3-9 July 2015 #765

Girl talk: period

More than 20% of girls miss school during their period finds a new study
Anjana Rajbhandary


When girls hit puberty, it is a time of much excitement and significant trauma resulting from the amount of changes that take place.

Opposite (and/or same) sex start to look more attractive, irrespective of their actual appearance for which one can blame the hormones. Here we will discuss what unique situation puberty puts girls in. Different cultures have different customs and perhaps a more or less, ‘traditional’ view on the subject.

It is politely called ‘that time of the month’ or ‘period’ and more scientifically called ‘menstruation’. I will not assume men have much knowledge on the topic as recently a 25-year old male friend asked how often this “incident” that makes women more emotional occurs. Mahinabari (menstruation in Nepali) happens once a month, on average. First for those who are more informed, when women get their period, they don’t want to twirl, they don’t want to go swimming in white bathing suits or play competitive field hockey with a huge grin on their faces.

An aunt once told me, “You are lucky because in the past, when chaupadi was widely practised, women had to sleep outside in the shed with cows.”

In Kathmandu even in present day, most households don’t allow women having periods into kitchens, temples, or let them eat with the family, touch the tap or sleep on their beds.

Mitini, an initiative of Mitra Samaj, started with a vision to break these taboos. In February 2015, the organisation found more than 20% of female students missed four days of classes in a month during their menstrual period. Almost 98% of the students said they would go to school if sanitary napkins were provided.

Shreyana Shrestha of Mitini said, “Across the hard hit earthquake areas, the need for sanitary napkins was highly prevalent. We provided a month’s supply of sanitary napkins.” Mitini is now entering the second phase of its distribution program.

Lack of proper hygiene and privacy during periods is one of the main concerns for women living in tent shelters. In some rural parts of Nepal (and certain parts of Kathmandu), girls are not allowed to touch books during and after their period for three to seven days. This leads to them falling behind in school and ultimately dropping out.

A modern 24-year-old educated woman said she is not allowed to touch plants during her period.

Another educated professional was emotionally coerced into going to a cousin’s wedding to show her respect yet not allowed to participate in the ceremony. “I just sat there on a plastic chair 50 feet away watching it all happen, and my entire family and their friends knew I was having my period.”

Girls and women are made to feel ashamed for this natural process and then treated like an outcast in home or social setting. Isn’t this a form of discrimination in the name of religion? They say, God will be upset.

This is not meant to disrespect any culture or tradition, but to address the levels of awkwardness and discomfort experienced by women. Haven’t we moved forward enough in the world to not scrutinise women who may be having their period?

The other side is that if a girl or woman, never gets her period, she is considered ‘barren’ which also does not have a positive connotation. You just cannot win.

It’s important to teach young girls that having periods are natural, and it is nothing to be embarrassed about. Society will always find a way to test you and make you uncomfortable, so it’s up to you how much power you let society have over you. We have a long way to go for this to apply in rural areas, but in cities like Kathmandu this obsolete treatment needs to go.

We have learned to live and dress like the Western world, shouldn’t we at least try attempting to treat women the same way too?


Read also:

That time of the month, Rubeena D Shrestha

Custom-made injustice, Aruna Uprety

In solitary