A step towards improving nutrition of Chepang Community

Aruna Khulal

My journey as an ECCA Counselor started in 2017, when I got a chance to work in remote areas of Nepal with a motto of improving living standards (such as health, hygiene, nutrition, and education status) of local villagers. Working in a community level is in itself challenging, but among all, working in Chepang community is found to be the most challenging. There are an indigenous isolated community; deprived of even basic facilities like electricity, mobile phone network, education, health and roads. Children have to walk miles to reach school, while, in case of health facilities, people still prefer traditional healing methods till date.

Few months ago, I got a chance to visit Chepang community located at Rapti-13, Chitwan to conduct training on nutrition and home kitchen gardening. I was so excited. I prepared myself mentally and physically because I was aware that it was not going to be an easy cakewalk (we have to walk miles carrying own stuff, as there is no road facility). After arriving there, I realized that the place is far more isolated than I had imagined. At first, it was difficult to conduct the training, as most of the people were scared of speaking and sharing their thoughts. But, as they became familiar with me, they started sharing their stories related to food and life style, which was inspiring and heart-touching at the same time.

I still remember, how clearly Laxman Praja (the only male participant in the training) described the community nutritional status to me. “Few years back our living condition was even worse than now. There used to be scarcity of food. Now, most of us get enough to eat twice a day (mainly dhido and lentils/sisnu), while rice and meat during festivals. Previously, our grandparents completely depended on the forest for food (collecting githa, vyakur, hunting) but now we have started cultivating crops / vegetables. I don’t know much about nutrients but I heard that we get vitamin from spinach.”

The training program turned more into an interaction where the participants shared their stories and queries associated with food. An old lady, Jhupimaya Praja shared her heart touching sad story by pointing to a picture of a malnourished child; and said that her two children used to look like the one from the picture, so she took them to a traditional healer, but only one child survived. She added that, she thought her child passed away due to evil power but now she realized that the child died due to lack of proper nutrients.

It still brings a big smile on my face when I remember the last day of training, when a group of ladies told me that now they are aware about different essential nutrients, now onward they will grow more vegetables and try to consume proper food, more than in the normal times during menstruation, pregnancy and lactation period. It’s not a huge change, but I believe that small changes can make a big difference.

ECCA, with the financial support from “BMZ and action medeor”, has already sown seeds of change, which will hopefully give good crops in the near future. Moreover, I am so grateful to be a part of change maker.

Facilitating session on nutrition 1Facilitator facilitating a session regarding balance dietPrepare vegitables in nutrition session 1

Eyewitness of improvement in Menstrual Hygiene Practices among Chepang Women

Merina Rana Magar

I am one of the Counsellors of ECCA engaged since 2015 and also one of the eyewitnesses of the improvement in menstruation hygiene management (MHM) of Chepang women in different communities of Chitwan, Rapti Municipality-13, while being involved as a facilitator during several time periods in the project site. The local Chepang women did hesitate to share about their menstrual practices on the first day of the orientation. Later on, they themselves shared that they are very happy to receive such kind of training. They even shared that they used to hesitate to talk about menstruation in the past even within their family. But now, they are confident enough to increase awareness and the right knowledge to other females and even to the male members of their community. Also, after the orientation, women’s group even organized door to door visits to spread information on improving menstruation management practices. I got surprised that they developed plans for different awareness raising activities related to menstruation hygiene within a short period.

Menuka Praja, who is a local counselor of Symrang said, “I hesitated at first to demonstrate how to use sanitary pad but after involvement in the orientation on MHM and WASH, those hesitations turned into confidence and got success to teach the proper way of using sanitary pads to other menstruating females of my community”. This is really an immense pleasure for me to see such an effective and meaningful changes. Samjhana Praja, President of Jagriti Women group also shared that previously, she had been neglecting proper menstruation hygiene practices but after the orientation, she realized its importance and promised to maintain the good practice.

There is still a lot to change. But, I am now more confident after observing their awareness activities that the Chepang women will definitely bring changes in their menstrual hygiene practices. I am so pleased to see that their commitment (made during the orientation program) to practice, improve, and maintain their personal and menstrual hygiene practices is being implemented. Due to getting regular request, a set of sanitary pads and underwear were distributed to each women of ward number 13, Rapti Municipality through women groups. Underwear was required since most of Chepang women did not have the habit of wearing underwear even during the normal days.

While returning back from the village, I met Sabina Chepang who shared her story, “Though I had requested my mother several times to buy sanitary pads for me, she always forced me to use old torn cloths. After participating in the orientation on MHM and waste management conducted by ECCA, she provided me reusable sanitary pads and she also started using them. I am always thankful to ECCA for the change”. Most of the menstruating females have now stopped using old torn unhygienic cloth and have started using sanitary pad.

Kamala Praja, local counsellor of Santhali shared that she is glad to be part of this project, to be a part of the change, and see the improvement in women’s attitude towards menstrual and personal hygiene practices in her community. She is also thankful towards ECCA and the supporting organizations.

I am really grateful and pleased that ECCA chose to work for those communities. I got an opportunity to see their life and the hardships they go through, with my own eyes. I am also very grateful to our supporting organizations BMZ and action medeor for this project, where dreams are turning into the reality for those Chepang women!

Merina Rana Magar

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Taking a session

Member of womens group explaining the use of reuseale sanitary pad

Women group members making home visits

Usha Chepang 1 - distribution among women groups

Chepang women after receiving reusable sanitary napkins

Improving the living standard through better bee keeping practices

Nitin Maharjan, Counselor, ECCA

Working as a counselor from 2015, I got the opportunity to be involved in various project sites. However, I never thought I would see such a situation where most of the people don’t even have enough food to eat. Few months back, I was involved for conducting bee-keeping training in the Chepang community in Rapti Municipality, Chitwan.

From the preparation period I heard a lot about Kanda, the Chepang village. No proper road access, no phone and internet communication, bumpy jeep ride up to Cheuding, and thereafter hike for about 6 to 8 hours, carry all your stuffs and the training materials, scattered households and threat from a “Jungle man”. Though the hike was through a jungle path, which was challenging, I was enjoying the view, walking with all my stuffs, and training materials. We started our walk (from the nearest road head) at 1 pm and reached the village at 9:30 pm. I still feel scared when I remember how we walked through the night and reached the destination – Kanda.

From early morning, I was busy gathering the participants with the help of local teachers and local counselor youths. During the training, all the participants listened carefully about the bee keeping process, methods, tools, bee life cycle, pollination and floral calendar.  One of the participants shared that they felt lucky to get practical knowledge on modern bee keeping technique. They are hopeful to increase their income through honey production and marketing. Such income generation activity will further help to support their children’s education and improve their life quality.

Mr. Jaber Singh Chepang, one of the participants, remarked “Our village have lots of possibility on bee keeping, which we are presently practicing in a traditional way. This training made us realize that we can improve our traditional way of bee keeping and improve our living standard by selling honey. Additionally, I request to provide us bee hive making training, which will be helpful to sustain the bee keeping.”

The participants committed to share their knowledge to other villagers too. At the end of the day, we had very fruitful discussion with the participants on how to contribute towards improving school facilities and education. While returning from Kanda, on the way, I met one local youth counselor from Waswang. After interaction with her, I came to know that her family had received bee-keeping materials support from the project. She was now going to the market in Bhandara (in the south plains next to the national highway) for selling honey. She informed that her family will earn around NPR 3,000 during the harvesting season. She also shared that her family also eat honey to improve their nutrition and health.

I never thought that such small support can create an impact to improve livelihood in the Chepang community. I am sure that through modern bee keeping practices, Chepang community will improve their living standard, nutrition, health and children education. I always wanted to work in such a community based activity, which has been fulfilled through being involved in the bee keeping training. I am thankful to the supporting organizations BMZ and action medeor for helping the Chepang people to improve their living standard by themselves.

On the way to Kanda

On the way to Kanda

Practical session

Practical session

demonstration of bee hive by the participant

Demonstration of bee hive

facilatator facilating about arifical feeding

About artificial feeding

Group photo

Group photo

The changes brought by small efforts

Sabin Bharati, ECCA Counselor, 2019

After participating in Counselor Training Camp organized by ECCA in 2019, I got the chance to get involved as a facilitator in ECCA’s project sites. My first assigned responsibility was to facilitate two children camps in Rastriya Basic School, Harrabisuna and Hattisunde Basic School, Gundi; both situated in ward number 13, Rapti Municipality, Chitwan. Chepang community residing in that region was totally different from my community. Though I, along with other team members, were informed about the challenges in that area, the extent of those challenges (such as lack of transportation, electricity, communication, safe drinkable water, and poor personal hygiene, school environment & education quality) still surprised us.

It takes almost 6-8 hours to reach Chepang community from Kathmandu due to bad road condition. With limited houses in Chepang community and no hotel accommodation, we camped in the schools. From the next day, we were very excited to start our sessions for the students. It really shocked me to see the students coming to school in bare foot wearing old torn clothes and without any education materials. Even at 12 noon, very few students had arrived. When I asked a teacher about the students’ attendance, he replied that local practice is going to work in the field in the morning time. The villagers have lunch around 11 am and it takes 30 minutes to reach school for the students. Luckily, we could start children camp from 1 pm. Practical sessions on personal hygiene (hand washing techniques, brushing teeth, washing clothes and bathing) and environmental cleanliness, herbal garden, paper recycling proved to be most effective during the training.

We also provided meal and refreshment to the participants. As a result, many students attended the training on the second day. It was hard for us to manage all resource materials and meals to all of them but we still were successful. On the last day, we established a small group of nature club and developed action plan with the help of a teacher, who is also responsible for organizing the planned activities.

After organizing 4 days children camp in Rastriya Basic School, we moved to the second school named Hattisunde Basic School, where I found the situation similar as before. After conducting children camp in two schools, I returned home with mixed feeling on whether or not they will follow the lessons, how changes will be seen later in the students’ behavior and so on. I also did not forget the teachers’ response and commitment. He had stated that nobody had ever organized such training program for the students in their school and they will now play active role to improve their school situation.

So, I really got excited when I got another chance to be involved in Refresher Children Camp, to be conducted in the same school in Harrabisuna. I was excited to see the changes. The first impression was that of the classroom, school and surrounding compound. They were now using water filters for drinking purpose, more number of students have started attending school than before, and students have improved their personal hygiene. I feel sad to hear that they could not maintain their herbal garden regularly due to lack of fencing facilities in their school. While conducting sessions, I asked several questions for revision which they answered correctly.

We also distributed personal hygiene kits during this Refresher Camp and taught them how to use it. This kit contained soap, handkerchief, Medicare shampoo to remove head lice, nail cutter, toothpaste, tooth brush and so on. The students were really excited to use such materials. Next day when I went to the school, I was glad to see all of them using it properly.

One of the parents Mrs. Lalu Praja shared that the children were excited to come to school when such trainings are organized from time to time. The children said, “If our teachers also teach us in such new ways along with different teaching materials, we would attend school regularly.”

While interacting with the locals, teachers and students in that area, they expressed pleasure and thanked the project, ECCA and supporting organizations. Seeing this, I felt very happy that our small efforts and guidance has brought changes to improve their behavior and attitude towards WASH and nutrition. I look forward to be involved in further project activities in Chepang area and eye witness further changes!

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ECCA in Menstruation Hygiene Management

Yogendra Chitrakar

In 2008 when ECCA was more focusing on school environment, one female counselor suggested to think also on girl friendly toilet for Menstruation Hygiene Management (MHM), so as to improve school attendance of girl students. That time, MHM was not much talked in the WASH sector and it was not so common to talk on this issue.

Since ECCA’s mission is to create a platform for the youths and respect their ideas, her idea was shared with other counselors. The response was overwhelming. Everyone was so touched and opened so well that they discussed about it very easily. To further understand the issues, ECCA opened some prizes for research on MHM scenario in Nepal. That study provided the basic scenario of MHM in Nepal and concluded to include MHM within WASH and school environment improvement program. Thereafter, ECCA had several interactions among ECCA counsellors on understanding the issues and on how to make it simple to provide training and make it comfortable to all the school stakeholders.

All school stakeholders appreciated the intervention of MHM in schools and communities. The schools became so open to discuss on MHM that it facilitated well and made easy for girl students. It was also made easy by the nature club members. So, they are the heroes for breaking this taboo in the schools.

During MHM training in Lothar village of Chitwan, one student mentioned about often seeing bleeding from senior women while they were walking but could not understand how. The student suggested providing MHM training to women in the villages so they could take care of themselves. Thereafter, ECCA female counselors provided training to women as well. During the training they questioned many issues which they did not know or understand what was happening to them. Many of them had never used sanitary napkins during menstruation period, while some of them mentioned using waste dirty clothes.

After obtaining feedback from some women experts on drawbacks of disposal napkins and its negative effects on women health, and also to provide cheaper solution, ECCA focused on the use of reusable sanitary napkins. For this, ECCA provided the platform to the household women by providing training and required materials to stitch reusable sanitary napkins.

ECCA is presently mobilizing the health workers, female counselors, local youths and local women groups to spread the knowledge on MHM and make/distribute reusable sanitary napkins. The girl students are now happy and it has been found to have good impact in increasing school attendance and enrollment.

We are glad to be able to contribute.

Bimala Chepang -making of sanitary pad

Orientation for village women

A member from women group and student sewing pad cloth

Training on making reusable sanitary napkin

Jali Maya Praja -door to door

Door-to-door visit to orient the household members

students with washable sanitary napkins

Students with reusable sanitary napkins

An attempt to fight COVID-19

Ashmita Rai, ECCA

With the ongoing national lockdown, virtual communication with my colleagues has been the major schedule of work life these days. Among so many discussions till date, our talk about all the possibilities and way forward to address the challenges and unpredictable times brought by the outbreak of COVID-19 was something serious since the initial lockdown days. And, as a result, ECCA came to a conclusion to continue the production of chlorine solution, a handy household disinfectant.

Since many years, ECCA has been promoting Safe Drinking Water Campaign in Nepal by using electro-chlorinator devices (named as WATA) developed by Antenna Technologies, Switzerland. WATA devices have been promoted in schools, community drinking water systems, and women groups through the project supported by Antenna Technologies and dropforlife. The WATA device produces sodium hypochlorite solution commonly known as chlorine solution (branded as WATASOL) with a 6 g/L concentration of active chlorine through electrolysis of common salt water.

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WATASOL can be used for various purposes like drinking water disinfection, hand washing, and disinfection of floor, premises, utensils, food and vegetables, laundry, laboratory equipment etc.  For various usage, different ratio of WATASOL : Water dilution is used. And the reason behind prioritizing chlorine solution production is the fact that the disinfection done by WATASOL can prevent the corona virus infection. Surface disinfection with 0.1% sodium hypochlorite significantly reduces coronavirus infectivity on surfaces within 1 min exposure time. A similar effect can be expected against the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Therefore, sodium hypochlorite will play a crucial role as a disinfection agent for infection prevention and control.

In the crisis like this, upsides can be difficult to find and it is very easy to become controlled by all the negatives. At the same time, ideas, initiations, advices, and leadership is never greater than in times like this. Kudos to my colleagues who are stepping out of their house and working to produce the WATASOL to meet the demand from various individuals and groups.

We hope that our small efforts will contribute towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 to some extent!