Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
Political instability, low income, geographical isolation and gender inequality are just a few reasons why there are currently no mass cervical cancer screening programs in Nepal. This unfortunate situation has resulted in cervical cancer being the most frequent cancer in Nepali women. More upsetting is the fact that cervical cancer is an entirely preventable disease if detected early.
Without a stable government, it is difficult for the health sector to formulate and implement national programs, and this, along with the current global focus on communicable diseases rather than non-communicable diseases has meant a lack of services for women’s cancer, and a high cervical and breast cancer rate.
The women in Nepal live in a very patriarchal society, and the majority practice arranged marriage. This family structure, as well as the stress for women to prioritise the health of their husband and children has meant that women suffer in silence, as well as a high women suicide rate. Levels of illiteracy in the population of women aged 30-60years is as high as 75%, and due to geographical challenges, women are often many days walk from the nearest health facility. Most women’s only access to health services is the Female Community Health Volunteers in their communities.
Women in Nepal are very grateful and embracing when health services are offered to them, so long as they do not need to travel far and the cost is minimal. Thereby our free mobile screening camps have worked well in engaging the women in the community. And, our awareness and education programs have successfully reduced the stigma associated with women’s health issues. An example of this is that our first screening camp in 2002 had only 12 beneficiaries willing to attend for screening, but our current programs have more than 200 women.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
The founder of this project, Dr Surendra, B Bade Shrestha has been working actively in Nepal his entire life. As mayor of the Banepa area for more than 20 years he advocated many successful health projects including sanitation and toilet facilities for every home.
Throughout this time, he was also actively involved in a Nepali NGO the Nepal Cancer Relief Society. Upon his retirement from politics, it was apparent to him that cancer services for women were horribly scarce in Nepal, and he set about doing something about this. With a collaboration with the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR, Belgium) the Nepal NGO the Nepal Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (NNCTR) was founded. The aim of this organisation was to strive to increase awareness about cancer in Nepal, and specifically provide screening services for breast and cervical cancer in the country. In addition however, Dr Shrestha uses his political and networking knowledge to work closely with the government and other NGO's in a way that makes the programs more sustainable, and leads to a larger impact. Since Dr Shrestha started this work in 2002, more than 20,000 Nepali women have received free cancer screening. With the help of private/INGO financial support these programs continue until the Nepal government can provide a sustainable and thorough program itself.