Ms. Aditi Sharma, a Doctor of Public Health student at Penn State College of Medicine, is helping to enhance the quality of life for women and girls living in Nepal through a program that improves feminine hygiene.
A member of the Young Leaders Fellowship Program for the global advocacy group Women Deliver, Ms. Sharma was awarded a seed grant from Johnson & Johnson. Through a non-governmental organization called Kalyani that she co-founded, Ms. Sharma developed an educational program for underserved populations living near Surkhet, Nepal. The program teaches women and girls the importance of feminine hygiene and aims to improve access to sanitary products and shed stigmas about menstruation.
“The aim of our project is not only to promote proper menstrual health and hygiene among women in Far- and Mid-west Nepal, but also to restore the dignity they have been denied for so long,” she said.
Ms. Sharma’s work on menstrual hygiene was featured at a poster session during the 9th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights in Vietnam. Recently, Ms. Sharma was awarded a continuation grant to lead a similar project. She will focus on dismantling Chhaupadi, a common practice in parts of Nepal that isolates women and girls who are menstruating and forces them to live in sheds or huts because they are considered “impure” during that time.
Ms. Sharma hopes to increase awareness of this illegal practice and improve the overall wellness of women and girls living in the region. “Through this work, hopefully we will be able to eradicate Chhaupadi — one village at a time,” she added.
“Ms. Sharma’s work continues to have far-reaching impacts on public health and gender equality,” said Dr. Betsy Aumiller, assistant professor in the College of Medicine’s Division of Health Services Research.