If I had one wish, it would be for girls to be free, free to choose what they want to become, not to be dominated by men. Women to have their own voice without being ashamed of what society might think. Our place is not just in the kitchen or to have babies, we have our own lives. I wished for everyone to have the same rights.
Nepal, Southern Asia
Content Warning: This story contains mentions of sexual abuse and incestuous gestures that can be upsetting for some readers.
There is a really strict unspoken rule in Nepal about menstruation, whenever you get your period. For the first three ones, you are not allowed to stay at home. So at the first one, you want to hide the women somewhere away from your house. For the second and third one, you are isolated in a room and not allowed to see your family. After three times you are allowed to sleep at home but only on the floor, basically treated like a dog with your pots to eat from, different spoons, etc. Then the women need to shower and still are not allowed to cook. Only after the fifth day, they can sleep with their husbands again and touch their baby.
In very remote areas there is even the Chaupadi System. Meaning that families send their daughters to small huts, without any water or electricity. This is restricted by the government but it is still a common practice. There was data published that every year 20-25 ladies die because of this system, because of snake bites, hunger or cold, as there are no bed sheets or fire in these huts and sometimes the families forget them. It originates from ancient Hindu practices but the problem is, most NGOs do not reach these remote areas.
I have lived in the UK for 5 years and thus understand different worlds. But I wanted to come back and be active for my country and people. Especially the people, that do not have voices. I have been abused myself when I was very young from my uncle, he never confessed it. I had to cry so much and I told my whole family what he did but nobody stood up for me. They didn’t want to lose the reputation of the family name. People used to say “a witch is attacking her at night” because I felt so tired during the day in this period and I got really scared. One night I opened my eyes and it was him, sitting at my bedside. Thankfully it was not rape, but touching my body parts. So I just want to fight for women out there, because, for me, none of my family members spoke up. And I come from a very educated family background, Brahmans, the highest cast in Nepal.
Those girls I try to support, have faced abuse from a very young age with nobody to protect them. So when I came back to Nepal, I started talking in communities and telling what is “normal”, what is not, what can be reported. It is just that I have decided to act strongly on what has happened to me and I want the same thing for my girls. It is your mind, how you train yourself to be strong when no one listens. This is my biggest inspiration. You do not need anyone for raising your voice. Then other women will join; you have to create leaders so people will start talking for themselves. Problems always come together with solutions. Just do not be afraid of people and what they will think of you.
If I had one wish, it would be for girls to be free to choose what they want to become, not to be dominated by men. Women to have their own voice without being ashamed of what society might think. Our place is not just in the kitchen or to have babies, we have our own lives. I wished for everyone to have the same rights.
To learn more about menstruation taboos, read When Your Body and Beliefs are at Odds by Shakila Dhauntal and Gender-Based Untouchability and Disaster Help in Nepal by Chandra Bhadra.
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