For These Girls, A Period Means Loneliness & Isolation

This week Nepal criminalized Chhaupadi, an ancient Hindu tradition in which women are exiled to huts when they're on their period to keep the "impurity" out of the house. Even though the practice has been banned for over a decade, it was still prevalent in rural areas of west Nepal. In light of the news, we're republishing this photo essay of young Nepalese girls who were given cameras to document what daily life is like for them when they're on their periods.

For several days each month, the lives of many teen girls in Nepal are turned upside down.

They're isolated from family and daily routines, and banned from engaging in activities like combing their hair, spending time with family, and even eating their favorite foods.

Why? Because they have their periods.

Now, girls from Nepal are giving the world a glimpse at how "the silence and stigma that surround menstruation" deeply affect their lives as part of a new public awareness campaign from the international charity WaterAid.

Seven teens from the rural village of Sindhuli were given cameras so they could document what it's really like to have their periods in their community. After taking the photographs and participating in workshops, the girls put their work on display to help encourage discussion about the issue.

The goal of the project, according to WaterAid, is to "challenge menstrual taboos and call for improved sanitation for women everywhere."

“Being able to deal with periods in a hygienic and dignified way is crucial to women’s well-being," WaterAid Chief Executive Barbara Frost said in a statement. "It helps women feel that they are able to play a full role in society, no matter what time of the month."

Ahead, a look at what it's like to experience your period as a young girl in Nepal. To learn more about WaterAid and sign its petition to call for better sanitation facilities worldwide, visit this link.

This story was originally published on August 19, 2016.

Photo: WaterAid/ Bandana Khadka
"This is my mother and sister in the picture. Here, my mother is feeding my sister with so much…love. 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 menstruation, 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." — Bandana Khadka
Photo: WaterAid/ Bisheshta Bhandari
"The place featured in the picture is the place where I used to wash myself during my first menstruation. My sister Shristi is washing her face in this picture. When I had my first menstruation, I stayed at others' houses, as we were not allowed to stay in our own house. The house where I stayed during my first menstruation is 15 minutes away from my own house. Unlike my friends, though I do not have many restrictions during menstruation, I was bound to stay out of my home. I think this is due to social pressure. We teenage girls are more secure with our own parents, be it during menstruation or not. Moreover, during menstruation, we need extra care and support from our parents. Following social culture, when we have to stay out of [our] home [and] in some other house for seven days, we may not be secure. Therefore, any adolescent girl has [the] right to stay with their parents to be safe and secure." — Bisheshta Bhandari
Photo: WaterAid/ Bisheshta Bhandari.
"This is the picture of my grandmother. My grandmother's name is Chitrarekha Bhandari. During my menstrual cycle, my grandmother restricts me from going near…her when she is making thread lights (handmade lights). When she is preparing those threads, she tells me not to come near her, or not to touch her as she is preparing them for god. During my menstruation, when somebody comes and tells me to not to do this and that, or restricts me from doing things, I get very angry." — Bisheshta Bhandari
Photo: WaterAid/ Bisheshta Bhandari
"I like pink. Mostly I like everything in pink. I like to be beautiful, but during menstruation, I get stomachaches and other health problems. This is the reason I cannot do or wear what I like. I look at my favorite things and I feel good." — Bisheshta Bhandari
Photo: WaterAid/ Manisha Karki
"This is the picture of the stream where I bath and clean my pads. In this picture, there is a stack of pads that I use, and I [took] this picture sometime before I started washing them. During our menstrual cycle, it’s very embarrassing for us to wash our used pads out in…public places, hence we find [the] nearest corners and isolated streams to clean our pads and wash ourselves [in]." — Manisha Karki
Photo: WaterAid/ Manisha Karki
"This is the picture of my kitchen. When I [took] this picture, my mother had just finished cooking sel-roti (traditional doughnut-[like] bread prepared from rice flour). I really love sel-roti. But during our menstruation, we are not allowed to enter inside [the] kitchen. We are also not allowed to touch belongings of [the] kitchen — materials, edibles, and utensils, as well. I am not allowed to eat sel-roti, as well. Other days, when I am not in the cycle, I work and eat in the same kitchen; however, eating separately during menstruation makes me sad. I feel outcast, as if a stranger and not the part of the family." — Manisha Karki
Photo: WaterAid/ Rabina Budhathoki.
"I had gone to collect grass and firewood when I had my first menstruation. I clicked this picture to recollect that particular memory of mine. I never knew menstruation was about bleeding. So, when I started bleeding for the first time, I got very scared and terrified. There was no one to help me out; I didn’t know how to use pads, and I had hard time coping…with the changes I had within me. That’s why I try to help younger girls who seem as confused as [I was] when I had my first menstruation. I tell them to focus on cleanliness and hygiene." — Rabina Budhathoki
Photo: WaterAid/ Rabina Budhathoki .
"This is the set of utensils I use during my menstruation. I am not allowed to sit in the usual place…during my menstruation. When I am not given the seat where I usually sit, that feels really bad. Everyone sits around and eats together, whereas I am separated. For four days, I am not allowed to touch any…utensils other than the ones that are separated for me. I just eat and drink [with] them, and make sure not [to] use extra mugs and plates. After I am done eating, I have to wash it and keep it separately from other utensils. I feel really bad during these four days." — Rabina Budhathoki
Photo: WaterAid/ Sabina Gautam.
"The photo is of one of my brother's marriage in the village. During periods, we do not go to such social gatherings. Even if we go, we have to stay separate. Though I like to attend marriage ceremonies, I do not like to go during periods due to social superstition." — Rabina Budhathoki
Photo: WaterAid/ Sabina Gautam
"In this photo, my mom is cutting papaya. In our community, there is a belief that during menstruation we should not eat papaya, but I like papaya very much. Even if I want, I cannot eat papaya during my periods. Papaya is a nutritious fruit. During menstruation, we are told, not only not to eat papaya, but also we are told not to touch papaya tree — [this] is a common belief. Actually, during menstruation, the adolescent girls should eat even more fruits and vegetables to keep the body strong and healthy." — Rabina Budhathoki
Photo: WaterAid/ Sushma Diyali
"This is the picture of [the] mirror and comb that I use at my house. In our society, when girls experience their first menstruation, we are not allowed to look into mirrors or comb our hair. And I think that is the wrong belief that we have in our society. Me and my family do not follow such practices. But, I have many friends whose families are really strict about these practices, and as a result, most of my friends were not allowed to look themselves in the mirrors and comb their hair. I think mirrors and combs are the means of cleanliness, and as a human, it’s very important that you should stay clean and healthy. Only if my friends just like me could grow in an environment where [there] are no limitations regarding menstruation and receive more support from the families, they can set themselves free and explore greater potential and opportunities around them, is what I think." — Sushma Diyali
Photo: WaterAid/ Sushma Diyali.
"This is the girl’s toilet of our school. We are in urgent need of MHM-friendly toilets. The ones we use doesn’t lock properly. If someone is inside, [another] person has to wait outside pushing the door for her. Because of lack of latrines in our school, we have to wait in the long line. This is very problematic for us, and we are need of more girl-friendly latrines." — Sushma Diyali
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