Heather Webb

Heather Webb (Women’s Reproductive Rights Program - WRRP): Heather earned her BA in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004, and then studied law at the New York Law School in 2008. After Law School, Heather practiced law for nearly three years in the corporate department of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. At the time of her fellowship, Heather was studying for a Master’s degree in international law at the New York University School of Law with a focus on international human rights law. While at NYU, Heather also worked as an Advocacy Volunteer for MADRE, and an Intern for the Legal Advocacy Program of CONNECT, a domestic violence organization. During the Fall semester, Heather served as a Legal Intern for Human Rights Watch, where she worked for the Disability Rights Researcher/Advocate. After her fellowship she wrote: “Through my fellowship with WRRP, I have learned so much about life from a very different perspective. I have found it amazing how the layers of understanding keep peeling away the longer I stay here and the more I experience in rural Nepal. This experience has been a life-changing one and has reaffirmed my commitment to a career advancing human rights.”


29 Jul

Ratna Khadka of Gumi VDC, Surkhet, underwent surgery six months ago to repair her prolapsed uterus after suffering in silence for 24 years.  For almost two and a half decades, Ratna told absolutely no one about her condition, not even her husband.

Ratna Khadka, Gumi VDC, Surkhet District, Post-Prolapse Surgery

Ratna Khadka, Gumi VDC, Surkhet District, Post-Prolapse Surgery

Ratna was one of the first women who introduced me to the stigma that had surrounded uterine prolapse – and still does in many areas – before the introduction of WRRP’s programming.

At first, Ratna justified her silence because “there was nothing that anyone would have done to help the situation”, but deeper questioning revealed that she had feared the negative responses that she expected from her family and community.  It was not until after WRRP’s Uterine Prolapse Campaigners (or UP Campaigners)started raising awareness in Gumi, that Ratna heard her daughter-in-law one day speaking about symptoms that sounded all-too-familiar.

Model Couple UP Campaigners of Gumi VDC Bel Bahadur BK and Nirmala BK

Model Couple UP Campaigners of Gumi VDC Bel Bahadur BK and Nirmala BK

After summoning the requisite courage, Ratna disclosed her suffering to her daughter-in-law, who connected Ratna with the UP Campaigners in Gumi.  WRRP then coordinated for Ratna to avail herself of the government-funded prolapse surgery being provided in Nepal.

The most heartbreaking moment of my interview with Ratna for me was when I asked her what she used to do to ease the pain of her prolapsed uterus.  She responded “nothing”; Ratna kept up with her housework and fieldwork during the entire time of her suffering from the condition.  Ratna explained that, “my thinking used to be: there is a limit to the pain and suffering one can take; once it’s reached, that’s the end: death”.  Ratna just thought that she was supposed to endure this pain as part of her life until it killed her.  Impressive, yet devastating.

Part of my western-wired brain at first screamed: “Why the complacence??  Why didn’t you do something about it?”, but those thoughts are just so off the mark; Nepali women work through discomfort, pain, and subordination in a way that most western women could never.  They should not have to – agreed – but they do not suffer in silence out of complacence, but rather out of strength.

After spending time with Ratna in her home, I found her to be just one happy soul.  She is quiet, unassuming, and positive.  So positive that, when I asked her about the extent of her formal education, which she told me had lasted a pathetic and arbitrary 15 days, she ended her response by adding, “but I know how to spell my name”.  I mean, why focus on the negatives?

The Home of Ratna Khadka in Gumi VDC, Surkhet

The Home of Ratna Khadka in Gumi VDC, Surkhet

Watch Ratna tell some of her story in her own words in the video below.

Posted By Heather Webb

Posted Jul 29th, 2012

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