In a major exhibition held by WaterAid in Nepal, ten Nepalese artists will examine the effect of menstruation and menstrual hygiene on women’s health, girl’s education and gender equality.
The installation and visual performance, Dropping in on development, will be held on Thursday 29 September, 6pm at Hotel Himalaya, Kupondole, Lalitpur, Nepal. A live stream of the exhibition will be available to watch via the website (see below), Facebook and Ustream (6pm NPT/12.15pm BST).
“Menstrual hygiene issues have received little attention from the water, sanitation and hygiene sector as well as from the reproductive health sector in Nepal. As a result millions of school-going girls, continue to miss a significant number of school days. These absences, in turn, adversely affect the girls’ educational and health-related attainment,” said Ashutosh Tiwari, WaterAid in Nepal’s Country Representative.
It is estimated that nearly two million female students in Nepal have no access to toilets in school. Every month adolescent girls risk missing several days of class during their menstrual period or, worse, dropping out of school altogether because of a lack of separate toilets with menstrual hygiene facilities, further entrenching the barriers caused by gender inequality.
In Nepal and other parts of South Asia the topic of menstruation is taboo and women rarely talk about it, not even to each other. Thérèse Mahon, WaterAid’s Regional Programme Manager for South Asia, said, “This exhibition is breaking the silence on Menstrual Hygiene in Nepal. Creating space to discuss menstruation, raising awareness and sharing accurate information are the critical first steps to address this neglected issue. The burden of this neglect is borne by millions of girls and women who are being denied their rights to health, education and dignity.”
Dropping in on development aims to highlight menstrual hygiene management as a development issue. The exhibition will be attended by government representatives, as well as private and non-governmental sectors.
“Nepal is a signatory of the 2008 Delhi Declaration which states that the special needs of women must be integrated in sanitation programmes,” Mr Tiwari continues, “but major efforts are required to make this a reality, particularly in the case of discriminatory practices such as Chaupadi.”
Chaupadi is a tradition linked to Hinduism whereby menstruating women are forced to stay in out-houses, and is still practiced in far and mid-western Nepal despite being recognised by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2004 as a violation of human rights.
As one girl from Illam describes, “”I feel very afraid whenever I have my menstruation simply because I am treated like an outcast. I am forced to stay outside my house and my mother hardly gives me enough to eat. I have a problem with keeping myself clean as well; I don’t have money to buy sanitary pads and I cannot hang the sanitary cloths in the open (to dry) simply because my mom thinks it’s a sin!”
The exhibition will feature a variety of artistic installations, including paintings, photography, sculpture and performance by artists Asha Dangol, Erina Tamrakar, Jupiter Pradhan, Om Khattri, Prithvi Shrestha, Rajan Kaphle, Raju Pithakote, Saurganga Darshandhari, Sundar Basnet and Sushma Shakya.
It is the second in a series of events highlighting menstruation taboos held by WaterAid in Nepal, following the photographic exhibition School Sanitation:The Neglected Development Link, held last month, which called on immediate action to be taken to provide separate toilets for girls and boys in schools, including separate facilities to enable girls to hygienically manage their menstruation.