Article shared by Gender and Water Alliance
Like many women in the region, Tiruwa was told to sleep in a chhau goth or menstrual hut during her period. There she was vulnerable to cold in the winter and snakebites in the summer. Because she was considered unclean, she was forbidden from using the family toilet during her period so she had to defecate in the open, increasing the risk that she and all the other women in her village adhering to the tradition would spread disease. New mothers are also usually expected to sleep with their infants in the chhau goth for the first few weeks after giving birth, sometimes resulting in the death of a newborn from respiratory ailments.
Tradition holds that if chhaupadi is not observed, crops will wither, wells will dry up, and illness will strike the family. “Traditional healers will say that if a woman doesn’t follow chhaupadi, something bad will happen to her family,” explains USAID Environmental Health Specialist Pragya Shrestha. “So some women have very strong feelings about chhaupadi. They say ‘I have to protect my family.’”
USAID’s Safe WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) II project aims to help women do just that. It has a broad goal of improving sanitation and hygiene behaviors in four far western districts — Kailali, Kanchanpur, Darchula, and Achham — including reducing the negative aspects of chhaupadi.