A broad subject, where Steps has concentrated mainly on the stigma and shame surrounding women’s reproductive cycle – and the consequences.
In some districts girls and women are isolated during their period because they are considered as being impure or ‘unclean’. The Chhaupadi tradition is a Hindu practice, excluding women from staying at home during this time. They have to live in a hut, cellar or with the animals, and are not allowed to touch cooking utensils, because they might contaminate them. They may not eat with the family, visit or pass in front of a temple, look at a boy/man, nor look at the sun (which is regarded as a God). They are, however, allowed to work hard in the fields! Hardly fair. This stigma, coupled with poor toilet facilities in most villages and in many schools, means that girls shy away from going to school during their period time. Not all castes or districts practice Chhaupadi, but even in highly educated and modern families there often remains a stigma and related practices. For example, the wife may sleep in her daughter’s room, or go home to her parents’ house.
The practice was recently made illegal, but the tradition continues. The Chhaupadi stigma affects women’s mental and physical health, stagnating their development within society. Additionally, many women do not seek medical attention in time, often resulting in dangerous infections and uterus prolapse, the latter affecting more than 900,000 Nepali women.
Fear of sex and the pain and dangers of childbirth, to which we add depression as a result of poverty, is a major contributing factor to female suicide. As there is a social stigma attached to suicide, they are often registered as natural deaths.
Steps holds Workshops – working together with local Women’s Groups, Doctors and Health Workers, Teachers and Shamans (traditional doctors) to address all aspects of women and community health.
Freedom Period Pad Sets
To challenge and to change these traditional attitudes, Steps has activily been raising awareness around menstruation, using the Freedom Period Pad Set both as a tool and as the Steps flagship.
See Freedom Period Pad Sets for further information.