"Grandma, take your tea." I said.
"Hey you sinful, don't touch me! How dare you speak so loud after all that happened? I can't eat what you cook, you shameless!! You've cut our nose in the society." Grandma shouted at me.
She looked at my father and continued "I had insisted you earlier to get her married. But you didn't listen to me. I had always told you that daughters are like this; mean. Now see what trouble your beloved daughter has brought to us! Who will marry her now?"
"She's just a child mom! I had told you not to take her to Chhau goth. She's too small to understand this." my father supported me.
"Grandma, it's not my fault!" I cried.
"Look, how brave she is. How does she manage to speak up after the incident? Look my son, we have to get her married within a week otherwise this girl can bring us issues. I had told you to remarry and have a son. Had you married then, we would not have faced this situation today!" My grandma continued.
Tears rolled down my cheeks, I could not listen anymore and I went inside.
My story starts from an incident that occurred a week ago.
One fine day, I and my friends were going to kuwa to fetch water early in the morning. We were carrying gagris and were walking slowly talking with each other.
Suddenly, I felt a steady flow of liquid drop through my left thigh. I ignored it at first. But then it happened again. I had never felt anything like that before. I could not understand what was happening and how to react. I felt so strange and looked down at my feet. I saw something like red splash over my left foot and oh gosh that was blood! My friends, too looked at my feet and they noticed the same. We were all of age from 11 to 13 and no one had felt such thing before. I explained what I felt to them and one of my friends said I was menstruating. She said her sister shared it with her.
I didn't know what menstruation was till then. Yes I didn't. And that was because there was no one in my family who would talk to me about these matters. Moreover, talking about such matters is considered shameful in our society. My family is small. I live with my father and grandmother. My father is a farmer. They say, my mother left me when I was 6 months old. They say grandmother was expecting me to be a son but I was born. So, she doesn't care about me a lot. She always wanted my father to remarry. But he kept on refusing.
After all that, my friends suggested me to return home and we did the same. They told my Grandma about everything that happened and then my Grandma started shouting at me. I was shocked at that moment. "What is my fault after all?" I started questioning to myself. She immediately got into the house, got some rags and asked me to follow her to chhau goth. (Chhau goth is a menstrual hut made from wood or stone.) Then she told me that I had to stay at there for two weeks and wouldn't be able to go to our home or school or temple. She told that she would bring me meals and any other thing I needed. She also asked me to not look at other males. I agreed what she said and spent the day there. The day was easy but as it grew dark, I got scared. It was my first experience after all. At night, Grandma once visited me with food and asked me not to get scared and I'll be used to with it. I had a candle and myself. I stayed awake the whole night. The next day too, grandmother and my friends visited me. They wouldn't touch me. I used to feel helpless and suffocated. Similarly, the days passed and I started getting used to with it. I thought days would pass as that. But then there was a lot left for me. On the second last day, Grandma gave me some food and left. After having my food, I was about to sleep but then, I heard some sound through the bush. At first, I neglected it thinking it might be some insects. But the sound became louder and closer. I became attentive and I saw a huge shadow. That was not an animal for sure. The shadow grew larger and larger and hugged me from behind closing my mouth. The candle was blown off and I don't want to recall what happened. Later in the morning, I came to know that I was raped. That news spread as fast as wind in the village. They tried to hide it but they couldn't and now they're saying these things.
"What is my fault after all?" I question myself all the time. Now, I know the answer, my fault is that, I'm a girl.
Although I was lucky to belong from a well-educated family and never suffered from such practices, this is a sample story of many girls living in the far western region of Nepal. Still many girls are forced to stay at Chhau goth for two weeks at during their first menstruation, first childbirth and also during their regular periods. Because of this many girls die of suffocation (especially in winter when they try to light fire), wild animal's attack, snake bite, etc. Some girls also become victim of rape. They lack proper menstrual hygiene leading to genital infections. Women in postnatal stage may lack proper nutrition and face many health hazards. They do so because the secretions during menstruation are considered as 'impure' and they believe that if they don't do so God might get angry.
Now a days, Nepalese government in co-ordination with local and provincial government is destroying these Chhau Goth. There are strict legal provisions against this Chhaupadi system in our law. But still, they practice it in some districts of far-western region of Nepal. It is necessary to raise the awareness against such practices. Also, many girls still lack menstrual health education and that should also be provided. There are many such anti-women practices around the world that make women lag behind. Such practices should be eradicated through our common efforts and there should be "Women for women".