Breaking menstrual tabooA campaign against menstrual exile (Chhaupadi) has helped change the way people view and treat pubescent girls and women in their monthly cycle in Bhageshwor Rural Municipality, Dadeldhura.
A campaign against menstrual exile (Chhaupadi) has helped change the way people view and treat pubescent girls and women in their monthly cycle in Bhageshwor Rural Municipality, Dadeldhura.
Not long ago, menstruation was a subject that no one talked about openly in Bhageshwor. Traditional belief prevailed around the topic, that girls and women going through their monthly periods were impure and they should sequester themselves from the community. And so they spent their time inside tiny sheds, away from their homes, with little or no warm clothes or beddings.
That all has changed now. Menstruation is no longer a taboo in Bhageshwor. Teenage girls no longer miss their schools during their periods, women can go about their daily businesses and most importantly, they are allowed to sleep in their homes.
“It’s all thanks to the Chhui Barsha campaign,” says Shanti Joshi, a women group leader of Bhageshwor Rural Municipality-5. “We are one year into the campaign and a lot has changed since.”
Shanti remembers how menstruating girls and women were banished by the community in the past. Walking past a temple was considered a sin. So was getting near a communal water source.
Though Chhaupadi was outlawed by the Supreme Court in 2005, the decision was never implemented until the government last year introduced the law that criminalised the centuries-old practice. The new law gave women of Bhageshwor Rural Municipality the impetus to launch the campaign.
The timing too couldn’t have been more perfect for the campaigners. Bhageshwor residents had recently elected their local representatives and the chairperson of the rural municipality was a woman, Kaushila Bhatta.
Starting the campaign to end Chhaupadi in Bhageshwor was one of the first things that Bhatta did after she got elected. She is proud of that she did.
“We still have more programmes to end Chhaupadi practice completely from Bhageshwor in the coming year,” says Bhatta.
The rural municipality has set aside a budget of Rs 300,000 to give continuity to the campaign this fiscal year.