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In Nepal, the stigma surrounding the “time of the month” often means girls are kept apart from their families. In this photo essay, seven girls from a rural district document their lives during their periods.
In parts of Nepal, menstruating women and girls are considered “impure” due to long-held cultural beliefs and taboos. In many families, girls are forbidden to sleep in their own room or home, enter the kitchen, eat with family, eat certain foods or even look in the mirror during that time of the month.
On top of this, girls often miss school during their period because they don’t have access to proper toilets. They also risk infections because of a lack of clean and safe places to bathe or wash sanitary pads away from everyone else.
The international nonprofit organization WaterAid gave cameras to seven teenage girls in Nepal’s rural Sindhuli district so they could photograph and share their experiences of exclusion during their periods. They exhibited the photos in the village to open up a discussion and dispel the myths about menstruation.
WaterAid works across Nepal to help women and girls access toilets, clean water and sanitary supplies.
Here are the girls’ photos and their very touching stories.
“This is my mother and sister. Here, my mother is feeding my sister with so much love. My mother loves me very much as well. However, during my menstruation cycle, I am kept separately and have to eat at a distance. When nobody touches me, I feel unloved. We need lots of love and support during our period, but when I am separated and treated like an untouchable, I feel no love from my mother and father, and I feel only hatred. I feel sad being treated that way.” (WaterAid/Bandana Khadka)
Using their photo project, the girls challenged the norms surrounding menstrual taboos in their rural community. They hope their stories will begin to change people’s minds.
“When I had my first period, my mother restricted [me] from crossing the river. She told me I’d get demons inside me,” said 15-year-old Bandana Khadka. “I think we should change these kinds of beliefs.”
WaterAid hopes this project will encourage communities throughout Nepal to ensure safe access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
“The girls of Sindhuli, Nepal, remind us through their photos and personal stories that women will only play a full role in society when the silence and stigma around periods have been laid to rest,” said Sarina Prabasi, who leads WaterAid America.
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