Local authorities in Achham intensify anti-Chhaupadi campaignA team comprising the chief district officer and chiefs of security agencies visit remote villages every Saturday to destroy Chhau sheds.
Local authorities in Achham, a hill district of Sudurpaschim Province, have intensified their anti-Chhaupadi drive of late.
In a bid to make the campaign effective, the chief district officer and chiefs of security agencies visit remote villages every Saturday to destroy Chhau sheds and raise awareness about the evil practice.
“Chhaupadi is an inhuman practice. We go from village to village to eradicate this social evil. We have simultaneously launched the Chhau shed demolition drive and the awareness campaign,” said Chief District Officer Gokarna Prasad Upadhyay. According to him, local governments in Achham have launched the anti-Chhaupadi campaign across the district.
Chhaupadi is a tradition where menstruating women and those in their postpartum period are forced to live in seclusion because they are deemed impure. Women following the practice usually live in small huts or sheds.
On January 2, a team comprising Upadhyay and Deputy Superintendent of Police Yogendra Singh Thapa reached Sutar, a remote village in Ramroshan Rural Municipality Ward No. 7, which is around 45 kilometres from the district headquarters, Mangalsen. Security personnel from Mugabazaar Police Post demolished seven Chhau sheds that day.
There, the team met a postpartum mother of five days at a Chhau shed in Aidi settlement. Sunita Aidi, aged 24, had been staying with her newborn in the communal shed, which was hardly two feet high and three feet long and wide. She was alone in the shed, which is around 300 metres away from her house. She said she eats when she can prepare meals but sleeps hungry when she cannot.
“I am very worried about my newborn’s health. It’s cold and I don’t want to stay in this awful place. I would like to go back to my house,” said Sunita. “The male members of our village forced us to stay in chhau sheds, stating that we have to follow our tradition.”
According to her, women in her village stay in Chhau sheds not due to the fear of god but because they fear backlash from the society.
Upon hearing her grievances, the chief district officer and his team called Sunita’s husband Lal Bahadur Aidi. He refused to meet the team but upon getting threatened by the police, he relented.
Lal Bahadur consulted with his parents and other family members to take his wife home. “I will take my wife home now. We made a mistake keeping her here at the chhau shed. I will never repeat such a mistake,” he said.
The team rescued Sunita and helped her back to her house. They also managed to convince the in-laws and the husband of another nursing mother staying at a Chhau shed to take her back.
The women in the village say the team’s arrival has given them the courage to stand up to the society that practices Chhaupadi.
“The team did an exemplary job. We will stay in our own house now onwards. We will call the police if anyone tells us otherwise,” said Rambha Kumari Bhandari, a local health volunteer.
The district administration had initiated the Chhau shed demolition drive in January last year. But the campaign was suspended three months later due to the nationwide lockdown enforced amid Covid-19 fears. The second phase of the campaign was launched in the district in December last week.
“We found that postpartum mothers were still being kept in Chhau sheds. So we relaunched the campaign to eradicate such an inhuman practice,” said DSP Thapa.