Kalikot teens run successful campaign against ChhaupadiCampaign inspires girls and women to abandon period sheds.
Sixteen-year-old Sakuntala Budha abandoned Chhau, a makeshift menstrual shed, a year ago.
After observing Chhaupadi, a practice where girls and women are forced to isolate themselves inside crudely made sheds during their period, for two years she joined a group of teenage girls to campaign against Chhaupadi.
Since then, 20 teenage girls have come together to raise awareness about the evils of Chhaupadi. Inspired by their campaign, many teenage girls and women in Naraharinath have abandoned Chhaupadi.
“Our parents did not support our decision when we first began advocating against Chhaupadi. But they have come around and so have other elders in our community,” said Sakuntala. “We no longer have to go to Chhau sheds. I stay in my room during my periods. My mother also does not practice the tradition these days.”
Most teenage girls and women in Lalu, Rupsa, Kotwada, and Kumalgaun in Naraharinath no longer observe Chhaupadi these days.
Local representatives believe that the campaign has become successful because of the participation of teenage girls.
Manashova Budha, vice chairperson of the rural municipality, said, “Other young girls who are still banished to Chhau sheds are seeing that other girls in their villages are no longer observing the practice. This gives them the courage to do the same.”
According to her, the local government has selected 30 facilitators (teenage girls) and mobilised them to raise awareness against prevalent malpractices like Chhaupadi, child marriage and gender discrimination.
Teenage girls in Raskot and Khadachakra are also active in the campaign against practices that are discriminatory against girls and women.
Kashichandra Baral, mayor of Raskot Municipality said a group of 90 teenage girls have been organising awareness programmes against Chhaupadi, child marriage, gender discrimination and women violence, among others.
“These girls are also awaring villagers about nutrition, education and reproductive health,” he said.
Kali Bahadur Malla, a right activist in Kalikot, said thanks to the campaign launched by teenagers, issues like sanitation, nutrition and hygiene were being discussed by villagers these days.
“The campaign has also helped boost the school attendance rate of girls,” he said.
Harischandra Batala, the headmaster of Rama Secondary School in Kumalgaun, said attendance among girl students has improved these days.
“Girl students don’t miss classes like they used to. In the past, most girls would not come to school for days because of the Chhaupadi practice.”
According to the data of the District Administration Office, 18 Chhau sheds were demolished in Kalikot in the last fiscal year.
In 2017, the Parliament enacted a law criminalising the Chhaupadi practice and imposing Rs3,000 fine and/or three-month jail sentence on anyone subjecting women to the practice. Despite the law, Chhaupadi is still practiced in various parts of western Nepal.