Anisha is 14 and in Class 11, the equivalent of the first year of college. She has moved to Kathmandu for this further study but was back in Baseri, Dhading district, for the Nepali holiday season. Last year she attended one of our menstruation workshops and she kindly agreed to chat to us in her home about her menstruation experience.
As Anisha herself admits, she is lucky. She is Bramhin caste and so traditionally would have a fairly strict practice around menstruation (although not as severe as chhaupadi which is in the west of Nepal), separating for 5 days from the family, not entering the kitchen etc.
But she laughed and said, “No my family do not enforce this practice, I can enter the kitchen during menstruation, my mother does not enforce these practices.”
We understood that she will not help to cook during her menstruation but entering the kitchen is fine; quite a radical thing for a rural Nepalese family.
We had already met her mother, grandmother and great grandmother outside, who were so welcoming and invited us straight in for tea.
We asked what she is grateful for about her menstruation, a question designed to help women to consider what is actually good about their period, rather than always focusing on the negative. She answered easily, “Getting to relax and do less, sleep a little more and to sit with a hot water bottle!”
For her first menstruation she was not made to stay inside, confined to be separate as the traditions encourage, but she chose to take a couple of days of school anyway, to adjust to this new stage of life.
Her friends have had varying experiences, most of them had to follow the rules more strictly, taking up to 2 weeks off school for the first menstruation, some will have been taken to another house to avoid her being seen by the men in her family. When this happens there is no doubt for the other students at school what has happened for the girl. Anisha said that the boys do tease a little, but they understand, having to witness the same separation practices within their families.
When we asked about the reusable sanitary pad that we gave last year, and whether she uses it, she said that sometimes she uses the reusable one, with new inserts that she has made, and other time she will use the disposable pads that they sell in her family’s shop.
If she uses the disposable sanitary towels they will be buried out in the woodland after use.
In contrast, we talked to our friend Sabin who told us that he remembers his sisters disappearing from one minute to the next; the belief that the girl who is menstruating shouldn’t see any male members of her family was so strong that she had to be completely removed. They were kept in another family’s home and cared for, for between 15 and 20 days. So he knew what had happened to them.
This was 20 years ago but this practice is still carried out to varying degrees today, it is dependent on the family’s beliefs.