Dear Friends and Supporters
The practice of Chhaupadi is rooted in very ancient beliefs; now illegal but very difficult to eradicate. When you live at the edge of survival these beliefs carry weight and the risk of the consequences is very real. The beliefs include, men will fall ill, crops will stop bearing fruit,cattle will stop producing milk and the Goddess of knowledge Saraswati will be very angry. Women are considered impure at this time and are not allowed to touch household items, men, cattle or crops. Usually banished to chhaupadi huts or similar they are subject to all sorts of physical damage including pneumonia, diarrhea, snakes and other wild animals, asphyxiation,rape and carbon monoxide poisoning. A study by Tribuvan Unversity recommended that girls be empowered with menstrual health knowledge, increase parental support and ensure a supportive school environment. This is the approach the Nepal Trust has adopted to work with our local partners in Baglung district.
Following is a case study provided by a young woman from one of the poorest communities in the district. It describes very accurately how women struggle to be on equal terms with men and particularly more so if they have physical problems as well. She is a pupil at a school for deaf children which is also supported by the Nepal Trust.
My Menstruation and disability not a Sin, Sanitary pad and incinerator made my better school life.
I am Manita, 19 years old, inhabitant of Jaljala Rural Municipality ward no 1. I am a student of Grade 12 in Dhaulagiri Deaf Residential School. I am deaf from birth but my father,mother and other family members were hearing persons.
My father was hearing farmer. I could not go to technical training due to the thinking of my father/ mother as deaf cannot learn and work for them. My daily life was to do work as serving buffaloes and goats as well cleaning in religious ceremonies. When I used to go to social ceremonies in different areas, they used to give foods in TAPARI (Plate made from leaves) as deaf are not human being. I had no dignity. I had no options except the feeling much humiliated and crying. My family also had misperception that I should bear these all to be free from the sin of the previous birth so that I can go to heaven, get back with all fit in next birth.
When the Dhaulagiri Deaf Residential School, Baglung was started in 2007, I knew that it was a school that enrols the deaf and supports for their development. With a lot of excitement and hopes, I started my study in this school. All the things were nice, but I felt very uneasy when my menstruation started since class 6. The main cause of this was there was no proper management system of sanitary pad in school. My colleague started to tease me due to blood drops in sitting benches during the period that resulted in me being absent for 3-4 days in a month. On the one hand, I had no money to purchase readymade pads. On another hand, there was no pad disposal system in school.
In 2015, School Management Committee in leading role of Mr. K. B. Ranamagar (Founder of school) constructed the incinerator connected with girl toilets. This overcome the problem of disposal system. Sometimes I used the disposal pads and throw into the incinerator. This was very easier. Many of my friends use this but I can not use disposal pads forever because of poor economic condition of my parents. My situation was almost same as before even there was an incinerator.
When DIRDC Baglung started the tailoring training for deaf students in 2017, I joined the training and I learned to prepare the washable pads and cleaning methods. Nowadays I can prepare the washable pad with sewing machine as well as manually. Now I have 8 pairs of sanitary pads so that I have no problems to attend the class regularly.
I feel a lot more confident and happier that I don’t have to be absent in school due to the lacking of sanitary pads. My father, mother, sister, teachers and other relatives are exciting seeing my progress as same as a hearing person. This is our best pleasure in my life.
Now, I am starting to ask my community and society that there is no sin associated with menstruation, but the sin is into our mind and in the ways of thinking.
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