Nepal | August 16, 2020

Independence Day 2020

Speaking up against period stigma

Himalayan News Service
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Artists stage an awareness drama to mark Menstrual Hygiene Day in Bhaktapur, on Sunday, May 28, 2017. Photo: THT


Chanda (Bijeeta Shah) enters her adolescence — she has her first period. She tells about it to her mother (Rashila Chaulagain), who operates a tea shop in a village. As per her religion, she isn’t allowed to touch male members, she can’t even look at her father’s face and she has to live in an isolation during her first menstruation.

As she has become untouchable, her mother prepares to take her to the isolation, veiling her face with a shawl. But Parshuram (Rupesh Magar), a customer, intervenes. He tells them that isolating Chanda to a room where the sunlight doesn’t enter is hazardous and it can infect her uterus.

A health volunteer (Sushila Thapa) comes in the picture and explains them more about menstruation, its mechanism, its dos and don’ts and use of sanitary pads. Their attempt to aware the family does the trick — Chanda’s father comprehends it and orders his wife not to isolate their daughter.

This is the story of Kunthaharu, a play staged at Bode Higher Secondary School, Bode on May 28, marking the Menstrual Hygiene Day.

Many girls like Chanda, and parents like hers exist, in both the villages and cities of Nepal. To make them aware, youth-led organisation Kalyani staged the play, directed by Ajit Aryal and performed by Achel Natya Samuha.

The subject of the play wasn’t new for students like Shrijana Tamang and Anjali Sharu — both 14 years old.

Sharu knows menstruation is a physical mechanism yet “I am not allowed to touch utensils and people at home due to our religious beliefs”.

“People at my home follow the old beliefs and norms of treating girls who are menstruating, and refuse to change. It will take time for them to change their perspective,” she added.

But after watching the play, Tamang took new knowledge back home — “We need to eat nutritious food when we are menstruating.”

On the contrary, the play was quite an eye opener for Suman Aryal, studying in Class VII. “I came to know that women need to change their sanitary napkins at least thrice a day,” he shared, with a lesson learnt: “We shouldn’t tease the girls who are menstruating, like the play says.”

As people do not talk about menstruation many lack knowledge about it, like Aryal.

“Staging a play is one of the best mediums to create awareness on menstrual hygiene,” Aditi Sharma, Chairperson of Kalyani shared.

So, they attempted to aware with the play as “menstruation is stigmatised and there is so little being done. We want to aware people about menstrual hygiene and break the taboos and superstitions related to it.”

A version of this article appears in print on May 29, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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