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Young Visionaries Project: Women’s Health Clinic in Rural Nepal

Back in April, I won the International Women’s Health Coalition Young Visionaries 2010 contest(http://blog.iwhc.org/young-visionaries/) and was awarded a grant to increase awareness of sexual and reproductive rights and health in rural Nepal. You can read my winning entry here (http://blog.iwhc.org/2010/03/sunita-basnet/). With the $1000 award, I organized a drama and conducted a one day free health clinic near my home village of Mrigauliya. I completed both projects this summer and learned a lot from doing them. In a future entry, I’ll discuss the drama in more detail, but in this first blog post, I’d like to share my experience conducting the one day health clinic.

In Nepal, we are politically and geographically divided into 14 zones, which each contain districts. Nationally there are 75 districts, and Morang is one of them. To break it down further – Morang has 69 village development committees (VDC) and Mrigauliya, where I live, is one of them. Mrigauliya has 10 wards, which each have a population of that ranges from 500 to 1000 people.

On Tuesday May 25, 2010, Kalpana Karki, who has been working in health sector for 7 years, and I went to visit a Dalit Community, people traditionally regarded as “untouchable,” or “outcast” in a village, Mrigauliya-5 to talk about HIV and AIDS. The community is very poor; only about 5% of the own their own land. We wanted to encourage women and young people from the community to get tested for HIV by holding a one day comprehensive and confidential health clinic in their local area.

The health clinic was conducted in collaboration with Purbanchal University college of Medicine and Allied Science, which is located at the centre of Mrigauliya, Sundarpur, Dulari, and Indrapur. The University staffed the clinic with two doctors: Dr. Robin Chaudhary and Dr. Mandip pd. Bhattarai, as well as two nursing staff: Niti Laxmi Gurung, Kamala Timsina, and senior nurse in charge Anita Thapa. The two medical lab technologists Rajan Guragai and Satish Chandra Chaudhary conducted the blood draws for HIV testing. The chief secretary of the computer department Niraj Guragai and his assistants were available full time during the group HIV counselling. Along with the university, there were many nonprofit organization which helped my project by providing their valuable suggestion such as Pahal, Yuba Dristi Samaj, Women’s Saving Club and Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC).

The main reason for selecting this community to focus on is that many of the men go to abroad (mostly to India) to work. Since there are not many income generating opportunities locally, men are forced to go to abroad in order to support their families. Only women, old men, and children are left in the village. The village situation is so dejected that there are no young men even to carry corpse (in Nepal, it is a common tradition for the sons and/or son-in-laws of the deceased to ‘carry the corpse’ to its final resting place). The people, mostly women, who remain in the village, work in the informal sector. There are about 250 women in the community, and over 20 percent of them consented to be tested. When we went to Mrigauliya VDC 6, 7, 8, and 9, some of the women got angry when we told them that we were there to talk about HIV and AIDS and test their blood if they were interested. It was very hard to convince those women. It took us a few days to make it happen, but by June 6, we were able to provide HIV testing for an additional 45 women. Some of the women thought that testing for HIV would put a question mark on their husband’s behavior and were scared of the potential for violence from their husbands and the respective community. Some worried that that we would publish their name if they were HIV positive, even though I told them that the test was confidential.

I have finished the project, but still there are many things we all need to consider regarding women’s reproductive health. While talking with about 300 women, I found that married women were more vulnerable to HIV than sex workers. This may come as a surprise, butmost of the married women never use condoms while having sexual relationships with their husbands, norhave they asked their husbands to use them. Some of them have never seen condoms and are not even aware of how they look. Some of the women who were interested in using condoms after our counseling said that they are unable to afford it. The cheapest condom called panther cost two rupees to buy one piece. How can a woman buy a condom when they don’t have a single rupee in their pocket? This is a big question we all need to think about. Yes, there are many organizations who organize 2-3 days campaign to distribute free condoms but how many days will these distributed condoms last?

Based on my time working on this health clinic, I realize that many issues like HIV and women’s health are connected to others, like access to condoms and ability to negotiate safer sex. If we truly want to address the HIV epidemic in communities like Mrigauliya-5, we all need to speak up to demand improved access to a full range of contraceptive services for women and girls in Nepal.
this report was previously published at IWHC website on August 18 on the topic "Young Visionaries Project: Women's Health Clinic in Rural Nepal". You can find here http://blog.iwhc.org/2010/08/young-visionaries-project-womens-health-cli...

Comments

JaniceW's picture

Much to think about

Sunita,
Congratulations on successfully conducting HIV workshops and testing for the villages in your district. From what you have shared, it seems that these women are severely neglected when it comes to social services and although you met with resistance at first, clearly there is a great need for the women to become educated about their health and reproduction. I look forward to hearing what sustainable solutions you come up with to address the lack of contraceptive services and your ongoing work in this area.

Hardik subhakamana,
Janice

sunita.basnet's picture

Call the government!

Hello Janice,

Thank you for your wonderful wishes. Yes, ofcourse they are many more we need to do. Investing money in women's education can be a best way to eradicate poverty and lessen any form of discrimination against women. I am still thinking for the sustainable solution to address the lack of contraceptives service. I will let you know as soon as I come up with any innovative ideas. BTW, while writing the previous sentence, something came up in my idea, I think we all need to start petition to request governemnt to provide free contraceptive services. What do you think didi?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Victoria Vorosciuc's picture

Solution

Dear sunita!
Congratulation on this report.
It really envisions me with who you are and what you do within your community.
I suddenly remembered a link to a really nice health innitiatives in rural areas promotion http://www.healthright.org/news/article/which-world-video.

I am saddened due to the situation you describes with women and protection.
As longs as there is lack of finance, maybe you could provide some trainigns to your target group in teaching couples how, men and women at the same time or separately in how to count the period by days and whe is the most active time phase of the pregnancy.

I bet it will not be easy...

Keep your great work!

With respect,
Vic

Victoria Vorosciuc
Project Coordinator
"Empowering women to participate
in community life"
WorldPulse Media Corresspondent

sunita.basnet's picture

sustainable??

Dear Victoria,

Thanks for your suggestion but I don't think it will be effective because of two reasons. First, We all human beings are not equal capable of remembering things so remebering date minght be impossible. Second, All women are not literate to check mark in the calendar when they have period. Oh! Yeah! Providing imformation about safe period and most active time phase for pregnancy might work somewhat to control the birth rate.

Once again thanks for your suggestion dear! last but not the least, How are you dear?

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

nilima's picture

Congratulations

hey sunita,

many many congratulations and i am proud of you!!!

sunita.basnet's picture

Thank you

Hello Nilima,

Thank your for your wonderful wishes. I am happy to make you feel proud. I am just doing what as a sister, daughter and a wife need to do. Once again thank you.

Last but not the least, How are you sweetie?

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

nilima's picture

WOW

how wonderful you are in person too!! i am fine and doing my best!!

all my best wishes are always with you sunita! and may your work inspire many!!

thank u so much

sunita.basnet's picture

Horrayyyy!

Hi There,
Nice to hear from you.
Thank you dear!

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Great Job!

Dear Sunita,
Your passion and hard work transforms humanity. Congratulations for the hard work done with this project. Your report gives insight into the realities of health issues on the ground.
More Grease to your elbows!
Best

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

sunita.basnet's picture

Thank you

Dear Gifty,

Thank you so much for your beautiful words. I believe on you, you too have an inspiration to encourgae and support others.
Love you dear.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

deanssbeans's picture

Sharing a wonderful idea with you

Dear Sarita

I was very moved by your report. Several years ago, we created a project in Guatemala that combined a village bank with health care training for indigenous women. It ran successfully for seven years as probably the world's first self-funding women's health care program. I would be happy to share the project, what worked, what didn't, with you and anyone else at WorldPulse who has an interest.

With care and great respect,

dean

sunita.basnet's picture

You are alway welcome

Dear Dean,

Thank you so much for your inspiring comment after a long time. How are you? Where have been upto till today?

Reagarding you project, Wow! really!! I cannot wait to read your journal about your project. Please please share with us. I cannot wait to read your journal.

I would also like to make a small comment regarding a name, I am "Sunita" not "Sarita"

Thanks
Sunita

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Aida Dervishi's picture

Dear Sunita, Congratulation

Dear Sunita,

Congratulation on your great job trying and make a positive impact in the life of people in rural areas. The world needs more women like you having the passion for change and working hard in achieving their goals.

Such a great success story!

Warm Regards,
Aida.

Please join this network in Facebook http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/group.php?gid=115035485007&ref=ts

sunita.basnet's picture

Thank you!

Dear Aida,

Thanks alot for your wonderful wishes. I have already join the program. Keep in touch.

Best regards
Sunita

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

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