Women rebuilding Chhau sheds in Chhaupadi free areas of BajhangLocal women of Jagera in Saipal-4 have recently constructed a collective Chhaupadi shed in the area, stating that they have to suffer even more in the absence of sheds.
Basant Pratap Singh
All five Chhaupadi sheds at Jagera in Saipal Rural Municipality, Bajhang district, were demolished when the local unit was declared Chhaupadi free a year ago. However, the local women of Jagera in Saipal-4 have recently constructed a collective Chhaupadi shed in the area, stating that they have to suffer even more in the absence of sheds. They had been collecting money for the past three years under a monthly saving fund.
“We stayed in caves during menstruation for a year. We had to spend cold nights there when it snowed up to four feet in winter and suffered a lot throughout the year. We could somehow endure the suffering, but our infants were hit hardest. So we decided to build a collective Chhaupadi shed again,” said Birati Rokaya of Saipal-4. Chhaupadi is a deeply rooted Hindu tradition of banishing girls and women to secluded huts during menstruation and postpartum periods. This practice mainly prevails in the hilly districts of Sudurpaschim Province. To tackle this age-old tradition, the elected people’s representatives, various NGOs and social organisations with the support of government authorities launched a Chhaupadi-free campaign in several districts including Bajhang.
But the reality is that girls and women in these villages still practice Chhaupadi, mainly because of the ineffective awareness campaign and poor implementation of the existing laws. “We spent around Rs 35,000 to build the Chhau shed. We decided to build the shed after all the members suggested to construct the shed instead of sleeping in the cave,” said Phulmati Rokaya.
However, the newly constructed Chhaupadi shed can only accommodate six persons, and there are 30 households in Jagera village. If there are more than six menstruating women at a time, the local women say they have made a rule to prioritise sick women and those with infants to stay in the Chhaupadi shed.
Jagera is just a case in point. Women in Dhuli, Saingaun, Laphadi among other settlements are also constructing Chhaupadi sheds in their areas. “We stayed home during our menstruation for a few months after the rural municipality destroyed all the Chhaupadi sheds last year. But after some women fell ill—apparently due to their defiance of the age-old Chhaupadi practice—we started sleeping in caves,” said Ganga Devi Bohara of Saipal-5, who is also a female community health volunteer. The local women are relieved after the reconstruction of the Chhaupadi sheds, she added.
Saipal Rural Municipality had allocated a budget of Rs 300,000 budget to launch an awareness campaign against the inhumane practice. However, the awareness drive was not effective. Rajendra Dhami, chief of the rural municipality, said that the Chhaupadi-free campaign will continue in the area.