February 21, 2017 11:20 PM NPT
By: Nixon Dangol
“This stigma feeds on ignorance.”
Meena called out. She paused for a moment as the words reclined to the back of the hut. Her eyes looked at all of the girls. As the eyes connected, they exchanged their deepest fears.
“Why is it that we are humans but it’s still hard to be a woman?”
Meena was a tiny person but her spirit rang high in the room. She believed that the common physiology of a woman, of how she bleeds for a week in a month, has held up people to climb out of their beliefs. This domination of regarding them lowly not only hinders their right to freedom but also questions their morale.
I had traveled to this lonely part of the Leguden village located in the western Nepal, to study the condition of health opportunities for female. It was when the villagers grinned at the name ‘Meena Gurung’ a girl who had a mulish reputation , of following her own path, I decided to pay a visit to this young revolutionist who stood with a radical thought.
She was privileged to have someone listen to her.
“I come from an impoverished family. My father looked at the land and my mother helped him. There was a small community school (Shri Devi Mando High School) where I studied. I was a mischievous kid who loved going to the school. My favorite subject was mathematics. One day while I was studying I felt a strange rush of pain down my spine. So I had an excuse to leave for home earlier. As I stood up I noticed I had stained my skirt with blood. The students behind me hissed a laugh. The teacher excused me and I ran towards the hall to the latrine. I tried to wash myself but the water supply was broke. Quietly then I sneaked out of the washroom. The teacher had come looking for me. She said to me that everything was alright. I burst into tears but she kept repeating that nothing was wrong. She then took me to her quarter and handed me a sanitary cloth. She explained that the female anatomy was different and startling. I shared every incident to my mother where she concluded that I was a grown up woman now. Meena glimpsed far beyond the fields to a lone ‘chhaupadi’ through the windowsill. She had stopped talking for a while now. It was silence that spoke the rest.
“That chhau still stands today. People still cringe to take it down because they fear change but it is through change we have evolved thus far.”
“I remember the day painfully firm. My mother took me out of the house. She then pulled me inside the chhau and told me that I had to stay there for I may contaminate the house. I stayed there for weeks. The cold wind bit harder than the insects. And the drizzle would give me shivers. I missed my home.”
“With the passing days I came to know the common physiology of menstruation. The uterus bleeds because it had no implantation of an embryo. There is no sin in that because we are born with it. It doesn’t conflict our virtues and morality. It is not a curse but simply a common sense.”
“The severe dehydration and low iron content in my body left me with a serious syndrome of sickness. I suffered from dysmenorrhea and the people endorsed their ignorance as an exemplary of my downfall. My teacher supported me. Our alliance grew, our voices raised against the notion of ‘religious freedom that offends others’. We conducted health educational programs in collaboration with NGOs.
I strongly believe the educational motive is what procreates hope, understanding and change.”
Meena stood contented and happy. The roots of her work grew deep, crafting a solid foundation of something new. Of something certainly strong.
Nixon is an undergraduate student at Janaki Medical College