Let me share my dream on how Global South Coalition for Dignified Menstruation (GSCDM) initially emerged.
It was May 27,2013 in Manila, Philippines, the second day of my attendance in the International Conference on Peace. During the conference, I challenged my colleagues and fellow participants- “If we are seeking for tangible peace, we must take into consideration the work needed on Menstruation discrimination, restrictions including Chhaupadi.” I was met with deep level of ignorance and silence among all the participants; even my Nepali colleagues said that while it used to be an issue in Nepal but is already abolished. I felt more than isolated, disappointed, and alone. It was at that moment, I became ever so determined to spread the word of Dignified Menstruation in the menstrual movement (Menstrual Talk, Dignity first) at a global level. Although, I had already spoken in other international forums in USA, Germany, and other countries in Asia, the silence in this international peace conference spoke volumes to me about the lack of awareness about dignified menstruation. Following this, I started the long and tedious research diligently to dig out every aspect of menstruation from its roots, to the history of the menstrual movement throughout time. Deliberately, it proved to be very challenging, not only in Nepal but globally. Due to my sole focus on menstruation and determination to bring menstruation as a critical issue in the global level, I experience extreme isolation, blaming, without any support from the government to NGOs/INGOs to private sectors, UN, and more. Regardless, I craved out the space needed for menstruation. In 2012, I was recognized internationally as a Peace-Maker (Women Peace Maker and N-Peace Award 2012) and using that platform I spoke about menstruation by showing its interrelationships with peace, gender-based violence, and human rights. I spoke in many organizations about menstruation and although my papers, and participation were modified by the organizers, I remained accommodative and used any platform, determined to bring the issues surrounding menstruation forward; I reached out to various global forums such as APWLD (2016), SMCR (2017, 2019), CSW (2017), RHSC (2015 onwards), WSSCC (2017), Women Deliver and many Universities, forums in USA, Canada, Europe, United Kingdom and many others. Throughout history, Menstruation has been in discourse however the UN barely recognized it in 2014. Since then, the media and NGO have pour their attention to the menstrual movement but have only been focused on hygiene/health; either water or products or shed; and while these are important aspects, without talking about dignity during menstruation, no real change regards to dignity will take place. There are many testimonies of this already; or instance, Kenya has been freely distributing sanitary pads since 2017 but due to the social stigma, shame, taboo surrounding menstruation and the adverse consequences on individuals who menstruate, young girl committed suicide: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/sep/13/kenyan-schoolgirl-14-kills-herself-after-alleged-period-shaming-by-teacher
`Dignified Menstruation' is critical, and in need of urgent understanding and implementation across all levels and actors of the menstrual movement. Most importantly, we need to have the urgent conversation `Menstrual Talk, Dignity First'. Sadly, it is still not getting any space. The most global leaders still remain silent while talking about the UHC (Universal Health Coverage 2030), Nairobi Summit 2019 and I am sure many global movements will forget about menstruation again due to their ignorance; discrimination against menstruation is almost always at the root of inequities surrounding peace, human rights, and SDG. Few links for reference: https://www.change.org/p/info-nairobisummiticpd-org-include-dignifiedmenstruation-in-nairobisummit-icpd25
Few of my friends who are working as external partners and in NGOs do not see the possibility of menstrual equity due to the lack of funding, poor English, and less-than attractive features like a website. Additionally, it is lead by an ordinary “powerless” in the traditional sense woman from Nepal. And yes, it is true, we do not have money, political reach, or a vast network but we have the pain, the passion and an undying commitment - we are survivors and an ally for survivors. More importantly, it is blue ocean strategy means no competition at all. We are from the Global South. We believe that external partners who believe in justice, who believe in equality, who believe in human rights and who believe in survivor-lead approach, they will definitely be with us. We have the soul and heart to work passionately for dignified menstruation and we need Global South leadership because we are from marginalized communities FOR the marginalized communities. Many activists, scholars, academia and others, through research, have recognized that the sufferer's leadership is essential for sustainable social movement and transformation. GSCDM is the perfect example for this.
In this connection, we have been reaching out with individuals, organizations and networks across Nepal (more than 90 % of the organizations) and across the globe through direct and indirect means (16 Days VAW, The ASEAN Secretariat, Asian Institute of Management, ARROW, Aakar Innovation, BRICS, Bejing 25+ network, CEDAW Vice- Chair, CEDAW working committee, FAR, Interfaith Network UK, Hongkong, Indonesia, Men Engage Alliance, MHM PA Alliance, MHM African Alliance, Menstrual Hub, Mediation Beyond Boarders, Rotary International, Serona India, Sangat, SMCR, N-Peace Network, Universities, Women Peace Maker Network, WUNRN, Women In Black, Wash United, WSCC, Women Deliver etc).
In Nepal, we had person to person meeting, phone calls, announcement in meetings/programs with Amnesty International, Asian Development Bank, Action for Hunger, AmplifyChange (NGOS), Action Aid Nepal, ADARA Group, Development, BBC, Banks, Blue Diamond Society, BNMT, Colleges, Chaudhary Foundation, ChrisChurch, CEDAW Vice -Chair, CARE Nepal, Dan Church, Dignity Without Danger (NGOs), Days for Girls (Nepal/USA), DFID, DPNE, Dhartimaata Sustainable Workshop, EU, FWLD, Habitat Nepal, HELVITAS, VSO Nepal/International, Faith Network, Female Youth Nepal, ESCR Network, FRL Italy, FWLD, Finland Embassy, GIZ, Good Neighbourhood International, JURI Nepal, LACC, Media, Mercy Corps/BASE Nepal, Men Engage Alliance (Nepal and Global), Mitini Nepal, National Federation of the Disabled Nepal, Nepal Disabled Women Association, N-Peace Network, NGO Federation, Nepal Health Corps, OXFAM, Pharmaceutical Limited, Plan International, RWMP, Qtar Airlines, South Asian Women's Chamber of Commerce, Swiss Red Cross, Safer World, SNV, Sambikash, TDH (both), Tribhuvan University, UNICEF, UN Women, UNFPA, UNDP, USAID, United Emirates Airline, World Bank, Water Aid Nepal, White Ribbon Alliance (USA/Nepal), Welthungerhilife, WOREC/ LOOM, YOSHAN, World Vision International, WFP, WHO etc.
We also reached out Malala, Hon. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (NewZeland), Hon. Prime Minister Sanna Marin (Finland), Cindy Sirinya Bishop (Thailand).
Regards to government in Nepal, briefed and submitted documents to Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens, Ministry of Water Supply, Ministry of Health, National Planning Commission, Chair of Parliamentarian Committees, National Human Right Commission, National Women Commission, Association of Rural Municipalities for ownership, leadership, collaborations and partnership.
We started from zero penny. Now, we have passionate friends and organizations are already on board. Please refer to the website for the committed organizations and we are still high demand of fund for successfully completion of the conference. The admin and financial matters are handled through the Radha Paudel Foundation as a secretariat office.
Soft Net, Mr. Sunil Rijal is taking care of our website. For other's partnership, encourage to visit the website under the partners to know the partners who are working with us.
Despite the funding, we have experience various forms of challenges, we won't ever go back; we will do whatever is possible from our side and continue trying to reach out to our allies and supporters because going back will certainly mean death of thousands of innocent lives and livelihood. In order to save your daughters, granddaughters, every single individual, and the entire planet, erase the thought of blaming, putting us down and urge each of you to contribute whatever is possible from your side as an individual and organization.
Eventually, Feb 3, 2020 , Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen confirmed for leading this Workshop along with National Human Right Commission, Nepal. We are very encouraged and grateful for this.
Its high time to make Menstruation Dignified.
Please do feel free to contact us, if you have anything.
Thank you for reading this letter.
On behalf of GSCDM, I am eternally grateful.
In Love, Peace and Solidarity!
Radha Paudel, MDM, MA, MEd, BN
Update: Jan 3, 2020