Back to the Middle AgesAn examinee had her sanitary pad confiscated in the name of security
Right before the Secondary Education Examination, the thing that Devsara Adhikari feared the most happened. She had her period. Having left her home area, Kuinka, Achham in order to be nearer the exam centre, Adhikari wished she didn’t get her period the entire time. But since no one has any control over this biological process, Adhikari was left with no choice. On the day of the examination, she put a sanitary pad in her pocket for emergency purpose. But while searching the examinees, the invigilator took away her pad thinking she was using it to hide her cheat notes. Adhikari recalls she could not write her exam well that day.
Menstruation is a real problem. But our inability to think of it as one is utterly deplorable. Having strict rules and regulations is one thing, but having no regard for the real issues of female students is another. Perhaps we fail to see this because the teachers and school authorities are mostly males. Unavailability of toilets for girls and lack of sanitation has led to frequent absence of girl students in many public schools in rural areas, and these issues become doubly pertinent during times like these when one is away from home.
The Secondary Education Examination has begun, and many are appearing for it like every year. These exams are often held in different centres. Sometimes, students, especially in remote areas like Achham and Bajhang, have to rent rooms until the exams get over so that they can be nearer the exam centres. But most girls feel unsafe and insecure. They should not be given a hard time for something out of their
Achham and Bajhang are places where Chhaupadi—the practice of sending girls to menstrual huts during their period—is practiced. Generally, girls are taught at a young age to talk about their period in a hushed voice and only to other women. Feminine hygiene products must be available more readily. What’s more, students should not be stripped of their right to basic hygiene, that is carrying a pad to the exam centre if they have to, in the name of ensuring fair examinations. The taboo of menstruation causes real harm. This stigma still holds girls and women back. In this case, when students are supposed to be free from fear and concentrating solely on preparing well for their exams and giving them well, girls are worried about their menstruation and whether they will be allowed access to feminine hygiene products. It is the responsibility of the respective school principals to make sure the necessary provisions are in place. Also the invigilators must pay attention to different sensitivities and issues that surround different individuals.