Increasing Health Equity for Women and Children
In Preeti Shakya’s third year of medical school in a rural, religious community, she heard about Chhaupadi Pratha—an ancient practice in which women are exiled to primitive sheds during menstruation.
Disturbed by the health and social implications of this cultural practice, Shakya founded Project In Her Hands, a health initiative that combats menstrual stigma and promotes menstrual equity for women in Nepali communities.
"My aspiration is to be a bridge across the divides, elevate those on the margins and tirelessly champion for the health of women and children in underserved communities, forging a path toward health equity where everyone has the opportunity to thrive."
After graduation, in her work as a medical officer at a tertiary hospital, then at a tertiary cancer center, she witnessed the influence of social determinants—many of which were outside of patients’ control, such as poverty or distance from a medical center—on health outcomes. When COVID-19 hit Nepal, Shakya was especially moved by the story of a woman who hemorrhaged to death after giving birth at home, a scenario common in many Nepali communities.
Hoping to prevent such deaths in the future, Shakya worked with colleagues to found Maatri Nepal. The nonprofit, which secured funding from a 2021 D-Prize Award, aims to increase community access to misoprostol, a drug that can prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Shakya has continued to combat preventable deaths through work with the World Health Organization to increase vaccinations against diseases throughout Nepal.
Her time at the Bloomberg School, she says, will help her compare various strategies countries have adopted to ensure an equitable health system and bring best practices to her home country. “I want to work at the intersection of social justice and women’s and children’s health.”
MBBS, Medicine, Tribhuvan University, 2018