CATE WATERS (GRADE 11)
In December of 2016, a 15-year-old girl in Nepal died from smoke inhalation. As she slept the smoke and shame filled her body that lay on the ground of a small, ramshackle hut. A “menstruation hut.” Only a few months before, another girl had died under similar conditions.
The practice of Chhaupadi, common in Western Nepal, prohibits women from participating in daily activities during menstruation. They are exiled to a small hut and cut off from the world for a week every month. The practice is centered around the belief that women are dirty during that week. Women in Nepal aren’t given proper medical attention or supplies to deal with their periods. This is all too common around the world. Because of a natural, biological occurrence, girls are being exiled from their own lives. And it’s killing them.
Many underdeveloped countries do not provide proper education or supplies to their female citizens surrounding healthcare. Because of discomfort, ignorance, intolerance, or the fear of an “awkward” conversation, girls around the world are not being properly educated. A lack of information leads to ignorance on women’s issues. In America, periods and other women’s issues such as pregnancies and abortions are openly discussed. But in other countries around the world it isn’t acceptable to discuss such matters, leaving many young girls in the dark.
In South-Eastern Africa girls have limited access to menstrual products. Girls who are fortunate enough to attend school have to miss a week of school every month because of their inability to hide their period. That means each month they are missing important lessons in school– about 20% of their education in total. This cycle of oppression starts with a lack of education and leads to girls dropping out of school. This results in a severe minority of women in positions of power, which further decreases the chance of women’s healthcare being seen as a legitimate issue.
Women should never be subjected to exclusion because of the ways their bodies work. They should not feel ashamed of something they can not change. Society should accept menstruation as natural, and something that just happens. 50% of the world’s population experiences monthly periods and it’s time to support and educate each other instead of shaming and locking up the “dirty” women of the world.