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Menstruating women forced to live in forest caves

An eighth grader girl sheltering under a tent during menstruation in Kolti, Bajura, on Thursday, July 21, 2016. Photo: THT

Bajura, July 22, 2016: Although the village of Bela Kolti-3 tried to end the practice of forcing menstruating women to live inside chhaupadi sheds by destroying all chhaupadi sheds in the village, the measure has backfired.

Thirty-nine-year-old Amala BK of Bela Kolti-3 now has to spend several days a month in a forest cave when she is menstruating.

“I have no option. The chhaupadi sheds may have been pulled down, but my family doesn’t let me stay with them when I am menstruating,” Amala said, adding that many other women in the village also have to deal with the same problem.

Jauma BK, a local, said living in a tent or a cave was worse than in the chhaupadi sheds. “At least the sheds were closer to home, and safer. Now we are forced to live even further off, in unsafer places,” she said.

So far, seven VDCs, Budhiganga, Jayabageshwori, Kuldevmandau, Kailashmandau, Aatichaur, Barhmatola, and Barhabisa of the district, have been declared chhaupadi-free following a drive that destroyed chhaupadi sheds in those villages. But the initiative have done more harm than good as the women now are forced to languish inside dark caves or under flimsy tents.

A number of government and non-government organisations including Women and Children Office, District Development Committee, Village Development Committees, HRC, UNICEF, Save the Children invest millions of rupees in the chhaupadi shed-free campaign in the district.

“Although we spend millions to combat this problem, it still persists,” said Kashi BK, chairperson of Non-government Federation Nepal.