Stories by Tanvi Nagpal

Expert Voices

Women are challenging menstruation taboos in India and Nepal

Women take oath as they gather to participate in the 620 km-long 'Women's Wall' against communalism and gender discrimination
Women gather to participate in the 385-mile-long "Women's Wall" against gender discrimination, in Kerala, India, on Jan. 1, 2019. Photo: Vivek R Nair/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

On Thursday, a woman and her children were found dead after being sequestered in a menstruation hut in Nepal. The death came on the heels of a protest on Jan. 1 in India, where thousands of women created a human wall that stretched 385 miles from the north of Kerala state to its capital in support of equal rights and against gender discrimination.

The big picture: Notions of ritual purity are at the heart of Hindu practices that ban women from entering kitchens or temples when they are menstruating. Public health professionals and women’s rights advocates have campaigned against ostracizing women for a long time, but the events in both Nepal and India have brought the discussion into mainstream media again.

Expert Voices

Global nutrition has improved, but targeted investments still needed

India, Bihar, Bodhgaya, A family eating vegetarian street food in Bodh.
A family eating vegetarian street food in Bodh, India. Photo: Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Progress in reducing malnutrition has been slow and uneven, according to the newly released 2018 Global Nutrition Report. Although donors exceeded the $19.6 billion commitment they made in 2013, disbursing $21.8 billion two years ahead of schedule, the report also found that official development assistance is still too low.

The big picture: Malnutrition imposes high socioeconomic costs, the majority of which are borne by children, young adults, and women. While the quality of data on both problems and solutions has improved, more investment is needed in programs specific to nutrition, especially in the most challenged countries.

Expert Voices

In potential boon to urban poor, Gates Foundation recommits to toilet tech

Microsoft founder Bill Gates (R) talks next to a container (L) with human feces during the 'reinvented toilet expo' in Beijing on November 6, 2018.
Bill Gates talks next to a container of human feces during the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing on Nov. 6. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

At the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing on Nov. 6, Bill Gates committed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scaling up its investments in new toilet technologies. Eight companies based in India, China, the U.S. and Thailand, which had previously received grants from the foundation, displayed their pathogen-killing toilets and small-scale waste treatment plants that can disinfect fecal sludge.

Why it matters: 4.5 billion people don’t have access to safely managed toilets or still defecate in the open. Lack of safe sanitation leads to diarrhea (a leading cause of death among children under 5), infections such as schistosomiasis and trachoma, and vector-borne diseases such as West Nile virus. There's widespread consensus that greater support from donors such as the foundation and international banks is critical to extending basic sanitation services, especially to the world’s poorest.

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