This is Seongmi Jeong from South Korea. I have been in Nepal since 2009 and it has been six years. For me, earthquake is the first experience for my whole life. It was so shocking and I was so afraid that I could not think anything. During 25-27 April after first earthquake, I had menstruation when I was staying in the farming field. I could not carry absorbent and there was no toilet and water also. So with fear, insects, rain, cold, etc. to be worse, I had another difficulties and tension from menstruation.
After three days, I could overcome a little from fear and I thought women in severely damaged area would face difficulties to manage menstruation like me. In the damaged villages, houses were collapsed and things for living also were damaged, so for the women menstruation absorbing materials are not available.
Relief activities from government and various institutes were conducted, but the activities were not covered whole damaged areas, and even though it was reached, the materials are not enough. Especially, absorbing materials that are distributed are disposable sanitary pads. It is not durable and even provided it is not enough.
In Nepalese context, women’s expectation for menstruation management is considered as not necessary and usually it is neglected. Then in this crisis situation, women’s expectation cannot be easily understandable, for society, other materials are more focused need. So for women, suffering is double, but usually for relief sector, need for menstruation sanitation can get less concern.
I thought I need to make relief sanitary kits for menstrual women/girls and talked with my friend who is running NGO BEYOND-Nepal that I used to engage in volunteer based. The NGO had already skill how to make reusable menstruation sanitary pad(Sajilo Napkin). He gave immediate positive response and together we designed simple and comfortable sanitary pad for quick and massive production. From April 29 with youth volunteers (until now almost 150 youth volunteers joined) from KTM valley we started to produce Relief Reusable pad.
As of May 27, we made around 20,000 pics (for 5000kits/5000people) for Relief Reusable pad and distributed to various areas such as Gorkha, Sindupalchok, Nuwakot, etc. Some of the distributed areas we found they got 1 or 2 packets of disposal pads and they already used it and now they don’t have any. At the same time many women and girls have very irregular period and they need more. So, when they got our pad they were very happy because their stress became less and felt they could live with comfort now.
When we started this activity, people did not put value and hesitate to talk with village people about sending sanitary kits. People said “Village people will be angry. They consider that sanitary kits are not priority thing this time. If we deliver that village people might beat us. So don’t send it.” Even village people said directly to us they did not need sanitary kits so send food and tent. Considering this situation in the beginning we delivered sanitary kits only to that area where food and tent were already reached. Even that area where food and tent were already reached, the first response of concerned team for relief distribution inside village was not welcomed and hesitated to give cooperation, but the women’s response was quite different and they welcomed and shared their difficulties to manage menstruation. One man who took responsibility to deliver our sanitary kits to the village women said, “After distribution sanitary kits I found this is real hidden necessity.” Actually at the beginning he also looked he had questions to himself, “Is it needed to our village this time?”
Through the last one month’s my relief activities, I found that menstrual women face more difficulties and this is reflected the social perception on menstruation here. Even this kind of disaster situation, space for women’s voice about their personal need was not provided and was not concerned. In the field, I could not see women are in the front for their needs. Again women need to stay in silent and hide their suffering in front of society.
So I would like to suggest that sanitary kits for women as relief materials must not be neglected from the beginning, some space for women’s need should be provided, and Reusable menstruation sanitary pads must be distributed rather than disposable pads concerning comfortableness, durableness, economic, hygiene, and environment.
May 30, 2015
Written by Seongmi Jeong (South Korean)
Seongmi Jeong has been engaging in NGO sectors for last 20years in South Korea, Phillipines, and in Nepal. With experiences from various sectors, especially education, environment, women sector, currently she has been working to empower people for change society as international solidarity activist in volunteer based in Nepal.