Problem StatementChaupadi is a deadly practice stemming from Hindu traditions where menstruating women are considered untouchable and are banished to menstruation huts until their periods are over. The huts are spatially restricted with not enough space to stand, making them extremely uncomfortable. Often times, they must fit multiple women in the confined space. Many huts have leaky roofs and dirty floors, making them unsanitary. The huts also do not have protection against the wilderness. Women and their children have died from snake bites,animal attacks, illness, and smoke inhalation. There are also reports of women being raped inside the menstruation huts. During their menstruation, the women cannot use the same sources of water as the other villagers or even talk to the other villagers. The women are separated from their villages, and members of their families, for up to 11 days. Young girls that are enrolled in school are prohibited from attending until their period has ceased. This results in girls missing nearly a week per month of school. This is mainly being practiced in remote areas, like rural Nepal, where the climate is very unfavorable.
Nepal is located in South Asia within the Himalayan Mountains. The climate varies from location to location. In the north, summers are cool and winters are very extreme. However, in the south the summers are sweltering while the winters are temperate. With such extreme weather, living in menstruation huts could be very problematic.
There is also some evidence that menstruation huts can promote patriarchal influence in villages. In most societies, menstruation is a silent and private occurrence. There is nothing that clearly indicates a woman is on her period. However, menstruation huts can clearly reveal the menstruation cycle of a woman. Men use the time of menstruation to figure out a woman’s time of ovulation, which is a period of high fertility, and the time of copulation to determine the paternity of a child when she becomes pregnant. This is discussed in depth in a primary literature piece cited below.
Why Were Here
Harsh weather can cause many problems for women forced to stay in menstruation huts. After child birth, many women experience period-like symptoms, resulting in their exile to a menstruation hut. This can be very problematic in regions where the weather is very cold. Mothers, especially their newborns, experience extreme cold that can ultimately lead to hypothermia and death. In the event that the women accomplish lighting a fire for warmth, the inhalation of smoke can lead to some serious health issues for the mother and child alike. Also, the fire may cause injuries or deaths from the hut catching fire. Here is a supporting graph comparing Nepal to other countries: Infant Mortality VS. Burn Deaths.
The Nepal Supreme Court ruled the practice of Chaupadi illegal in 2005. This ruling has lead to some changes. There are some places that have stopped the practice and others where the girls are kept isolated in the house instead of sent to a hut. But this ruling did not apply to the country’s western districts and remains in full practice in many rural areas.
The Story of a Chaupadi Woman
Many health risks accompany the practice of Chaupadi as well. Nadia Hussain chronicles the experiences one Nepalese family had with Chaupadi. A man’s wife was immediately banished to the menstruation hut after child birth. A few days later the baby died and the mother became extremely sick. There was no one around to help her because she was “impure”. The husband went against cultural norms to take his wife to be treated. However, by that time it was too late and his wife also died.
We strive to provide resources and education to the women forced to stay in small, poorly built huts in these rough climate, remote locations. We do not wish to change or abolish the cultural practice. We simply want to make their practice safer, more comfortable and empower the women with knowledge.
We aim to provide a simple, yet necessary, kit that will help women and their children live more comfortably in the huts. The kits will contain: Two reusable pads, and an extreme weather blanket.
How You Can Help
The current kits would not provide the women with much. But it is the start they need for things to start improving. Our next challenge would be finding the best way to help them so they are not relying on donations from outsiders. In our search for reusable pads, we did find information out there about how to make one yourself. DIY Reusable Pad The challenge becomes finding fabrics the women could use in rural Nepal that are super absorbent to make the best reusable pads out of. If they can make their own pads then they are not dependent on outsiders and each new generation of girls will have pads to use. The other challenge would be finding a way in which they could make their own extreme weather blankets.
Group MembersSonia Lopez, Animal Science major (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tiffany Rios, Microbiology major (email@example.com)
Julie Schneider, Sociology major (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are working along side 50Cents.Period. Their mission is to help women and girls around the world stay fully engaged in their lives without the stigma or barriers surrounding their periods and gender.
They started by helping provide 50 cent packages of sanitary napkins to women and girls in India so that they could leave the house and and go to school while menstruating. Today they are helping women all over the world. And most recently some of their work has been in Nepal.
Some other organizations we have been using as models are:
History of Chaupadi and It’s Effects
Images of Experiences