After two days of grey and intermittent rain in the valley, today was bright and clear. The sun was strong—a reminder of its proximity—and the clouds looked to be thick as cotton and electrically white. From the roof of the Safe Motherhood Network Foundation office I had 360 degree views of Himalayan ridges and a new appreciation for the color and activity of Kathmandu. Days like this (after days of monsoon) seem to offer a new sense of possibility and beginnings. So it was an appropriate day for me to start my fellowship and begin the work with the Uterine Prolapse Alliance (UPA) that I have been building toward for so long.
The UPA is an alliance of various NGOs in Nepal working toward the reduction of uterine prolapse in the country. Uterine prolapse (UP) is a condition that women suffer when the muscles holding their uterus in place become weak and begin to deteriorate, causing the uterus to fall out of place. UP, also known as “fallen womb,” is caused by a combination of a variety of factors in a country like Nepal: heavy labor performed by women up until and right after birth (which causes excessive stress to their pelvic muscles), malnutrition, lack of quality of obstetric care, and stigma that prevents the condition from being talked about, prevented, and stopped in early stages. UP is thought to be highly prevalent and under-reported in Nepal, and the UPA was formed last year to guarantee that this issue no longer goes unnoticed or ignored by the government of Nepal.
As a 2008 Peace Fellow for the Advocacy Project, I have been sent here to Kathmandu to work with the UPA as they begin to formulate a national and international campaign to call attention to UP. From meetings today with representatives from three of the member NGOs of the alliance, it seems that my primary tasks will include helping the UPA launch a website and assisting them in the collection and production of information for campaign purposes. Currently I am compiling information from each of the approximately 40 partner organizations in the alliance so that I may write their profiles for the website. Also in the works are plans to collaborate with another AP Peace Fellow (Heather Gilberds, based in Butwal) on a community radio piece about UP and to travel the country gathering oral histories and producing photo essays about women’s experiences of the condition.
Having survived a sort of initiation today (a slideshow of uncensored photos showing women who suffered from UP undergoing surgery), I know that this work will be both emotionally challenging and incredibly valuable. I hope that those of you who are interested in women’s rights, reproductive health, rural development, and Nepal in general find in this blog an opportunity to follow the beginning of what promises to be a very important national and international campaign.
Posted By Libby Abbott
Posted Jul 1st, 2008