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HAT - Humanitarian Aid Trust Nepal

Young People Unite Against Chhaupadi

16-year-old Bhita Chand was sleeping alone in a ‘period hut’ when she was bitten by a snake. Isolated from her family and community during menstruation in an ancient practice known as chhaupadi, there was no one to help. She died alone.

Bhita isn’t the first young woman to die during men­strual iso­la­tion. Chhau­padi, which has its roots in reli­gious tra­di­tions, excludes women and girls from all contact with their fam­i­lies and com­mu­nity while they men­stru­ate. They are con­sid­ered ‘untouch­able’ and are per­mit­ted no contact with food, reli­gious icons, animals, or other people. During their iso­la­tion, the women are con­fined to small ‘period huts’ on the fringes of their village, which have no heating, elec­tric­ity, or lighting.

After decades of cam­paign­ing, the prac­tise is now illegal, but there’s little appetite for enforce­ment by police.

“We try and tell our parents that this isn’t the right way,” says Bibhu, one of the young women who takes part in lead­er­ship men­tor­ing with our partner Welfare Asso­ci­a­tion for Chil­dren, Tikapur (WACT). “But it’s very hard because they say that this is some­thing our com­mu­ni­ties have prac­tised for a long time.”

Bibhu and other young leaders want to end the prac­tise once and for all. With the support and encour­age­ment of the team at WACT, they raise aware­ness of the rights of chil­dren and young people through street dramas and dis­cus­sion at their high school; they have engaged parents in edu­ca­tion ses­sions in their homes.

“When this happens to us, we can’t do our school lessons,” Bibhu explains. “There’s no elec­tric­ity to do lessons at night. We have to wait for other people to bring us food and water. We can be in iso­la­tion for a week if our men­stru­a­tion is long.”

Both the young men and women of Bibhu’s group are united in their desire to see the prac­tise ended. “No one should be treated this way,” says 16 year old Sunam. “We are deter­mined to put an end to chhau­padi and we are thank­ful to our team leaders for giving us support to speak up.”