More than 80 percent of women have done pap smear

Phurpa Lhamo

Women in Lunana, in the past, would often shy away from speaking about intimate issues and cite headaches or stomach pain as excuses when visiting the Lunana Primary Health Centre (PHC).

However, today, discussing intimate female issues would mean seeking the centre’s nurse Dema.

Dema is Lunana PHC’s first female nurse. She arrived in Lunana in November 2019.

Lunana PHC’s health assistant Dhan Kumar Rai recalled convincing a woman to speak up about her health issues in 2019. “She visited around three times before she spoke of her problems.”

Dhan Kumar Rai said that the woman had pelvic inflammatory diseases, which also result in discharges.

Dema said that women are today comfortable discussing menstruation or menstrual hygiene around other females.

She added that the majority of younger women used pads (called kapey by Lunaps). Among older women, Dema encourages them to use clean cloth pieces and dry them in the sun. “There are a few who still don’t use anything.”

A report with the Kitakyushu Forum on Asian Women 2018-2019 stated that for women in Lunana, access to sanitary pads and other health facilities was an everyday challenge.

“But the lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene has impacted girls and women in a serious way. School-age girls miss school and some even quit after they get their period,” the report stated.

Today, with requests from health staff, sanitary pads are made available at the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) outlet in Lunana. It is sold at around Nu 60 depending on the brand.

Dhan Kumar Rai said that last year Lunap women were introduced to CheyChay sanitary pads. “When we explained about menstruation hygiene, older ones don’t know much but young ones are quite used to sanitary pads.”

Post-2019, more than 80 percent of women in Lunana have done pap smears.

Dhan Kumar Rai said that prior to nurse Dema’s posting, a pap smear wasn’t done at all as women were shy.

Today, while women nearby visit the Lunana PHC, Dema visits women in far-off places at their homes to conduct pap smear check-ups.

While the situation has improved in Lunana, challenges of cleanliness and lack of innerwear remain.

Dema said that in the highlands, firewood was scarce. “So we also hesitate to ask them to constantly take showers as well. They use firewood prudently even for cooking. And not everyone can afford pads.”