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Caption:Susma, 35. 'I became more confident to talk about menstruation after receiving training to make homemade sanitary pads. The training was very useful.' Banepa Municipality, Kavre District, Nepal, August 2018.
Credit:WaterAid/ Mani Karmacharya
Usage Rights:(1) Images may be used for all purposes, globally, in perpetuity. Images may be used by third parties.
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Interview:Pull out quote:

“After the training I am able to talk about menstruation very confidently. I am more careful to maintain menstrual hygiene. I wash the pads properly with soap and dry them in the direct sun. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees it. The best thing about the training is that now I don’t have to spend money on readymade pads. If you calculate for the longer time-span, homemade sanitary pads are economical."

Interview:

"Before marriage, I had a very little knowledge on sanitation and hygiene. Rather, I would say I was not aware on these issues. My mother gave me a piece of cotton saree as a pad to use when I menstruated. Then, around 20 years ago, there were not many shops available nearby our home and only very few had ready-made pads available. I knew about ready-made pads but I didn’t use them. They were not very commonly used. But again they were costly so I never thought of using them as I didn’t have enough money to buy the ready-made pads available in the market.

I find myself lucky because I didn’t have to leave the school due to my period as my school was very near to my home. During menstruation I swiftly came back home and changed pad but there were my friends who would not come to school for four to five days during menstruation. Back then I never thought about maintaining personal hygiene. The cleanliness was very poor. Soap was available but I didn’t use soap to wash the cotton pads. But for our regular clothes we used soap. Actually not using soap means we used the lather of the other clothes to wash our cotton pads. I used to think, these are just cotton pads so why do I need to spend extra time and energy to wash a piece of cloth. So I used to wash these piece of cloth with the lather of other clothes. On the one hand we didn’t have adequate water and on the other hand I was ignorant or I didn’t understand the importance of menstrual hygiene. Back then I had to carry water every morning and evening. So inadequate water was also the reason for not using soap. If I used soap to wash clothes I needed more water.

Every Saturday I went to the water source to take a bath and wash clothes. But I never took my pads to wash. It was due to shyness. I had a misconception that the sanitary pads shouldn’t be seen by anybody else in the village. So I used to wash those cotton pads inside the toilet and dry them some place where nobody could see. When I recall those moments, I feel that I was doing a very wrong practice. Luckily I didn’t have any serious disease.

After my marriage, the situation was a bit better. My sister-in-law told me to wash those cotton pads with soap. They gave me the ready-made pads as well but somehow I didn’t feel comfortable with that so I didn’t continue using those. It was expensive as well. It was only after marriage that I washed my cotton pads with soap. But then again, I dried those cotton pads inside, not in the sun. The shyness was still with me.

I have a neighbour who is a Female Community Health Volunteer and I had the opportunity to assist her. She used to visit our home for the health service but she couldn’t read and write properly so I used to help her to write and give medicine to the community. This way I gained knowledge about healthcare services. This way I learned lot of things about sanitation and hygiene. For example, washing hands, using the toilet, maintaining personal hygiene, managing menstrual hygiene and other things. In this way my hesitance towards menstruation disappeared. But I became more confident to talk about menstruation after receiving training to make homemade sanitary pads. The training was very useful. I learned to make cotton pads in a new way. Previously I was using cotton pads just by folding a piece of cotton cloth as a pad but after the training I can use them in a different way.

After the training I am able to talk about menstruation very confidently. I am more careful to maintain menstrual hygiene. I wash the pads properly with soap and dry them in the direct sun. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees it. The best thing about the training is that now I don’t have to spend money on ready made pads. If you calculate for the longer time-span, homemade sanitary pads are economical.

I share my knowledge with the girls in my neighbourhood. The young girls are a bit shy to talk in the beginning so it is very important to let them know that this is a natural process.

In the future, I am planning to produce the homemade sanitary pads commercially. Now I am reconstructing my new house which was damaged in the earthquake in 2015. So probably after I move into my new house, I will think about it. If I can sell this product I hope to make some money which would be helpful for my daily living. It will also help my husband to reduce the financial burden on him. And again it is always very good to make use of the skills that you have rather than staying idle or doing nothing. As you know, an empty mind is the devil’s workshop."

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