|Posted on August 13, 2015 at 1:25 PM|
Many Nepalese women face a discriminatory practice during their menstruation, popularly known as Chhaupadi
practice. In the Far-West, adolescent girls and women are confined in a small hut (‘chhau hut’) or livestock
quarters, as they are considered impure. The chhaupadi practice is a social tradition that prevents women from
participating in normal family or communal activities during their menstruation. A similar practice is prevalent
during childbirth and for the following 11 days or so (with obvious health risks). Many women believe that if they
don’t follow these practices, their families will blame them for all harm that may befall them or their livestock.
The duration and harshness of the chhaupadi varies geographically (but is more pronounced in the Far West
Nepal districts), and is often coupled with other traditional practices (related to diet during periods and
pregnancy, such as avoiding milk products) which have an adverse impact on the health and nutritional status of
reproductive aged women and girls. One of the main concerns for any WASH-related project is that menstruating
women are not allowed to use the same water resources and sanitation facilities as other family or community
members, which can result in poor and unsafe personal hygiene.
The conditions of the chhaupadi huts are very basic in most cases (see photos below). Rather than being an
opportunity to rest and have quality time with other women, they can even be dangerous. We have witnessed
cases of disabled women dying alone in the huts (eg. one last year who suffered an epileptic fit and kicked the
fire, leading to serious burns and death). Some women have also been raped while isolated.
That’s not to say that all women object to using them. During the Maoist insurgency, many chhaupadi huts were
destroyed under duress. However, in some areas women have reverted to build and use the huts again. Some
women have commented that they feel uncomfortable staying with the house for religious reasons
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