People in majority of areas in Bajura, Humla and Mugu force lactating mothers and their infants into cowsheds for a month, in addition to forcing women and girls to live in 'Chhau' sheds during menstruation


Lactating mothers and newborns are forced to stay in cowsheds for a month after childbirth in areas of Bajura, Humla and Mugu districts.

Amba Kala Thapa, a new mother who gave birth to a daughter 11 days ago, has been living in a cowshed in Himali Rural Municipality-3 of Bajura. The mother and her infant daughter are facing difficulties after being forced to live there with increasing cold owing to the continuous snowfall.

Lactating mothers are kept separately along with their newborns and are supposed to take a bath daily, Thapa said.

Similarly, Rajana Rokaya and her 25-day-old son have been living in a cowshed since the child was born in Dhimala village of Himali Rural Municipality-5 in the district. "Due to the increasing cold, both of us have fallen ill," complained Rokaya. "Other lactating mothers are also forced into similar situation despite the plummeting temperature," she added.

Locals in the four eastern-most local levels of Bajura and in majority of areas in Humla and Mugu compel women who have just given birth, and their babies, to live in animal sheds for a month. These areas also shelter social ill practice of pressuring girls and women to stay inside 'Chhau' sheds during their menstruation, informed Kuber Shahi, information officer at Swamikartik Rural Municipality. Continuous snowfall for the last one and half months has further aggravated the condition of women in the region, he added.

At a time when the whole country is talking about the need to abolish the practice of 'Chhaupadi', the ill practice of forcing new mothers into animal sheds for as long as a month is far more serious with the possibility of newborns falling seriously ill or even dying, said Premkala Malla, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife at Rugi Health Post in Himali Rural Municipality.

"There have been incidents of lactating mothers and newborns losing their lives during their stay in the cowsheds," Malla claimed. Health workers have been counselling against the practice in the areas, but in vain, she said.

The recent snowfall in Sudurpaschim and Karnali Provinces have caused multiple challenges in the daily lives of people. Some of them in high altitudes of the provinces have migrated to the lower areas to evade the bitter cold.

(Translated by Sandeep Sen; Edited by Priyanka Adhikari)