.
Compounding these factors is the prevalence of the cultural practice of chhaupadi. In Nepali, ‘chhau’ means menstruation and ‘padi’ means a woman. This practice dictates that during menstruation, girls and women are considered impure and deprived of their most basic needs. Prohibitions include:
- Forbidden from entering the family home, instead staying in cattle sheds or makeshift huts
- Forbidden from touching men and food others will consume
- Forbidden from consuming milk, yogurt, butter, meat, vegetables and other nutrient foods
- Forbidden from crossing water
- Some of them restrictions in attending school
Those subject to this practice risk exposure to rape, snakebites, smoke inhalation, and animal attacks, as well as the psychological trauma of considering themselves as ‘dirty’.
The exclusion of girls by this practice from school during menstruation is harmful to their education. A lack of education about biological functions, puberty, and menstruation, as well as the tools to hygienically manage it, contribute to this ongoing exclusion. Moreover, poor menstrual hygiene is not only linked to low education outcomes, but to employment, health, and overall development.
The Government of Nepal outlawed the practice in 2005. This advance in legislation to curtail the practice did not result in a significant impact on its prevalence. Extending on the initial policy push to address chhaupadi, in August of 2017 the Government passed a law that punishes those forcing women to adhere to chhaupadi-mandated exile while menstruating with a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees or three months jail-time. However, we believe that these advances may continue to have minimal impact on its prevalence. The practice is strongly embedded in social norms and cultural practices. In order to effectively address the practice of chhaupadi, interventions must be made on the local level, addressing its socio-cultural basis and the reasons it continues through education and meaningful community engagement. Yet it is a significant step forward in the right direction on the political level, and represents a developing social change in opinion. Combined with programs such as Rato Baltin that address education on the local grassroots level in remote areas where the practice is still prevalent, we believe that there is significant potential for change into the future.
The project aims to address the lack of sexual and menstrual hygiene education and dignity among communities in West Nepal where the practice of chhaupadi is still present. This mission can be broken into the following objectives which have shaped the Rato Baltin project:
- Address the socio cultural basis and implications of chhaupadi through community consultation
- Educate women, girls, boys and communities on sex, biology and menstrual health management practices
- Reduce school absenteeism of girls in targeted remote communities of West Nepal
- Provide girls and women with tools to facilitate menstrual dignity
- Achieve long term project sustainability of the program
Through partnerships and workshop training creation and implementation, be artsy will pursue the project objectives by:
- Partnering with socially conscious menstrual cup supplier to donate Menstrual cups (selfcare product) to the project
- Providing girls in schools with menstrual cups, hygiene kits and adequate training in use and upkeep
- Partnering with and training local doctors, nurses, teachers and volunteers to work with communities in workshops and maintain ongoing follow-ups
- Conducting workshop training in sex education and menstrual hygiene for girls, women and boys
- Using participant photography to engage girls and communities in the topic of menstruation and what can be improved for them during this period
Our Proposal for 2018
be artsy is active in Nepal through its Nepali partner organisation be artsy, Kalaa Sakhti Nepal. be artsy will implement its ‘Rato Baltin’ (Red Bucket) project in stages throughout 2018, in remote communities of West Nepal where the practice of chhaupadi is still active. The project itself is named after its approach to addressing menstrual hygiene and education in remote West Nepal communities. While the colour red has cultural and religious significance in Nepal, it is also related to menstruation. ‘Bucket’ refers to the menstrual kit that girls will receive as part of the program, contained in a metal bucket.
To be effective, it is vital that projects working in this area address the socio-cultural reasons the practice continues to persist in some communities, while also providing menstrual and sex education and hygiene tools.
Our 2017 Rato Baltin Pilot Project successfully provided menstrual health management, hygiene, and reproductive and sexual education and training to over 1,000 individuals in remote communities of West Nepal. 250 volunteer girls were provided with menstrual cups donated by Ruby Cup, a UK based company. The 2018 Rato Baltin Project will continue the work completed in 2017 by providing donated menstrual cups to girls that attend school, as well as pursue workshops and trainings of girls, boys, women, and communities. It will extend on the pilot design by providing girls that do not attend school with access to menstrual cups, and implement a men’s group workshop focusing on menstruation and reproduction.
The project will have a five-tiered approach.
- Workshops will be held to provide sex education to both male and female teenagers in local schools
- Hygienic education will be provided through workshops to all women in targeted communities
- Menstrual cups and training will be provided to volunteer girls attending school in targeted communities
- Participative photography workshops will be utilised to showcase how girls feel about their periods and the chhaupadi tradition, and what they would like to change about the experience
- Access to menstrual cups and training will be provided to girls not attending school that show commitment to using the cups through a small, symbolic payment or assistance in local implementation of the project, if any amount of financial recompense is not feasible
The project is designed to mitigate the negative effects of chhaupadi, educate communities about the biological functions of their bodies and how to care for them, and stimulate community reflection and conversation about chhaupadi. It is not designed to be a top-down, outside-led ‘quick fix’ solution. This would be ineffective as chhaupadi continues to be practiced based on deeply held beliefs. If communities perceive foreign non-Nepali figures are attempting to eradicate the practice from a place of cultural judgement, this would inhibit any efforts at menstrual hygiene, health, and sex education. The project would ultimately have a negative impact on communities and participants.
Menstrual cups are a cost effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to menstrual health management. They are made of medical grade silicon, which has no negative health impacts on the body. The cups are easy to clean between each use. The use of menstrual cups reduces waste that must be disposed of, as one cup can be reused for 10 years.
As the donated Ruby Cups are solely to be provided to girls that attend school in order to address school absenteeism, as well as provide a hygienic solution to menstrual health management, be artsy will separately acquire Ruby Cups to be distributed to girls that do not attend school for individual reasons. The girls will self-nominate to participate, and provide a small, symbolic financial payment for the cup as a commitment that they will use it. This will assist in ensuring the girls that participate are committed to using the cups, and embed value in the program. If girls are unable to provide symbolic financial payment due to economic stress and limited funds, assistance in small local project implementation tasks may be exchanged as a substitute.
Participative photography enables girls to present their own thoughts and impressions of their experiences. Participants are not constrained by their ability to communicate by conventional means such as written or spoken word. Girls may feel shy or socially inhibited from speaking about their experiences, and depending on their level of literacy, may not be able to fully communicate their experiences. Participative photography can stimulate critical dialogue about concerns, enabling participants to visualise and reflect their experiences within their communities.
As be artsy and the Rato Baltin project are new endeavors, there is limited capacity for large scale implementation. Monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the 2018 project will enable the organisation to adapt and change the project going forward, based on lessons learnt. The 2018 project has been designed in respect to the lessons learnt from the 2017 Pilot Rato Baltin Project. This dynamic, flexible approach to project implementation, emphasising sustained and effective monitoring and adaptation, will ensure that the project leaves a positive footprint in communities.
Ruby Cup, a socially conscious menstrual cup business, will donate Ruby Cups to be artsy to distribute to girls that attend school in remote West Nepal communities. The focus on girls that attend school is a condition of the donation.
be artsy will also buy and provide menstrual cups to girls that do not attend school, for a symbolic price to exhibit commitment to their use. Girls involved in this initiative will be a maximum of 20 years old.
The 2017 Rato Baltin Pilot Project was successfully implemented across several stages to maximise its reach, monitor the impact of interventions, adjust for unexpected results, and to not exceed organisational capacity. In 2017 we were active in two Districts: Achcham and Kalikot. be artsy implemented the project in two villages of each District: Basti, Kunti Bandali, Chilkhaya and Rachuli.
From our experience in 2017, we perceive a high level of need for the project in Achcham. As such, we will focus on this district during 2018. be artsy will return to Kunti Bandali and Basti, where we will deliver the project trainings and workshops to class 6 and 7, as well as conduct menstrual cups training and dissemination, and follow-ups with 2017 users. be artsy will extend its work in Achcham to three more villages, to be determined in early January based on population demographics, the placement of schools, and the prevalence of chhaupadi.
Implementation execution will be structured as follows:
- Employ local staff, with appropriate and decent salaries
- Prepare training material and menstrual kits
- Determine the location of three additional target schools in Achcham
- Training local doctors, teachers, and nurses who have already been contacted and shown interest in the project
- Delivery of training material, translated into Nepali, so that teachers can continue with lessons into the future
- Training and educating boys and girls in sex and menstrual hygiene, as well as all-female and male groups so they can talk without fear of embarrassment or taboos
- Deliver an educational menstruation and reproduction workshop to men groups to clarify its biological basis
- Through participative photography, invite 20-25 girls in each village to volunteer to identify and take pictures of what could be improved in their lives while they menstruate
- Deliver a menstrual hygiene kit and training to the girls who took part in the photography project
- Deliver a menstrual hygiene kit and training to the young girls not attending school from the women’s group that commit to pay a symbolic price between 50 and 100 Nepalese Rupees.
- Exhibit photographs in the town centre or central meeting point to engage the community in the girls’ perspectives and consider what measures can be taken to improve their lives
- Record names of volunteers for the cup program that could not participate in this round, for future initiatives
- Monthly telephone follow-up with the local doctors, teachers and nurses
- Biannual face-to-face follow-up with the girls by the be artsy Staff Nurse and volunteers to check how implementation of the cup is progressing
No be artsy staff member or volunteer will use the term ‘chhaupadi’ without it first being used by participants.
Human and Material Resources
Human resources will be invaluable to the success of the project. It is particularly important to engage local Nepali individuals to work within the targeted communities to implement and monitor the ongoing impact of the project, and wellbeing of the participants. The project will engage:
- Female teachers and nurse/s in every village (depending how many in each village are willing)
- 1 x Staff Nurse or health trainer
- 2 x Trainer assistant and administrative worker in Kathmandu
- 2 x Nepali Volunteers
- 1 x Male volunteer
- 2 x Foreigners nurses to help train the Nepali nurses (optional)
- 1 x Project Manager
- 10 x Local girls working as Mentors, taking care of 2018 follow-up and possible new trainings in September
Ruby Cup will donate menstrual cups to be artsy for use in the school-based project. Donated cups will number:
- 250 x Ruby Cups for 2018 (first stage)
Be artsy will donate to young women not in school. We will ask them to pay a small fee and sign a contract like the girls participating that attend school, to be sure they will use them. The fee will be between 50 and 100 NPR (100 NPR= USD $1)
- 75 x Women’s Ruby Cups for 2018
Menstrual kits will require:
- 325 x metal buckets
- 325 x menstrual cup (Ruby Cup)
- 325 x bar of soap
- 325 x towel
- 325 x instructions and FAQ for use of the menstrual cup in Nepali
You can make a donation here:
There are several reasons why we decided to name it the Red Bucket Project (Rato Baltin in Nepalese).
Firstly, because red is a relevant colour in Nepal, it is used very frequently, even in its flag, and is one of the colours most favoured by girls and women.
Secondly, because red is a colour which is related to menstruation for obvious reasons.
And finally, because we hand the girls undergoing training a kit that contain in a bucket – hence, the red bucket.
The said kit consists of the bucket itself, a menstruation cup, a towel and a bar of soap. The metal baltin (red bucket) serves the purpose of containing the rest of the items when not in use; more importantly be a means for the girls to carry clean water to the latrine, and also where they can boil water for sterilisation of the cup.
The idea and long term goal is to mitigate the negative effects of Chhaupadi.
If you don’t know what Chhaupadi is, you can take a look here:
The UNDP states menstrual hygiene is “A Neglected Condition for the achievement of Several Millennium Development Goals”. Poor menstrual hygiene is unequivocally linked to educational, employment, health, and overall developmental outcomes (see a report Here). It’s a problem in terms of safety, health, finances, and also economic and educational participation. Some programs are working to overcome these barriers by making safe, economical, and functional products like menstrual cups available.
There are a lot of studies and analysis about Chhaupadi in Nepal, such as:
The only way to abolish this practice is through mass awareness and education at a community level.
If you ask yourself if that will be good for Nepali women, lets us take a look at previous evaluation programs in Nepal:
MIT Poverty Action Lab Programs
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Poverty Action Lab, have been supplying the MoonCup brand in India and Nepal as part of evaluation programs.
According to reports (“No Menstrual Hygiene For Indian Women Holds Economy Back” – Bloomberg July 25th 2013), parts of India lack adequate plumbing, let alone sanitary disposal units. Around 88% of women in India’s poorer regions “make do with little more than scraps of old cloth”, and “sneak out at night to bury soiled rags in the dirt”.
Women who have been supplied with cups report feeling greater freedom and mobility. One woman said the cup “improved her life and stoked envy from other women”. In Nepal, women and girls said “they were able to bicycle, and that they even forgot they were having their period”.
Results from Nepal suggest that the cups can overcome significant barriers, even if they don’t solve bigger problems.
We will have three broad aims for the project: making voices heard, encouraging self-development, and providing the means to generate income.