MYTH 8: A WOMAN'S HEALTH IS NOT A MAN'S CONCERN

MYTH 8: A WOMAN'S HEALTH IS NOT A MAN'S CONCERN

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Posted
10/11/13

LOOKING FORWARD: Goma Acharya, Nepal

Goma Acharya is fighting one of the most discriminatory, degrading practices faced by women and girls around the world. It's known as chaupadi.

Chaupadi forces women to be isolated in small, unventilated mud sheds during menstruation or after child birth. The custom, common in western Nepal, is based on the belief that menstruating women and girls are unclean and could spread the impurity to others.

Acharya has experienced chaupadi's cruelty — and deadliness — first hand. When her first menstrual cycle began at 13, she was forced to stay outside her home for 22 days. "It was scary and painful," she says. She also watched a 12-year-old friend die after being bitten by a snake in a chaupadi shed.

It was only after learning about reproductive health in school, Acharya says, that she developed the confidence to challenge chaupadi. Now, as regional coordinator for the National Forum for Women's Rights Concern in Nepal, she says her challenge isn't simply to educate women but to inform men.

"Society here is still patriarchal," she says. "You cannot improve the situation without men's involvement."

Acharya tries to change social norms by helping men understand that menstruation is a natural cycle in a woman's life. She also emphasizes that chaupadi harms not just women but the men, children and community around them. When a woman dies, her whole family often breaks apart. Her children are less likely to go to school, get immunized against diseases and eat well.

Nepal has declared chaupadi illegal, but many communities still believe halting the practice will bring divine retribution, poor harvests and trees that won't bear fruit. Some say ignoring chaupadi causes infertility. In fact, the opposite is true. Areas of Nepal where chaupadi is common have a higher rate of uterine prolapse, a condition that can lead to severe infections. While getting men to care about a perceived woman's issue can be a daunting task, Acharya continues to arm herself with facts and travel the countryside. Her goal is to isolate chaupadi — in history books.

LOOK BACK

One or two cases of women dying are reported every year in this district because of chaupadi. Many are bitten by snakes or suffer infections due to unhygienic conditions. Some are raped.

- Goma Acharya

SOURCES: 1 "Chaupadi: pushing women into isolation – Nepal," CARE UK, December 6, 2010. 2 "Pratibimba: CARE Nepal Newsletter 2009-2010," CARE Nepal. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Goma Acharya.

 Courtesy of Goma Acharya

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