Her Space: Design Explorations for Menstrual Health Management in Western Nepal
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Despite the recent rise in media coverage taking place in Western Nepal of issues dealing with menstrual hygiene management (MHM), very little architectural research or design interventions have been undertaken to address the injustices women face. Most design interventions have remained in the realm of product design, e.g., sanitary products. As important as these products are in providing a path to better MHM, spatial and environmental modifications are required to not only improve health, but also to properly use and maintain sanitary products. Even less has been done to comprehensively examine how public health, culture, and individual circumstances of women might inform design interventions. The research in this thesis provides an array of design proposals for creating spaces that balance individual preferences with cultural norms and health/hygiene research in response to criticisms of existing menstrual huts and school facilities. The western region of Nepal exemplifies the intersection of these issues and, therefore, was chosen as the focus of study. The primary goal of this research was to address and identify some of the existing spatial problems in western Nepal that impede women from practicing good MHM while respecting the cultural contexts and individual desires of the user. The identified problems were then used to create design proposals that begin to address issues of safety, hygiene, sanitation, health, and social interaction. The thesis proposes the reprogramming of these spaces through the exploration of spatial manipulation to answer separately identified problems. The overarching goal was to promote the use of design and architecture to amplify the voices of marginalized individuals and provide them with the ability to analyze, criticize, and shape their own space.