Monday, September 1, 2008

Let's talk menstruation more often!

I can't resist copying a part of Kathy Harries' brief update of her work in India.. Go Kathy!

Woman in a village in the District of Tonk with her first latrine
  • Wednesday – First field trip to the District of Tonk. Informed with 10 min notice that I had to give a 10-20 presentation to start the event – Orientation Training for a new Project – Menstrual Health Hygiene. Was very pleased I had previous presentation experience.
    This is a really interesting project. This project follows a study on menstruation habits – and it turns out many girls have very limited knowledge. Some knowing only the traditional ideas, including exclusion from family and not using anything during their period. This also means that they generally drop out from school, as it is hard to keep up if you miss a week per month. This project, with the help of the University of Rajasthan Home Science Dept, provides menstrual health advice, in the form of a specially developed booklet, training for teachers, a cascading personal method to inform girls (both in and out of school), and young mothers. It also focuses on instillation of suitable facilities within schools (including incinerators, or at least bins in the toilets), and is starting a trial production of low cost pads for local groups to make and sell. The project is being trialed in one part of Tonk, and if successful it will be scaled up by Government. It is really really interesting. It is a bit of an excluded area of Water and Sanitation. I don’t think we covered it in my studies. (You know that my dinner conversation will now include toilet and menstruation management - I think I will get lots of return invites :-) )
    Plus we visited a village who had recently, swept along by the leadership of the elected village leader, built a toilet (off-set pour-flush latrines) for each house, and been awarded a Government of India Clean Village award. The village leader said that they had noticed significant health improvement. The doctor used to visit 1/ month and doesn’t visit any more. The photo is from my time in the village. It is the first toilet I came across, and one of the women of the house. When talking to us she pulled her stunning sari over her face (in respect to the village leader). She looked stunning even with the sari over her face. I asked to take her picture, and would have been happy if she showed her face or not, but she pulled back her sari and proudly showed her face. UNICEF is heavily involved in the state wide promotion of “Total Sanitation Campaign”, especially the social marketing side (to create the demand). People living below the poverty line get a subsidy from the Government, but those above the poverty line need to pay for the whole thing. Currently only 34% of people living in rural areas of Rajasthan have a toilet.

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