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By Renu Kshetry
KATHMANDU, Nepal – Lessons on menstrual health and hygiene will soon form part of the curriculum for students in schools across Nepal.
The subject will be taught in grades 4 through 10 following revisions to the science, health and physical education curriculum recently approved by the education ministry’s Curriculum Development Centre (CDC).
The changes are based on recommendations put forward by the Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management Partners’ Alliance (MHMPA), a multi-stakeholder platform for the exchange of ideas advancing dignified menstruation initiatives in Nepal and beyond, established by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) in 2017.
“The curriculum will have a long-lasting impact on the growing age children,” said Mr Guna Raj Shrestha, national convener of MHMPA. Mr Shrestha, WSSCC’s National Coordinator in Nepal from 2013 to 2018, has been leading the MHMPA since its establishment.
The CDC, part of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, is required to revise the curriculum of all school subjects from grade 1 to 12 every five years. The MHMPA, as an active member of CDC curriculum revision committee, proposed the inclusion of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) from the perspective of hygiene management and human rights and dignity, rather than only from the reproductive angle.
“We felt that this approach would be effective, as it should be holistic rather than just focus on the reproductive aspect,” said Mr Shrestha.
Ms Suman Silwal, a focal point at the CDC, describes the value seen in the MHMPA recommendations.
“We have realized that the recommendations from the MHMPA were useful because they were founded on evidence-based research, already tested and based on various studies which could eventually help improve understanding of menstrual hygiene by teachers and students,” Ms Silwal said.
She explained that the revised curriculum would be phased in over five years to accommodate the development of new textbooks.
“This year, grades 1 and 12 will be implemented, and within the next five years the curriculum for all grades will be fully revised,” she said.
The MHMPA submitted its recommendations to the CDC in June 2019, through the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens.
Given that some girls begin their menstruation as early as by the end of grade 4, MHMPA suggested that information on adolescent phase menstruation, and on the symptoms experienced when having a period, be introduced in grade 4 instead of in grade 5.
“It will help them be better prepared,” said Mr Shrestha.
The MHMPA proposed that chapters on dignified menstruation, the reproductive phase cycle, menstruation myths and misconceptions, and scientific facts on menstruation be included in grade 9 studies of Health, Population and Environment Education, with the addition of lessons on discrimination and legal provisions in grade 10.
“We hope that including these issues in the curriculum will create an environment for students and teachers to break the silence about menstruation and help them push the societal barriers with correct information,” said Mr Durga Nepal, a member of the MHMPA and WASH officer with WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund and UN-Habitat.
“This is a huge achievement on the MHMPA’s part because it will fulfil our objective of making a long-lasting, positive impact in the lives of young girls by preparing them better on menstrual hygiene management,” said Mr Shrestha.
WSSCC started the initiative of the MHMPA in 2017 with the objective of establishing a national hub for MHM knowledge, building and strengthening national institutions and mechanism at national and sub-national levels for dignified menstruation, sustain implementation of coordinated and integrated MHM initiatives.