Taboo but Important
by Sonja Kraft
Recently, Nepal has been in the international news after multiple girls died during “Chaupadi”, a time when women are ostracized and considered “unclean”. The New York Times reported:
“Puberty starts a monthly exile. An entrenched, superstitious practice linked to Hinduism, Chaupadi, considers menstruating women impure and bad luck, rendering them untouchables. Menstruating women are banished, often to forests where they sleep in crude, cubby-like sheds or caves, braving extreme weather and lurking predators, from snakes to rapists.”
The recent deaths were caused by animal attacks or other factors such as fire from trying to keep themselves warm. During Chaupadi, women on their periods are not allowed to come into the kitchen, sometimes the whole house, or touch other members of the family. At night they are forced to sleep in a shed-type building outside of the home, usually in unsanitary conditions.
In Kathmandu, the practice of sending women outside to sleep is not as common, but women can still be treated differently during their menstrual cycles and are often not allowed to be in the kitchen or to touch others.
Since these deaths, Nepal has passed a new law banning the practice of Chaupadi. The BBC reported:
“The new law, passed on Wednesday, states that menstruating women or those who have just given birth should not be ‘kept in chaupadi or treated with any kind of similar discrimination or untouchable and inhuman behaviour’. Under the law anyone who makes a woman observe the custom faces a three-month jail sentence and a $30 (£23) fine.”
For our monthly staff life-skills training, Purnaa invited Kanchan Shrestha from Kalyani Nepal, to come and share about women’s health and hygiene and to de-mystify and address some of the misconceptions that abound throughout Nepal about women’s menstruation.
Here at Purnaa we want everyone to know how valuable women are and how menstruation a normal part of being female. Shrestha taught about the importance of treating women and young girls with respect while on their period. She was very open and encouraged everyone, men and women, to ask questions. The responses were very positive with many engaged in the discussion.
Shrestha’s organization, Kalyani Nepal, promotes re-usable feminine products. She taught the importance of maintaining good hygiene while on your period and how to care for the re-usable menstrual products that she passed out to each of the women. Since Purnaa has a high value on sustainability, these reusable products were very well-received.
Although the views of menstruation will not be changed overnight, at Purnaa, we want to promote an accurate understanding of women’s health and respect women in all aspects of their lives.