Chhaupadi is a serious human rights violation affecting up to 95% of females in rural areas in districts in the Far West of Nepal. This practice is a social tradition, common in the western part of Nepal, which prohibits a woman from participating in normal family activities during menstruation, because they are considered impure. The women are kept out of the house and have to live in a shed. During this time, women are forbidden to touch men or even to enter the courtyard of their own homes. They are barred from consuming milk, yogurt, butter, meat, and other nutritious foods, for fear they will forever mar those goods. They cannot use warm blankets, and are allowed only a small rug. They are also restricted from going to school or performing their daily functions like taking a bath, forced to stay in the conditions of the shed.
While the Government of Nepal has outlawed the practice – which presents grave physical and psychological risks for affected females – it has struggled to turn policies and action plans into practice.
Restless Development Nepal has therefore started in June 2015 a project “Towards the abolition of Chhaupadi in the Far and Mid-Western regions of Nepal” that will build on and strengthen NGO-led education and advocacy efforts at the grassroots level, targeting particularly adolescents and youth as well as the wider community through a proven peer-led methodology while enhancing the coordination and learning between government and civil society actors. We will work with existing network of 18 CSOs (established by UNWOMEN called Shantimalika) to improve their capacity to be able to respond to the issue.
The project is funded by UN Women and UN Trust Fund which will be carried out in partnership with KIRDARC and PEACEWIN in order to reduce the incidences of Chhaupadi in the Far and Mid-Western Regions by 20% in four districts, contributing to the abolition of the practice in the regions.
By the end of the project, community members including men and boys, traditional leaders and parents will have improved knowledge and attitudes towards the practice of Chhaupadi. Young people will possess the relevant life skills and knowledge to become advocates for the elimination of the Chhaupadi practice amongst their peers and community members. Local civil society will have a greater capacity to respond to incidences of Chhaupadi and other forms of gender based violence. Their work will also be more coordinated and joined up.
Youth-led advocacy efforts will also result in a greater commitment on the part of District Level government to eliminate the practice. Key strategies to be utilised in the implementation of the project are:
- a youth-led peer education model, engaging young men and boys, creating an enabling and protective environment for young women through a holistic community based approach
- strengthening the capacity of community based civil society organizations and taking a rights-based approach to the problem which ensures the participation of young women.
The project will have the direct intervention in four districts; Doti, Dadeldhura, Kailali and Kanchanpur in the Far-Western Region. Similarly, the project will work through Civil Society Organisations in three districts: Dailekh, Kalikot and Accham in the Mid-Western Region.