1.3 million girls in Nepal to receive free menstrual supplies

KATHMANDU, Nepal - More than 1.3 million girls in Nepal will receive free sanitary pads through their community schools, the Government of Nepal announced the investment in menstrual health and hygiene on 28 May 2020.

The government has allocated 1.82 billion rupees (approximately US$16 million) in 2020 for the purchase and distribution of free sanitary pads to the approximately 29,000 government aided schools in Nepal. Fully half of all students in the country are girls. The pads will be made available to girls in grade 7 through 12 and each girl will be allocated 16 pads per month. As schools are currently closed due to the coronavirus, distribution will re-commence once schools open.

The Nepalese government launched its national Sanitary Pad (Distribution and Management) Procedure at the beginning of 2020 in order to minimize student absenteeism and create a conducive learning environment for girls.

According to Mr Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for Kathmandu Metropolitan City, the funding has already been received and distributed to the individual schools and the sanitary pads have been purchased. In addition, technical support and training on menstrual hygiene management has been extended to the teachers, girls of grade 7 to 12 and sanitation workers across school in Kathmand. Schoolgirls will be trained how to make sanitary pads.

“This is a welcome step,” said Mr Durga Nepal, WASH Officer for UN-habitat, a WSSCC-supported programme. “It will be a huge relief to [the girls] financially, emotionally and physically. They will not have to leave their classes if their menstruation starts and they run out of sanitary pads.”

Acknowledging the problem of safely managed sanitation in schools, Mr Ramakanta Duwadi, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Water Supply, said that menstrual hygiene management still has not been properly addressed due to technical and resource constraints. “Until now, the government has been receiving support from development partners on MHM issues but a lot needs to be done so that no one will be left behind.”

Menstrual health and hygiene, leading to the empowerment of women and girls, is one of the four strategic objectives being implemented as WSSCC evolves to become the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund, a global financing mechanism supporting countries in providing sanitation and hygiene for all.

Mr Duwadi continued, “Support from the SHF for innovation in safely managed menstrual hygiene and sanitation will be a huge support in achieving our sanitation and hygiene goals.”

Mr Deepak Sharma, of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, stated that the ministry is working closely with other ministries, including the Ministry of Health and Population, the Ministry of Water Supply, the Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Federal Affairs, to address the issue of safe management of WASH facilities in schools.

“We have realized the importance of handwashing with soap, accessibility of running water and MHM in schools due to this pandemic,” said Mr Sharma. “We are exploring avenues to address these problems.”

According to Mr Sharma, Nepal has received support from development partners and NGOs to address WASH in schools, but that this support is not sufficient and stated that the government must intensify its efforts to improve the situation.

“The pandemic and lockdown have also reinforced the need to encourage manufacturing sanitary pads locally so that girls and women do not have to face difficulties due to shortage of pads,” said Mr. Gunaraj Shrestha, National Convener of the Menstrual Hygiene Management Partners’ Alliance (MHMPA).

In April 2020, the MHMPA submitted a letter to the Prime Minister requesting that he instruct relevant government authorities to consider sanitary pads as “essential services” and allow domestic manufacturing companies to continue production during lockdown in order to meet the needs of the population.