Growing up in the Kalikot area of western Nepal, education was a privilege for Lila Simkhada. Despite her family’s poor economic standing and prevailing cultural norms that educating girls was wasteful because they would marry and leave the family, they sent her to school. She walked one and a half hours each way to school, where learning materials were scarce. As she grew, Lila encountered more obstacles. “During menstruation, the girls were not allowed to go to school and touch books,” Lila explained.
Like other girls and women in her village, she couldn’t live at home during her period. Because of a cultural practice known as Chhapuadi, she had to stay in a cowshed without access to nutritious food or hygiene products. In fact, no menstrual hygiene products existed in her village. During menstruation, women were not allowed into kitchens or temples and were not allowed to touch plants or animals. While she lived in the cowshed every month she was vulnerable to poisonous snakes and violence from men.
She often thought, “Why was I born a girl?”
When Lila left her village to pursue her higher education in Kathmandu, she found that things were different. “When I came to Kathmandu, I didn’t see cowsheds where the women used to stay in my village. All girls and women, having menstruation or not, stay at home,” she learned. It was then that she decided to reform the culture of her village.
After working her way through college, Lila returned to the Kalikot district and began a Montessori school. The school is still operating today. With the help of other educated girls, she began fighting against the Chhapuadi system. When she met Dr. Usha Maharjan, the leader of Days for Girls Nepal, she excitedly joined as a volunteer. After one year, Lila was hired as the Field Officer for Kalikot district.
Now Lila is able to carry out her dream. “The people of Kalikot district thought that menstruation was a sin,” Lila explained. Through her work she has trained 20,000 women and girls about menstruation and how to use reusable sanitary pads. Lila said, “This project has changed life for many people. Days for Girls has helped to change thoughts about menstruation. Women and girls were able to fight against the negative thoughts of society.”
The future is looking brighter for the women and girls of Kalikot. Lila said, “In the future I hope the women of Kalikot district feel secure and aware about menstruation and its impacts. I hope society realizes that menstruation is a boon gifted by nature and not a curse.” To continue the work, Lila points out that more training and public awareness programs must take place to explain the negative impacts of the Chhapuadi system. Lila said that will help the women there know that “menstruation is a natural process, not a punishment by god.”
Our partnership with Days for Girls will be able to spread Lila’s trainings to more parts of Kalikot district. With your help, Lila will continue to share the good news to women and girls that there is a way to live proudly without Chhapuadi.
How can you measure your impact?
$10 = health education and one DfG kit lasting up to 3 years for one girl
$25 = 25 meters of flannel for local women to produce liners for 34 kits
$50 = underwear for 125 kits
$200 = a treadle sewing machine for local women to sew kits
$350 = sponsorship of a health training/talking circle for a classroom of 30 girls
$500 = kits and training for 50 girls
$1,500 = all training and programming costs for a local team for one month