Cheyenne Quilter, USA

As a rising junior in college, I had the opportunity this summer to work with the Radha Paudel Foundation in Nepal, focusing on outreach within the community and business management plans within the foundation’s sanitary pad factory. While helping with outreach for this foundation, I went with Alisha Paudel to a variety of schools in varying social class areas and gave presentations about the importance of dignified menstruation. During these presentations, I specifically focused on the importance of youth having the confidence to stop the tradition of menstrual cycle restrictions, as these restrictions not only teach young children that a women’s menstrual cycle is impure but also creates inequality between genders. I never knew how prevalent the inequality in gender was within Nepal until I started interviewing students (boys and girls) and asking them their thoughts on menstrual restrictions. Almost all girls said they did not understand why they still have menstrual cycle restrictions and it made them feel like they were in a person. However, a minority of the boys believed menstrual cycle restrictions were either needed because it was tradition or because it was impure. Though the difference between the girls and boy’s responses were hard to hear, it showed the need for changes to occur within Nepal and the best way to do this is through the youth becoming the advocates for this change. Youth’s role in dignifying menstruation is not just a women’s role. Alisha Paudel illustrated the need for both genders’ cooperation in dignifying menstruation when she was talking with principals and administration at different schools. After listening to Alisha’s conversations, I not only was convinced but inspired by her arguments that both genders need to embrace the menstrual cycle and loved talking with students on how to build their confidence to speak up about this issue.

Outside of spreading awareness and education with Alisha Paudel, I also had the chance to work with the foundation’s sanitary pad factory. During the first week, I had a chance to observe and take picutres of general operations at the factory. The second two weeks, I helped by  building a social media platform which included creating a website, Facebook pages and YouTube for the sanitary pad factory and the Active Women Forum for Justice.  To help with the longevity of the sanitary pad factory, I spent one week observing day to day operations and spoke with their key leadership then created a one-year business plan for them. This business plan included SMART Goals, steps needed for each SMART goal, challenges and obstacles that might occur and how to overcome those obstacles and recommendations for annual goals. Finally, I worked with the Radha Paudel’s foundation in both their Kathmandu and Chitwan offices to better understand the foundation’s goals and objectives and gave an overarching recommendation on how they can gain more support on a global level.

Through the different experiences I had with the foundation, I learned so much about compassionate, gender differences, and how tradition creates restrictions from Alisha Paudel and Anupa Regmi, one of the founders of the Foundation. While I was in Chitwan, Alisha not only exemplified a voice for dignified menstruation but helped translate between Nepalese and English for me at many of the schools and conferences we spoke at. Similar to Alisha’s amazing leadership and knowledge on dignified menstruation, was Anupa Regmi’s leadership and compassion that she used while running the foundation in Kathmandu. It was a blessing to be able to not only talk with Anupa about the foundation and how she thinks it could improve, but also to hear about her experiences as a nurse in relation to women’s rights. I had no idea how high the abortion rate in Nepal was and how gender dynamics impacted this until I worked with Anupa. Alsiha and Anupa’s compassion and knowledge illustrated the importance of proactive solutions of communities instead of reactive.

Through the different tasks I completed for the foundation, I learned the importance of being specific when communicating, especially when there is a language barrier. I also learned the need for empathy. No matter where I was in Nepal, strangers would help give me directions or recommendations at tourist destinations with such genuine kindness to me, a foreigner in their country. Going forward I hope to continue to work with the foundation through helping manage their social media platforms and helping write grants for them. As well, after seeing the amount of gender inequality and its effects on their society, I wanted to try and help this problem by building up women’s confidence by working with schools to give them self-guided confidence journals for their students, with the help of the Radha Paudel Foundation.

For anybody interested in working with the Radha Paudel Foundation, I would highly recommend taking the opportunity. I not only had the chance to directly work with students and teach them the importance of dignified menstruation but learned so much about the Nepalese culture from the employees at the sanitary pad factory, Alisha Paudel and her family, and Anupa Regmi.