Freedom Kit Bags – making a better life

Over 17,000 women and girls in Nepal have improved health and well-being plus an understanding of menstrual health management – all thanks to their Freedom Kit Bag. Collectively that’s 2,983,500 days of dignity. 

FKB’s work in action

To be a Freedom Kit Bags Ambassador requires a great many things – a strong belief in what they are doing; commitment; enthusiasm; integrity; stamina; endurance; patience; diplomacy;
kindness; reliability; a sense of humour; respect for others no matter their status; an ability to make friends and good contacts; the strength to keep on going no matter the challenges. Their two wonderful Ambassadors have all that – do all that – and more.  They are a Super-Team! Between them they have delivered education to thousands of women, girls, men and boys and shown those women and girls how to use and care for their Freedom Kit Bags.

The Covid – 19 Pandemic continued to have a big impact on their work. Nepal instigated a number of lockdowns making travel and local village meetings difficult, if not impossible at times. In normal circumstances three of the Trustees visit Nepal twice a year enabling a first hand review and management of the programme. Due to Covid restrictions no visits were possible but they were able to continue with their planning and preparation using zoom and internet communications to have almost daily contact with their Ambassadors.

During the early months of 2021 the local situation began to improve and they were able to resume distributions at a significant rate. There are four Nepalese Ambassadors based in Nepal who are essential to The Freedom Kit Bag Programme. Their roles include – identifying community groups in need, planning distributions with local representatives, maintaining quality control, delivering education and empowerment talks, distributing Kit Bags, maintaining detailed accounts, raising our profile, providing information, keeping detailed records of recipients of our Kit Bags, and carrying out follow up interviews to gain feedback from users.

`In Nepalese society women don`t talk openly about Menstruation. They hide all their pain, sufferings and experiences until they get sick and need emergency medical attention. The Freedom Kit Bag training and distributions are great support and they give women the confidence to speak out and be heard!`
Subita, Freedom Kit Bg Ambassador.

FKB’s Public Health/ Sexual Health/ Menstrual Hygiene management and `Care of the Kit` Education Programme given at the same time as the Kit Bags includes women and girls and men and boys who are often keen to know and understand too. For most this is the first time they have heard the facts and the role of Menstruation in reproduction: FKB are struck by the number of men who now invite them to their village to help the women in the community. This shows a wider understanding of the issues and a desire to bring new thinking. In Hetauda it was two young men (still teenagers) living in Kathmandu who asked FKB to go to their village to help the women. These two young men were trained and accompanied FKB’s Ambassadors and took part in the distribution. In Nepalgunji, it was Namaskar (a man they met in Kathmandu) who asked FKB to come and who helped plan the distribution ensuring the Ambassadors were properly looked after, Suprince Kasuja, a Scouter, has assisted FKB in several places:

`Before I never had any idea that periods were such a problem`, he says. `We must change this`.

FKB’s new partnership with two well established Nepal NGO`s in Butwal and Sangfebagar is going very well: Creative Partnership Nepal (CIN) and Sama Bikas are both women led organisations that have spent many years working in their districts, on the national and international stage, working to address key issues affecting women and girls in Nepal such as domestic violence, rape, child marriage, street children, women`s equality and empowerment. FKB have taught and trained them in their Education and Sewing Production Programmes and have set up their own Sewing Rooms.  They now employ a few women to make Kit Bags and arrange distributions locally (some 15 – 30 hours distance from Kathmandhu). They also engage with local decision makers, trying to influence school programmes, community programmes aiming to get Kit Bags into more schools, raising FKB’s profile and spreading the reach of Freedom Kit Bags far and wide. So far more than 2000 Kit Bags have been made and distributed by these two women`s groups.

March 2022

We were able to visit Nepal for six weeks in March 2022, distributing 1028 Freedom Kit Bags at 19 locations. In Kathmandu to a small church and women`s group; in Pokhara and Siruwari to women and two schools organised by a retired British Gurkha Officer as part of 10 years of community work celebrations; in Chautara to women in police custody; in Melamachi and Helambu where huge landslides and flash floods have destroyed buildings and significant areas of arable land; in Butwal (Lumbini district) where we visited our outreach Sewing Rooms. We passed a small school, no windows, mud floor, no comfort of any sort – gave women teachers a Kit Bag and went back with some books and teaching resources. Such shocking poverty. In total we travelled around 600 miles over half of which was unpaved, rough tracks and roads.

October 2022

Our work continues – On 31st October 2022 two FKB Ambassadors travelled 15 hours on the overnight bus to Nepaljung with 250 Kit Bags. From there they travelled another 8 hours with a trusted local contact into the district of Accham. Continuous rain in this district has caused many large landslides and many homes have been destroyed. FKB’s distribution here was to displaced women and girls living under tarpaulin and other temporary shelters. They also took some basic hygiene kits and the equivalent of over 1,000 kg of rice and lentils.

To date over 17,000 Freedom Kit Bags made in Nepal have been distributed in Nepal mostly by Nepalese women giving over 17,000 women and girls improved health, wellbeing, understanding of menstrual health and management, and comfort – all thanks to their Freedom Kit Bag. Collectively that’s over 2,983,500 million days of dignity.

Happiness when receiving a Freedom Kit Bag

Janaki is 17 years old who has never used cloths or sanitary napkins to manage her menstruation. Due to her financial situation and housework she dropped out of school early. She had no education about menstrual hygiene and management. There are no shops in her village to buy sanitary pads – even if there was she says she cannot afford them. Hence, she has been staying in Chhaupadi hut during her periods. When she heard about our programme, she was eager to learn. Recent earthquakes meant she was living in a shed, managing her periods was even more difficult than before. After receiving her Freedom Kit Bag she also expressed happiness to see panties too as she never wore any in her life.
As told to one of our Ambassadors

Happiness is making a Freedom Kit Bag

I live in a remote part of Nepal. I am 18 years old. I left school early because of low financial status. My mother is a single parent who raised me and my three little sisters. My father left her
and married another woman. I came to Sanfebagar for training organised by SAMABIKAS. I was chosen for their economic support for school dropout girls. I attend menstrual hygiene program. Little did I know they were handing me with Kit Bags as well. The kit bag was very fascinating to me as I never used any kinds of cloths or panties on my periods and used to stay in Chhaupadi huts. So, I was more eager to learn how to make pads.
As told to one of our Ambassadors