2 years ago
A Teen’s Mission to Normalize Conversations about Menstruation
The Nepali Padman
KATHMANDU, Dec 2: Ashwin Karki, dubbed as the “Nepali Padman”, is a 17-year old from Syangja. Growing up in Pokhara, he noticed the plight of young girls and his mentally challenged sister regarding menstruation taboos and decided to take matters into his own hands. With the support of the ‘Global Ambassador Leadership Institute’ organized by Happy World Foundation and Dr. Shabnam Acharya of GMC, Karki decided to spread awareness about menstruation in schools around Pokhara. Having been to Ex-Army Secondary School, Birethati Madhyamik Vidyalaya, and Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Pokhara, Karki recalls the initial shyness of the young girls and boys who he spoke to. The girls, especially, were reluctant to speak about menstruation with him but opened up to Dr. Acharya. After a couple of sessions at the schools, the students were more open to talking about menstruation with him and eventually other female teachers. Now, the girls speak freely about menstruation and are less reserved about it during their periods.
Karki’s goal is to normalize the topic of menstruation among both boys and girls. He often reminds the girls he interacts with in his sessions to not be shy about speaking up about menstruation and asks the male students to be less avoidant regarding the topic. When asked about how he aims to break the menstruation practices that are deeply rooted in many of the Nepali households, he says, “The young girls need to speak up when these practices begin to harm them. As long as they are comfortable with the menstruation practices, it is okay. I want to foster a sense of confidence in them to be able to speak out on situations that are harmful to them.”
Salina Gurung, a sixth grader who attended one of his awareness programs says, “I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be shy about my periods and talking about it with my friends.” Another student says, “Before this session about menstruation, I never knew that it wasn’t good for me to wear a pad for a long time duration. We used to wear homemade cotton clothes during our periods and it was always uncomfortable. Now I know that we need to change our pads frequently and I am better able to inform my parents about my situation and problems during menstruation.”
Karki also aims to replace the commercialized pads with homemade, reusable and eco-friendly pads. Made from cotton and hand-sewn by himself, Karki has distributed more than 300 pads in the last year. He distributes a pad for Rs 50. He thanks his mother for her immense support for his project and also for teaching him about making pads on his own.
Karki hopes to broaden the scope of his homemade pads in Nepal. He also hopes to visit more schools and spread awareness about menstruation to normalize the topic in the near future.