How Nepal Takes Periods

narayani khadka
Posted May 30, 2017

I still remember that time when I as a kid, saw my dad bring two blue packets and hiding it inside the cupboard. When asked about those packets, he replied, “It’s your brother’s diaper”. For that time, I was okay with the answer but it was after quite a long time, I realized that those packets dad brought years back were sanitary pads, not diapers. It was such time when my mother could not freely go and buy the pads from a male shopkeeper because mensuration or anything related to it was not supposed to be an open topic to talk about. This incident is still fresh in my memory.

I was totally unaware about menstruation until some of my classmates started having their periods. They didn’t talk openly about it but their absence in school for 13 long days made it evident that they had their fist mensuration. In Nepal, girls have to spend 13 days inside a room without seeing the male members of the family during their first mensuration. They are even restricted to see the sunlight let alone touching anyone. After 13 days my schoolmates used to be back and continue the class. After a month or so they again use to be absent for 5-6 days which gave clear hints about their second mensuration. At the time of second mensuration girls have to spend their time inside a room for 4-5 days.

In the western Nepal women in their period must spend their days in the cow shed or hut which is very small without any ventilation. They are forbidden for eating dairy products and they do not have any access to sanitary pads. Many women lose their life in the hut due to suffocation, cold, infection, snake bite, attack by the wild beasts and so on. No matter whether she belongs to a teacher’s family, a politician’s family or a poor farmer’s, she must stay in the hut. This practice in the western Nepal is termed as ‘Chaupadi Pratha’.

I was 12 years when I got my first period. When I told mom about the pint of blood in my underclothing, she immediately sent me to my neighbor’s house. There were not any male member in their house. I spent that day alone. In the afternoon my mom and my cousin sisters arrived. They took me back home and I saw that they had managed a space for me in our store room. The room was messy and cold and there were sacks full of paddy and wheat. It was a cold December night so they had kept some straw on the cold floor beneath a mattress and topped it with blankets. There was big curtain to make sure that the sunlight doesn’t enter the room. Only female members visited me during that time. For the first two days, I kind of liked it, because I didn’t have to go to school. But soon I started suffocating inside that dark and dirty room and also, started missing my school.

My mother used to bring food for me inside the room. She used to put the plate in the floor without touching me. The worst thing was to eat in that room. I was given a basin to wash my hands and brush my teeth inside the room. I used to use the basin to urinate. I used to spend my days reading story books, writing poems. My play mates used to visit me after their school. I used to peek through the curtain waiting for them to arrive home, finish their homework and come to see me. My mother used to take me to the toilet, outside the house at night or early in morning. I was taken out for bathing in odd days. It was very difficult for a mischievous kid like me to stay locked inside a room. The room used to stink, I used to hate it in there but I had to complete my 12-day hideout. I was waiting for those long days to be over and was pretty much excited about the gifts I was going to receive at the end of this superstitious ritual.

On the 13th day of first mensuration male members of the family provide gifts and cash to the girl. Finally the day came and I was woken up by my mom, early in the morning. She had boiled hot water for me to bathe. I was showered with gifts and cash from family. I looked in the mirror, for the first time after I had my first period and I looked fairer.

It felt awesome to enjoy the sun basking. I felt free and alive outside after 12 days hideout in a cold and dark room. Back to the school everyone in the class was curious about my absence. My female class teacher and my female friends already knew about it. Boys in the class already knew it. They giggled at my face.

After about 9 months I menstruated for the second time. It was bed time and I told my mom. I panicked this time because I saw some fair amount of blood in my urine. My mom gave me some pads. My mom managed the bed in the same store room. I was totally scared because I used to hear strange sounds. I was sweating and I couldn’t sleep out of fear. It might have been the sound made by the rats. I called my mom and she took me to her room she managed place over there for me to sleep. In the morning I was sent back to the stinky store room. This time it wasn’t easy. The flow was heavy and I experienced very sharp and strange pain in my lower stomach. My cousin sisters prepared me a syrup. The syrup was made by boiling the mint leaves and cumin seeds together and salt on it. It worked form me and I felt better. Mom also told me that pain killers are not good for health. However I managed to get past those four days.

Since that day I always take this magical mint soup. It works in solving irregular periods, pain and most menstrual problems. I advise my friends and others to use this miraculous syrup. After my second mensuration I started menstruating regularly in a smooth basis. I was not allowed to sleep in my room during that time, not even allowed to enter into the yard, water plants or touch the trees. I cannot celebrate festivals in my period days. I had to spend 4 days in a spare room. Since the period I have to ask for food, I have to ask for lunch, snacks whenever I get hungry, I have to ask for water when I get thirsty because girls get restricted from entering into the kitchen. During the time of mensuration, when I run out of water and if I am home alone, I have to wait for someone to pass by to ask for the water. Its feels humiliating to ask for food, water and some other necessary stuffs again and again. I even feel that others are also irritated, for having to provide me necessary stuffs monotonously.

This forbidding was to ensure proper rest to the females in past days from heavy works in their period days. But the things are interpreted differently rather than a natural biological process .It is connected with sin, impurity in our culture. Those were the days female had to use homemade cotton pads these days sanitary pads are easily available in almost every store. I do not ask for a male to go any buy sanitary pads for me. Neither ask for the plastic bag or sheet of paper to wrap my sanitary pad. I write poems against these sorts of taboos and defective practices where I focus in respect and dignity of females. I talk with my brother about pain uncomfortableness, mood swings in the period so that he would know how a women feels in her period days.

Being born in the most developed city of the country, in an educated family and I have very bitter experience of my mensuration. Instead of taking it as a matter of physical growth it was a matter of shame to me. I have raised voice in family, because change starts from individual, family and then continues ascending, due to which today I can stay in my own room during the period of mensuration. These days I water tomatoes in my yard, pluck the guavas from the tree which were forbidden in the past implying that the crop yield will be damaged if the plant is touched by a girl on her periods. Things are getting easier gradually. And I do believe I can enter into the kitchen sit next to my bother and take meal on my periods. My period will not be a matter of shame and trouble but be my pride.

How to Get Involved

I still remember that time when I as a kid, saw my dad bring two blue packets and hiding it inside the cupboard. When asked about those packets, he replied, “It’s your brother’s diaper”. For that time, I was okay with the answer but it was after quite a long time, I realized that those packets dad brought years back were sanitary pads, not diapers. It was such time when my mother could not freely go and buy the pads from a male shopkeeper because mensuration or anything related to it was not supposed to be an open topic to talk about. This incident is still fresh in my memory.

I was totally unaware about menstruation until some of my classmates started having their periods. They didn’t talk openly about it but their absence in school for 13 long days made it evident that they had their fist mensuration. In Nepal, girls have to spend 13 days inside a room without seeing the male members of the family during their first mensuration. They are even restricted to see the sunlight let alone touching anyone. After 13 days my schoolmates used to be back and continue the class. After a month or so they again use to be absent for 5-6 days which gave clear hints about their second mensuration. At the time of second mensuration girls have to spend their time inside a room for 4-5 days.

In the western Nepal women in their period must spend their days in the cow shed or hut which is very small without any ventilation. They are forbidden for eating dairy products and they do not have any access to sanitary pads. Many women lose their life in the hut due to suffocation, cold, infection, snake bite, attack by the wild beasts and so on. No matter whether she belongs to a teacher’s family, a politician’s family or a poor farmer’s, she must stay in the hut. This practice in the western Nepal is termed as ‘Chaupadi Pratha’.

 

I was 12 years when I got my first period. When I told mom about the pint of blood in my underclothing, she immediately sent me to my neighbor’s house. There were not any male member in their house. I spent that day alone. In the afternoon my mom and my cousin sisters arrived. They took me back home and I saw that they had managed a space for me in our store room. The room was messy and cold and there were sacks full of paddy and wheat. It was a cold December night so they had kept some straw on the cold floor beneath a mattress and topped it with blankets. There was big curtain to make sure that the sunlight doesn’t enter the room. Only female members visited me during that time. For the first two days, I kind of liked it, because I didn’t have to go to school. But soon I started suffocating inside that dark and dirty room and also, started missing my school.

My mother used to bring food for me inside the room. She used to put the plate in the floor without touching me. The worst thing was to eat in that room. I was given a basin to wash my hands and brush my teeth inside the room. I used to use the basin to urinate. I used to spend my days reading story books, writing poems. My play mates used to visit me after their school. I used to peek through the curtain waiting for them to arrive home, finish their homework and come to see me. My mother used to take me to the toilet, outside the house at night or early in morning. I was taken out for bathing in odd days. It was very difficult for a mischievous kid like me to stay locked inside a room. The room used to stink, I used to hate it in there but I had to complete my 12-day hideout. I was waiting for those long days to be over and was pretty much excited about the gifts I was going to receive at the end of this superstitious ritual.

On the 13th day of first mensuration male members of the family provide gifts and cash to the girl. Finally the day came and I was woken up by my mom, early in the morning. She had boiled hot water for me to bathe. I was showered with gifts and cash from family. I looked in the mirror, for the first time after I had my first period and I looked fairer.

It felt awesome to enjoy the sun basking. I felt free and alive outside after 12 days hideout in a cold and dark room. Back to the school everyone in the class was curious about my absence. My female class teacher and my female friends already knew about it. Boys in the class already knew it. They giggled at my face.

After about 9 months I menstruated for the second time. It was bed time and I told my mom. I panicked this time because I saw some fair amount of blood in my urine.  My mom gave me some pads. My mom managed the bed in the same store room. I was totally scared because I used to hear strange sounds. I was sweating and I couldn’t sleep out of fear. It might have been the sound made by the rats. I called my mom and she took me to her room she managed place over there for me to sleep. In the morning I was sent back to the stinky store room. This time it wasn’t easy. The flow was heavy and I experienced very sharp and strange pain in my lower stomach. My cousin sisters prepared me a syrup. The syrup was made by boiling the mint leaves and cumin seeds together and salt on it. It worked form me and I felt better. Mom also told me that pain killers are not good for health. However I managed to get past those four days.

Since that day I always take this magical mint soup. It works in solving irregular periods, pain and most menstrual problems. I advise my friends and others to use this miraculous syrup. After my second mensuration I started menstruating regularly in a smooth basis. I was not allowed to sleep in my room during that time, not even allowed to enter into the yard, water plants or touch the trees. I cannot celebrate festivals in my period days. I had to spend 4 days in a spare room. Since the period I have to ask for food, I have to ask for lunch, snacks whenever I get hungry, I have to ask for water when I get thirsty because girls get restricted from entering into the kitchen. During the time of mensuration, when I run out of water and if I am home alone, I have to wait for someone to pass by to ask for the water. Its feels humiliating to ask for food, water and some other necessary stuffs again and again. I even feel that others are also irritated, for having to provide me necessary stuffs monotonously. 

 

 

This forbidding was to ensure proper rest to the females in past days from heavy works in their period days. But the things are interpreted differently rather than a natural biological process .It is connected with sin, impurity in our culture. Those were the days female had to use homemade cotton pads these days sanitary pads are easily available in almost every store. I do not ask for a male to go any buy sanitary pads for me. Neither ask for the plastic bag or sheet of paper to wrap my sanitary pad. I write poems against these sorts of taboos and defective practices where I focus in respect and dignity of females. I talk with my brother about pain uncomfortableness, mood swings in the period so that he would know how a women feels in her period days.

Being born in the most developed city of the country, in an educated family and I have very bitter experience of my mensuration. Instead of taking it as a matter of physical growth it was a matter of shame to me.  I have raised voice in family, because change starts from individual, family and then continues ascending, due to which today I can stay in my own room during the period of mensuration. These days I water tomatoes in my yard, pluck the guavas from the tree which were forbidden in the past implying that the crop yield will be damaged if the plant is touched by a girl on her periods. Things are getting easier gradually. And I do believe I can enter into the kitchen sit next to my bother and take meal on my periods. My period will not be a matter of shame and trouble but be my pride.

This post was submitted in response to Period Talk.

Comments 2

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Sherna Alexander Benjamin
May 30, 2017
May 30, 2017

Dear narayani khadka,

Welcome to World Pulse a community of sisters where we encourage, support and join each other on the journey of global change. Your story brought such sadness to my heart women should not be excluded because of their periods. Continue using your voice to make a difference and to educate others but more so to break down and remove social norms which discriminate against women and girls.

I look forward to reading more of your stories. 

JulieG
Jun 11, 2017
Jun 11, 2017

Dear Narayani Khadka,

Thank you for sharing your story here and welcome to World Pulse.  I hope this community provides you with support so you can continue to speak up against such injustices.  These superstitious rituals you describe are full of feelings of shame and punishment for women in your community.  But I love the way you've spoken out to your family and small changes of improvement have occurred as a result.  I'm happy to hear your feelings of shame are replaced with pride, and I hope your actions will be copied in your community for more widespread change.  Good luck to you and keep sharing your experiences here!