Roshani is improving access to menstrual products in Nepal
Updated: May 30, 2022
We are excited to share the progress that Roshani Karki Sapkota has made during her RISE Fellowship. Before becoming a RISE Fellow, Roshani was working on improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene in rural Nepal, but was worried about the longevity of her organisation. Previously, Wine to Water Nepal were reliant on international donations to fund their work. Through joining RISE, Roshani has adopted an income generating model which will support her organization's sustainability.
Continue reading below to learn more about what Roshani has been able to accomplish through her fellowship.
“What have you accomplished during the RISE Fellowship?”
I was proud to be selected to join RISE by Sundara’s team as a fellow last year. Over the past six months, I have received seed funding and mentorship, helping me to develop my skills, ideas and our organization’s digital presence. My organization, KHUSHI Enterprise - for women by women” works to provide reusable sanitary napkins to low-income menstruating females and adolescent girls at a very affordable cost.
We have trained and employed two women to produce reusable pads and we then sell them in the local markets. We also partner with NGOs in rural Nepali communities who distribute our products to marginalized women. In addition to our pad making initiative, we also provide menstrual hygiene education classes to ensure that women are able to make informed decisions when managing their periods. Our vision is to grow the business and provide more employment opportunities to rural women across various districts in Nepal.
Before creating KHUSHI with RISE, my organization, Wine to Water Nepal, was purely reliant on Wine to Water USA to fund our operating costs and we were worried about the long term existence of our organization. Therefore, we applied for the RISE Fellowship with a social enterprise model which would generate revenue (by selling menstrual pads), increase access to menstrual products, employ women and we can donate a percentage of proceeds towards our non-profit. The seed funding that we have received from RISE enabled us to train our employees, purchase sewing machines and other materials needed to start the business.
“Since the beginning of your fellowship, how many women have you supported?”
Before becoming a RISE Fellow, I worked in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector for seven years. I have seen first-hand how limited access to WASH has a bigger impact on women than men in a biological, cultural, social and economic sense. Therefore, as a team, we decided to make menstrual hygiene, a predominantly female issue, our main focus.
We have been able to distribute our reusable pads to +100 low-income women and have seen that when we provide menstrual hygiene education to a small group of women, our impact ripples through the nearby communities, as the women that we work with share their knowledge with their friends and families.
Other than the women who we have reached during our MHM training and distribution, we have been able to provide full-time employment for two women, Anushova and Deepa, who are living in the communities that we are working in.
Anushova could not continue her education so she joined a six-months training program to become a seamstress. Through gaining employment, she has become financially independent and can now financially support her family. She has expressed her gratitude for the employment as she did not have a guaranteed and continuous supply of work beforehand.
Additionally, Deepa is grateful that she can provide a secure future for her nine-year-old daughter. Deepa is proud of her job as she gets to support other women in her community through her work. She is passionate about eradicating period poverty and is grateful to gain an income whilst doing so.
“What was the community's access to Sanitary Napkins like before the fellowship and how has this changed over the past 6 months?”
In Nepal, women cannot afford to purchase disposable sanitary pads due to their poor economic status. Instead, women have no choice but to use unhygienic scraps of material, leaves, newspapers etc., during their cycle. Not only are these methods ineffective, but they are also unhygienic and lead to infection. Women are unable to prioritize menstrual products as a core and necessary item and will spend their limited money on other necessities that benefit the whole family.
Through this fellowship, we have developed a Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) program (supported by the Nepali government in an attempt to encourage families to keep their female children in school). We provide training and distribute the reusable sanitary pads to the girls. This supports the beneficiaries to be aware of myths, reduce taboo and allow them to understand the importance of making hygiene products a priority. We have been able to provide this training to over 100 women and girls in the past 6 months and we have found that the women are interested in learning how to make the reusable pads as an alternative livelihood option.
“How do you think you have inspired other young girls in Nepal?”
When I visit indigenous communities, the locals are often surprised to see a woman as an entrepreneur in a leadership position. In the indigenous communities, we have an issue with young girls being forced into child marriage and teenage pregnancies, meaning that they are forced to leave school to raise their families. As a result, women are rarely seen to further their studies and work in leadership positions as they do not have the qualifications to support them.
Through improving access to menstrual hygiene supplies and advocating for female students, we hope to create an encouraging environment at their schools and within their homes so that they can complete their education. I believe my presence in these communities and schools challenges the status quo and inspires young girls to rethink their own capabilities and dreams. Menstruation should not end a child’s education and my team is working hard to change the ‘should’ to ‘does’.
“What do you envision the future of Wine to Water Nepal looking like? What are your plans? How can people continue to follow your journey?"
We envision a world where everyone in Nepal has access to water sanitation and hygiene services. Our goal is to improve the health and economic status of the most unreached populations in rural Nepal. KHUSHI pads has the potential to become a sustainable income source which will help us to achieve our goal whilst funding the work of Wine to Water Nepal.
“Is there anything else that you would like to share?"
I would like to extend my gratitude to the donors and mentors who made my fellowship possible and provided me with the opportunity to create KHUSHI. For the past 6 months, I have filled in monthly reporting forms, attended check-in calls and connected with mentors who held me accountable for the creation of KHUSHI pads.
At the beginning of the fellowship, we set a goal to produce 2,000 units of reusable pads by the end of this year. However, we managed to achieve this within the first four months of our establishment. We are excited to expand KHUSHI as a social enterprise to make more reusable hygienic products and I would like to thank everyone who has supported the RISE Fellowship.