Smile for Hope Ends 2019 in Nepal Launching New Pilot Project, With Plans for Much More in 2
“Smile for Hope” founder Zeina Abdo and president Sonam Sherpa ended 2019 in Nepal working on a very special and important project that will spread and help change the way women, girls, men and boys across Nepal see and address the natural and healthy process of menstruation.
“Smile for Hope” ran our first pilot project, providing a safe space to tackle a very sensitive and taboo subject of menstruation. An ancient practice, Chhaupadi (Nepali: छाउपडी), is a form of menstrual taboo which prohibits Hindu women and girls from participating in normal family activities while menstruating, as they are considered “impure”. Chhaupadi is practiced primarily in the western part of Nepal.
This leads to a cascade of serious issues dropping out of school, forbidden from accessing family kitchen and reunions, infections, shame, and potentially even death. As recently as December 2019 a young woman died in a chhau hut. In January 2020, the Nepalese government started to destroy menstruation huts as well as try and educate the public against their use, but much more must be done.
We dared to disrupt the practice that leaves women to suffer alone, by involving young men in our menstruation education programme, a very shied away from topic in Nepal. These young male teens have a mum, a sister and one day will have a wife who would greatly benefit from their understanding and awareness of the topic.
That is why “Smile for Hope’s” recent project and plans for more in 2020 are so critical. We must help educate local communities so they, in turn, can spread this information to others before more women and children suffer or die.
On our first day in Lapsiphedi, Nepal 29 women ranging in age from 17 to 60 came to attend the first day of the awareness campaign where we provided a safe space for conversations they never had. What started with cautious faces evolved into relaxed smiles throughout the presentation given by a very talented doctor couple. We spoke about the basics, real basic stuff and distributed reusable sanitary pads. From stern and unsure faces, to smiles, laughter and ultimately a dance performed by the eldest of the group to joyful cheers by all of us.
How humbled and empowered we all felt, surrounded by this amazing group of women who just needed to be heard and held. They now want to take this project forward and share it with their respective community.
So proud of the “Smile for Hope” team who constantly strives to serve the needs of the forgotten ones and dare to take on projects that tackle taboos and sensitive issues.
Let’s be the voice of those who don’t YET have one.
Onwards and upwards!
Another successful turnout today at our awareness campaign on menstruation.
Most common questions revolve around hygiene, pain management and personal care. 14 women, 16 young female students and 10 young boys, to our biggest surprise and joy. Although we had invited them, the shyness and prudishness expressed by the organisers led us to think young men would not participate.
Word and interest in our menstruation awareness campaign continued to grow. On our third and final day 43 young teenage girls, 19 teenage boys, 2 female and 2 male teachers attended our awareness program.
In total, more than 150 women, teenage girls and boys were directly impacted over these three days (+teachers) with a ripple effect that will touch the lives of thousands in their communities as they will spread the teachings and know-how acquired during the 3 days.
Thank you for an amazing team that delivered on an innovative and much needed initiative.
As we start 2020, there are big plans for expanding “Smile for Hope’s” work in Nepal and elsewhere. Please be sure to follow us on social media so you can stay in touch and support our important work.
Thank you for your belief, support and commitment to our efforts. Without your help we couldn’t conduct projects like this which are so central to our goal of Spreading Hope, One Smile at a Time.
The “Smile for Hope” team