Monday, November 21, 2016

Of Moon Cycles and Male Allies

Aryan Uprety is an empowering activist from Nepal, working on making allies out of men and boys and doing away with the stigma around menstruation. Here is his story. 

My name is Aryan Uprety. I am a youth from the third world, seeking positive change in society. I am 24,having been born on what is marked as International Peace Day - 21st September 1992. I am a Social Work Graduate from the Tribhuvan University, Nepal, with high first division.

I believe that helping others is a way to help ourselves. I really see myself as lucky to have had such values instilled in me by my parents. My parents taught me that helping others does not necessarily mean only supporting others through logistics or money. But, helping a person could be through simple acts such as listening to their problems, offering support and advice, and walking them through their hard times.Though I am only twenty-four, I have helped people. I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. In helping others, I have become a better person. Offering assistance to others is the best way to leave a good impression on someone. The helping nature was given a further boost at my school when I was in Grade IX. I was selected as the president of Social club of school which showed me path towards what I am born for.

Since 2009, I have been working in the field of social welfare through various organizations. It started with conducting blood donation programs in three different colleges which later encouraged me and my friends to establish a youth organization. Then later I was called to join a youth organization called “Club 25 Nepal.”This was the organization of like-minded youths like me, with the motto of voluntary blood donations and managing blood in emergency situations. I started as a member and have now been assigned as the President (2015 – 2017). Helping people to arrange for blood in emergency time is prime focus of this organization.

Apart from that, I organized a “Flag Day celebration program” in 2010 through a youth group named “Nepal Unites.”I have also participated in various youth-led programs conducted by various social organizations. I am also involved in an organization named “Force Nepal” where we work for differently able children and for conservation of environment. For differently able, we have been helping a school (Supa Inclusive School) in far west Nepal (Attariya,Kailali). For conservation of environment, we distributed 20,000 plants to children as a part of conservation of environment by conducting a project named “One Tree- My Responsibility”.  In Force Nepal, I have been working as an executive board and director for youth empowerment. Apart from it, I was involved in training sessions for youth about environmental hazards and conservation which stood as a boon to make me country coordinator for Nepal of a voluntary group named “Citizens Climate Lobby”, Coronado, California, USA.

The most important part of my life was in 2014 when I along with few friends decided to form an NGO named OLIVE Nepal (Organization for Leadership Initiative and Vivid Empowerment) where I have been working as a Founder President. The main motive was to empower youth to empower nation. After establishment of organization, we happened to face a tragic situation in Nepal by earthquake where OLIVE Nepal played its role and worked from its part to help the needy people. Recently we started a project named “SAATHI- Period her Glory”.

SAATHI- Period Her Glory" is the concept of breaking the barrier and taking a step to aware and educate young kids from school. It is a concept which is trying to break the unbound barriers created by taboos, myth and beliefs of our society. This concept tends to create positive environment in teenagers on sharing about menstruation and sexual health.

Menstrual Hygiene Management start from school level as kids happen to have their first menstruation from early age of 10 to 16 in Nepal. We intent to provide care to girls through their own initiative with the help of our campaign namingSAATHI: Period! Her Glory.At the same time, it is important for youths to be familiar with menstruation cycle and its interring connectivity with procreation. This will enhance their comfort in understanding the sensitivity of menstrual health and will encourage them to adopt proper MHM(Menstrual Hygiene Management) methods.

I know I don’t bleed every month and have a penis.But,I have seen the pain in women when they bleed. I am a human and if I don’t feel the pain in what I see, then, I am not a so-called civilized human. I have a story that I share with everyone who asks me. It is a real happening that I encountered in my childhood.

This story begins with a girl who had her first menstruation at school, like the other girls.She was my best friend. We were kids,and in Grade 6 and quite young, too young to have a proper knowledge about menstruation. We had a system of wearing white clothes on sports day, which was a Friday.It was a bad day for my friend, who had a red spot on her skirt and it was quite noticeable. She came to know about it when a friend spotted it. She was sent to the principal’s room. The principal’s room was near our classroom, so I looked through the door to see what was happening. Soon, I saw her mother coming to take her home. Later, I came to know that she had had her first period.

She was absent for six days.Due to beliefs and myths in our society, they kept her away. I was all alone, as I did not have my best friend to chat with. She later joined the class and we continued. I was too young at that time to do anything. Time flew and memory, as well. Back in October 2015, I happened to visit a brother of mine who was coordinator of a reputed school. When I was chatting with him, a girl student came to him and asked to go to the sick room. She was a bit shy and nervous. She looked like a she was from Grade 10. She said that she had a “girl’s problem” when my brother asked what the problem was.When she said so,my brother said, “Gogo!” in a hushed tone. She was menstruating and it was not the first time, as I could see from her face that she was aware of what she had to do, but was nervous about expressing it. It was a normal thing and she will bleed till she is around 40.  I then recalled the time when I was in Grade 6where my best friend gone through something worse. I realized that a girl cannot express herself natural and a man who knows about it does not respect it.

I returned to my organization. I started talking to my interns about menstruation.They were girls. They were shy, too, but when I described and talked about it in a positive way, I came to find that one of my interns had faced a similar situation.  I decided to start taking action. If a girl would startit, men tend to think of it as a woman’s stuff and ignore it.But when a male starts to talk about it and chooses to be sensitive to women’s issues,it will make them sit up and take notice. I decided to take charge of the project “SAATHI- Period her Glory” than started searching help from people and organization in various levels. A few people assured to support us, while many refused. But in the end, there were no funds. I had already decided to start this project come what may, so I started from my own pocket and with some help from the members of the organization. We started our project, intending to educate at least 100 schools, i.e., targeting a minimum of 20,000 children in the first year, and make at least 10,000 SAATHI (Friends) Group of Girls who help others.

This is how I started and don’t know how long I can go but I will do my best to make a society where young kids can openly say that they bleed and bleed every month. I want to create a society where a girl will say I am having menstruation to her teacher rather than quoting it as girl’s problem. I want to create a society where a girl doesn’t have to leave her school just because she bleeds for first time. I want to make a society where each young bid would help rather than mocking and teasing. This is who I am and this is what I am. I am Aryan and a learner, and want to be trend setter and a change maker.

We belong to an eastern society where we are guided by culture, religion and other social factors which bind us with ethics and moral values.These things make it difficult for us to do anything against the rules laid down by society. Though we live in the capital city with almost all basic needs, we lack confidence. People here are literate and belong to various social groups that are aware of what is good and what is bad, but still fear acting against some rules. People are afraid to break barriers. Though people are considered modern, ultimately, when it comes to things like acting against belief and tradition which are being practiced, not many are modern.

It is seen from the past that whenever someone is working for change, they face problems.If we can tackle those problems, we can be sure that we can bring in change.There were some issues from teachers in schools about cultural aspects and we sorted them out with counseling and giving examples around the world.

We worked with kids who were of 10 to 16 in age. The most obvious problem we faced was their shyness. In our society,older kids feel shy to share about their sexual health.There is an obvious consequence in that the younger kids were shy. We started with a few sharing sessions with our volunteers on their first menstruation, which made them feel free about talking about these topics.Later, we also had an interactive quiz and games,which made the kids more open-minded.

We educate both, boys and girls on menstruation and menstrual hygiene management. Boys too need it, as they will be men, and someday a husband, and a father. They should know what menstruation is and how they should react to it.

When we started working for change, than emotion drives us to do so for the change. We work for positive change in the society. While doing all this we forget our surface and started working on our own. When we started this work from our organization “OLIVE Nepal” we had nothing than few active fulltime volunteers. We collected fund from our pocket and asked for few doctors to help us with the research on medical aspect. We than did brief research and started the work.
The ultimate challenge we are facing at the moment is source of funding. Although we don’t have source we are working and our team has decided that we will work till the time we can afford from our pocket and in the meantime look for someone who like our work and help us in our work.

If we are working for change and on things which society does not digest so easily, we are sure to face trouble. I believe that if we don’t face trouble than we can’t say we are working for change.