Letters

Testing water purity.

We appreciate Footsteps which provides much useful information for us. We work in providing water supplies in rural areas. We have a problem in testing water before proceeding with the building of wells and do not have access to large and expensive machines. Will the water be clean enough for drinking? Do any Footsteps readers have any ideas for simple methods of testing water easily and cheaply in the field?

Tirtha Bdr Raya Chhetri, UMN Rural Development Programme, Ollaka 6, K Okhaldhunga, PO Box 126, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Child marriage

I read the Footsteps issue on women’s health and this has encouraged me to write about the condition of Nepalese women in the rural areas.

The practice of early marriage became customary from 200BC, encouraged by ancient Hindu laws. It was believed that the parents or guardians of a girl who reached puberty before marriage would go to hell. Child marriage became the custom – sometimes even the marriage of infants. Marriage at the age of 6 or 7 still happens in some rural areas. Orthodox Hindus believe that if a daughter is given away before her first menstruation she is a virgin and they will receive credit from the gods. This practice is still common among the Bhahun and Chhetri ethnic groups in particular, with a definite expectation that the couple will prove their fertility as soon as possible. There will be pressure to have frequent unspaced pregnancies until a healthy son is born. Often, more than one son is needed to guarantee that at least one will survive to adulthood.

A small survey in a village in the hills of central Nepal showed 40% of the women were married before reaching puberty. Half the women had suffered problems during pregnancy and childbirth; 14% had had an abortion, 12% had given birth to stillborn babies and 16% had suffered a prolapsed uterus.

Literacy levels are low – 80% of women in Nepal are illiterate. The education of boys takes priority over that of their sisters. The status of girls and women remains low. Their low self-esteem produces low expectations and a fatalistic attitude to life. For example, a woman may not believe she can limit the size of her family and resigns herself to the annual burden of childbirth. Education can change expectations. It may empower a woman to control her own fertility, give her the knowledge to space the birth of her children and to improve their chance of survival as well as her own. She can recognise problems when they arise, and seek appropriate solutions.

Kunti Tiwaree, c/o Sunita Shakya, Health Development Project, PO Box 1535, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Astonished!

I am an adult education animator, working with a group of 35 young girls who missed the chance of being educated in schools. We received the Footsteps issue on women’s health and I talked with the group about the regular menstruation cycle. I also talked with them about how to wash and keep the rags they use, how to take care of themselves during menstruation, taboos during menstruation and how to get medical help if necessary.

Actually, Editor, the group was astonished and all fear was removed from their minds. They now recognise menstruation as completely normal. Thank you very much.

Biasaki Nzoka, Alphabetiseur, Diocese Anglican du Nord – Kivu, Beni-Zaire.

A matter of priorities

The issue on women's health is, in my male opinion, one of the best in a long time – even though we value every issue, because it challenges Christian readers directly. It is my bitter experience that in many societies where I have lived in Africa and India, Christians believe that discussion on sexuality is not only shameful but un-christian. I would urge you to plan a follow-up to this issue.

I found Dr Arrowsmith’s article on obstetric fistula both moving and enlightening. Governments – in both the developing and developed world – believe they have to spend more on armaments than health care. It is not always true that countries cannot afford to have good medical facilities. It is a matter of priorities.

We sincerely believe that a woman with an obstetric fistula is seen socially in the same way as leprosy patients were (and still are) in many communities. While it is still right to support leprosy work, it is harder to obtain support for fistula work. You can use persuasive photos of leprosy patients – but you cannot use photos of fistulas. The Christian community has been one of the largest supporters and promoters of health changes. We still see thousands of Christian hospitals in the developing countries. Their support – and that of Christians in the ‘North’ – for this work is vital.

In his healing ministry, Jesus met the needs of women with chronic problems relating to sexuality. If we do not give priority to training in corrective fistula surgery and provide free hospital care for these women – we fail the example which Jesus gave us.

Dr P Paul, New Hope Rural Leprosy Trust, Post Bag 1, Muniguda, Rayagada District, Orissa, India 765 020.

EDITOR: New Hope Trust have available a set of discussion papers on excision and obstetric fistulas.

Materials for training

Footsteps is a source of many new ideas to us. It often reminds us of things which we were not paying enough attention to – eg: excision. Fortunately, in our country the authorities and churches reacted energetically against this practice and it happens only in certain areas.

We have just organised a training session for our monitors in charge of tree nurseries. We used subjects from Footsteps – grafting, nursery techniques and the Bible study – and were well satisfied!

Jean-Claude Bokoula, CFAE, BP 7, Alindad, Central African Republic.

If the word said..

If the word said ‘A single word cannot make a page’ – there would be no book.

If the note said, ‘A single note does not make a piece of music’ – there would be no symphony.

If the stone said, ‘A single stone cannot build a wall’ – there would be no house.

If mankind said, ‘One gesture of love cannot save humanity’ – there would never be any justice, peace, dignity or happiness on earth.

Just as the book needs each word,

Just as the symphony needs each note,

Just as the house needs each stone,

The whole of humanity needs you

Where you are

Unique

And therefore irreplaceable.

Taken from the review, Mission No.50 and with thanks to SCAR, Switzerland.