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WaterAid saddened by death of teenager banished to a shed because she was on her period

10 Jul 2017

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WaterAid is greatly saddened by reports that another teenage girl in Nepal has died in an incident linked to the practice of chhaupadi, in which menstruating women are excluded from normal community life, and calls for urgent action to end the practice.

The young woman, who has been identified as Tulasi Shahi from Nepal's Dailekh district, is reported to have died after being bitten by a poisonous snake while staying in a chhaupadi shed, where she was required to sleep during menstruation.

Chhaupadi is an ancient practice in which it is believed that women are ‘impure’ and can bring bad luck while on their period. As a result, many women and girls observe strict practices that see them unable to eat with their family or touch certain foods, and in extreme cases, forced into seclusion by being made to sleep outside the family home in small, basic sheds.

Reports have suggested another teenager, 14-year-old Lalsara Bika, also died in recent weeks from an illness reportedly contracted while staying in a chhaupadi shed. These are not isolated cases, as other women and girls have died over the years from causes such as animal bites, asphyxiation from having fires in the small sheds, exposure, or after being attacked.

Although chhaupadi was made illegal in 2005, there have been no reported prosecutions of anyone who adheres to the tradition.

The Nepalese Government has committed to break the silence that shrouds menstruation and eradicate chhaupadi by working with civil society organisations and NGOs, including WaterAid, to develop a national menstrual hygiene policy framework.

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive at WaterAid UK, said:

“We are shocked and saddened to hear the tragic case of a young woman in Nepal dying while staying in a chhaupadi shed during her period. Sadly, this is not an isolated case as every day, girls and women in parts of Nepal are forced to live outside their communities just because they are menstruating.

“The ancient practice of chhaupadi is perhaps the most acute example of how the stigmatisation of periods impinges on women’s everyday lives. We all need to play a part in breaking down this stigma and ensure that menstruation is talked about openly. WaterAid is working with governments and international organisations to help challenge these taboos.

“WaterAid is working alongside various development organisations to contribute to a national menstrual hygiene policy framework, which is being developed by Nepal’s Ministry for Water and Sanitation. We are calling for urgent action that will make such unnecessary and tragic deaths a thing of the past.

“Furthermore, we believe all women have the right to be able to deal with periods in a hygienic and dignified way and without fear of stigma or exclusion; it is crucial to women’s wellbeing and an important step in achieving gender equality.”

As well as working at a national level, WaterAid works with communities to dispel the stigma surrounding menstruation.

By working with local groups, and empowering communities, we help girls and women develop the knowledge and confidence they need to manage their periods safely and with confidence, and to help dispel many of the myths around menstruation. We help bring clean water and space where they can wash and facilities where they can get rid of their sanitary products with privacy and dignity. We also work with schools and communities to teach women and girls how to make hygienic, sanitary pads, which can be washed and re-used, for their own personal use or to sell.

ENDS

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Notes to editors

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25 million people with clean water and, since 2004, 24 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, follow @wateraid on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook.

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