Story of Hope: Pads for equal education
This is part two of a series of inspiring stories about the young people we serve. This story is about Devendra, who withstood the bullying of his friends to help his cousin attend school during her period.
Every morning Devendra walks to the corner of his street in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal. Usually, his cousin picks him up to walk to school together where both attend class 8. But today, she isn’t here. After a short while, he decides to walk to her house and see where she is.
As Devendra comes closer to the door, he hears loud voices. “I don’t want to leave home!” Susmita shouts “Why do I have to go? What is happening to me?”. She starts crying. Devendra peeks through a little hole next to the door; Susmita’s mom is comforting her. Confused and worried about his cousin, he walks to school alone.
Before the class starts he tells his best friend Baburam what happened. “Girls have that once every few weeks. They start bleeding and get dirty so they have to leave the house. It’s forbidden to look at them. My mom says that apples and potatoes start to rot when they touch them. I don’t know, it’s their problem.”
But Devendra feels sorry for his cousin. After school, he visits his grandma to find out more. He quickly notices that she does not want to talk about it. “It’s an old custom.”, she says, “They have to be respected.” Devendra doesn’t understand: Why are girls locked away? It’s unfair!
A week later, as Devendra walks to school in the morning, Susmita waits for him at their corner. She looks down in the dumps. “How are you?” Devendra asks her. “I got my menstrual bleeding. Looks like I will be stuck missing school every month now… Let’s go.”
Susmita starts walking down the dusty path to school. As they come closer, they see a van parking in front of the school. Kids are curiously looking through the windows to see what’s inside. The teachers are standing in a circle with two women dressed in blue. The bell rings and the teachers send everyone into the classrooms.
Just a few minutes later, the two women in blue enter the classroom. Immediately, the kids start whispering. “Silence!”, the principal demands, “Welcome our guests Dhriti and Gamya from Child Reach Nepal. Today, they will teach all of us about a very important topic. Please,”, he says turning to Dhriti, “please start.”
“Today, we will talk about what happens with the female body, when girls reach puberty.” Dhriti explains. The boys start to giggle, it is the first time this topic has been talked about so openly. “It is a natural process and absolutely normal. Without it, none of us would be sitting here today in this classroom.”
Over the next hour, they explain that in many families this topic is taboo and why it is important to educate boys and girls about it. They explain why access to hygienic products is essential for girls. “This is why we brought a gift for you. Later today, we will set up a Pad Making Machine in your school and teach you how to make pads.” Gamya says. “Everyone is welcome!”, she says, “We need all the strong boys we can get. The more pads we make, the more women we can help.”
Devendra is excited to join the project and make pads for his cousin – and all other girls in school. Only then he notices how often the girls used to miss classes in the past. Many boys are hesitant to join; they laugh about Devendra and ask him what he needs the pads for. Devendra doesn’t care what they think; he is just happy that he can help his cousin.
Over the next weeks and months, the school produces enough pads for all the girls in the school. The boys stopped making fun of Devendra. Most of them joined the group to make pads, and realised that working with the girls was fun. A friendly competition evolved about who can make the most pads in 5 minutes.
The girls are relieved that they don’t have to hide for weeks. They can openly talk about their condition in school, and increasingly at home as well. When they have cramps or need a pad, they are not afraid to say so.
Devendra is happy. Every morning Susmita waits for him at the corner and they walk to school, like they always do. Her parents stopped sending her away from home during her period. Finally, she doesn’t feel like anything is wrong with her anymore – she is perfectly fine.
We at Street Child United love the iniative and are wroking with other charities involved in the Street Child World Cup, encouraging them to take up similar initatives in their own countries. Street Child of Nepal Childreach Nepal.
Website of Childreach Nepal.
Illustrations by the great Natalie Loseva