Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

In Latin America, women also experience ‚Äúshame‚ÄĚ about menstruation. But beyond its definition and etymology, the word menstruation carries a deep contradiction: it is synonymous with fertility but also shame.Here you can find UNICEF interventions in Latin American countries with a lot of interesting stories 1 ÔĽŅ and 2 ÔĽŅ and also a guide ÔĽŅ.

I think that women begin to understand their internal processes later, when they enter premenopause, and it is healthy and urgently necessary to talk more about the subject and to transmit feminine power, which means being able to menstruate.Etymologically, the word menstruation comes from the Latin menstruus (menstruation) and the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines it as "blood from the womb that women and females of certain animals naturally evacuate every month." While "menstruation comes from the Latin word menses (month, lunar cycle, lunation) and is linked to the cyclical nature of the Moon because it occurs approximately every 28 days, corresponding to the length of the lunar period and the monthly regularity of both cycles" BBC article ÔĽŅ

The stigma of menstruation appears globally and repeatedly in different cultures and geographies of all times. From East to West we find many examples of this happening.It is worth mentioning that there are also exceptions: societies or cultures that consider or see menstruation as something powerful and sacred. But this positive view is clearly in the minority.Women must appreciate our menstruation process and enter into a conscious connection with the lunar cycle. Menstruation is a waste that must be eliminated and is a natural way to eliminate toxins and we must learn to appreciate this blessing that does us so much good! Menstruation is a time to be alone in reflection, not locked away, not excluded, not isolated.

According to Ayurveda, menstrual symptoms reflect the state of health and doshic imbalances, which is why it is important to be aware of the manifestations of our body and our mood in relation to the menstrual cycle.Menstruation is a time to take a break, rest and reconnect with ourselves. The menstrual cycle is an incredible opportunity for women to observe all these changes in nature, as if we were observing hurricanes, rain, sunny days, but all within our own body and find inner stability.The stigma of menstruation is a form of misogyny that "responds to the domination of the patriarchal system and reproduces, on different levels and with different scopes, gender inequality," says Eugenia Tarzibachi.To conclude, it is about being able to connect menstruation with something that does not have to be suffering or exclusion, but is a part of the women's body that is a natural blessing.

En Latinoam√©rica las mujeres tambi√©n viven con ‚Äúverg√ľenza‚ÄĚ los procesos de menstruaci√≥n. Pero m√°s all√° de su definici√≥n y etimolog√≠a, la palabra menstruaci√≥n carga con una profunda contradicci√≥n: es sin√≥nimo de fertilidad pero tambi√©n de verg√ľenza.¬†Aqu√≠ podr√°n encontrar intervenciones de Unicef en pa√≠ses de Latinaomerica con un mont√≥n de historias interesantes 1 ÔĽŅ y 2 ÔĽŅ y una guia.¬† ÔĽŅ

Creo que las mujeres tarde, cuando entran en premenopausia, comienzan a entender sus procesos internos y es saludable y urgentemente necesario que se hable m√°s del tema y que se transmita, el poder femenino, que significa poder menstruar.Etimol√≥gicamente, la palabra menstruaci√≥n proviene del lat√≠n menstruus (menstruo) y la Real Academia Espa√Īola (RAE) la define como "sangre procedente de la matriz que todos los meses evacuan naturalmente las mujeres y las hembras de ciertos animales". Mientras que "menstruo deriva de la palabra latina menses (mes, ciclo lunar, lunaci√≥n) y se vincula al car√°cter c√≠clico de la Luna porque se produce aproximadamente cada 28 d√≠as, en correspondencia con la duraci√≥n del per√≠odo lunar y a la regularidad mensual de ambos ciclos" ¬† Articulo BBC. ÔĽŅ

El estigma de la menstruación aparece a nivel global y repetidamente en diferentes culturas y geografías de todos los tiempos. De oriente a occidente encontramos muchísimos ejemplos de que esto ocurre. Cabe mencionar que también hay excepciones: sociedades o culturas que consideran o ven a la menstruación como algo poderoso y sagrado. Pero esta visión positiva está claramente en minoría.Las mujeres debemos apreciar nuestro proceso de menstruación y entrar en conexión con el ciclo lunar de manera consciente. La menstruación es un residuo que debe ser eliminado y es una manera natural para eliminar toxinas y debemos aprender a apreciar esta bendición que nos hace mucho bien! La menstruación es un tiempo para estar solas en reflexión, no encerradas, no excluidas, no aisladas.

Seg√ļn el Ayurveda los s√≠ntomas de la menstruaci√≥n reflejan el estado de la salud y los imbalances doshicos, por eso es importante estar atentas a las manifestaciones de nuestro cuerpo y nuestro estado an√≠mico en relaci√≥n al ciclo menstrual.¬†La menstruaci√≥n es un momento para tomar una pausa, descansar y volver a conectar con una misma. El ciclo menstrual es una oportunidad incre√≠ble que tenemos las mujeres para observar todos estos cambios de la naturaleza, c√≥mo si observ√°ramos huracanes, lluvias, d√≠as soleados, pero todo dentro de nuestro propio cuerpo y encontrar estabilidad interior.El estigma de la menstruaci√≥n es una forma de misoginia que "responde a la dominaci√≥n del sistema patriarcal y reproduce, en diferentes planos y con diferentes alcances, la inequidad de g√©nero", opina Eugenia Tarzibachi.¬†Para concluir, se trata de poder conectar la menstruaci√≥n con algo que no tiene que ser sufrimiento o exclusi√≥n, sino que es una parte del cuerpo de las mujeres que es una bendici√≥n natural.
Lourdes Valenzuela
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Cochabamba ‚Äď Bolivia

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  • MaraNIDISI
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  • Passionate development professional working for NIDISI gGmbH, a German-Nepalese non-profit organization leveraging social entrepreneurship to tackle lack of access to menstrual hygiene products in Nepal.
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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Hi Paresh, 

thank you for reviving the conversation about this topic. There is indeed a fine line between transforming menstrual huts to make them safer and fully demolishing them. In my opinion, it is important to integrate a step-by-step approach in cooperation with local communities and religious leaders to build trust over the long-run.

My colleagues and I who work for a German-Nepalese NGO active in the field of women's empowerment have spoken to more than 800 women across Nepal about their experiences, fears, and aspiration regarding menstruation. What we can see is that a mindset shift especially among younger generations is on its way. 
We have tried to capture some of their experiences and put together a digital exhibition on " Stories of Menstruation " with the aim to provide a platform that amplifies the voices of those affected by menstrual discrimination in Nepal. 

We have put a lot of work into gathering these stories to raise awareness about the topic. So if you have any ideas how to use this material or if you are interested in using them for your NGO, workplace, university other events, please get in touch. 

Let’s work together to make this a period friendly world! 

All the best, 
Mara
Mara Heckmann (she/her)
Coordinator for the women empowerment project at NIDISI gGmbH

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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Reigniting this conversation on the occasion of Menstrual Health Day.

The practice of period huts exists in parts of India as well. In the tribal parts of North East Maharashtra, they are called 'Kurma Ghar'. Often, the huts are community facilities on the outskirts of the village, unhygienic, and devoid of basic necessities, including sanitation. Deaths due to pneumonia and snake bites have also been reported (see example ). 

In recent years, the district administration, with the support of UNICEF, started transforming them into facilities with a clean room, a toilet and a bathroom, running water, drinking water, and a library.  The development was recognised by the Government of India and documented in this  article . 

As Yusuf Kabir from UNICEF India mentioned in a LinkedIn postÔĽŅ , while the practice of banishing women to huts is not ideal, the practice is deeply rooted in the tribal culture and has several layers. I agree with him that till it is practised, it is important that the huts are safe and habitable and offer an opportunity to rest. After I saw Yusuf's post, I came across several such posts (search result here )¬† with pictures that speak 1000s of words.¬†

Yet, such projects would only reinforce the practice rather than eradicate it. Do you think this is the right approach or should the development professionals focus on eradicate the practice even if it causes inconvenience (and even deaths) in the short term?

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paresh
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Dear Paresh. 
Thank you so much for your input into this discussion. Yes I see the point. There is a saying in my language "It takes a village to raise a child" 
Why a village? and not  government.

The point here is simple that the village is one of the smallest unit of society and it's easier for people to spark conversations within a smaller unit and cascading these conversations outwards.

I agree entirely with a recent report by the World Bank that illustrates how a total disregard of menstrual health and hygiene needs only serves to entrench the status of women and girls.

Machrine Birungi 


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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Dear Machrine,
There is no denying that  busting of the taboo and stigma associated with menstruation needs to start at the lowest strata, i.e. family, school and community. You state:

The parents, teachers and society at large must gradually pop out of the shells of myths and support the girls to understand that menstruation is a normal biological process. 

But how will this happen without active support of the government? If the teachers themselves are ashamed as the quote towards the end of your post implies, somebody will have to educate the teachers and parents so that they pass on the message to adolescent girls and boys no? 
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Dear Machrine,
Thank you for your response. It is well in order that the sensitization should start at home. I however thought given the angle the document was giving that it is already a taboo to talk about the menstrual hygiene, under the Hindu custom of chhaupadi, the government coming in and giving its backing will definitely force the parents, teachers and the society to talk about it and not shun away. After that they will feel that they have the law and the go ahead to talk and even make a step towards demolishing the menstrual hut.

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Charlotte
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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Charlotte, thanks for pushing this discussion forward.
In my opinion breaking the taboo and stigma around menstruation should not start with the Government but rather at the lowest strata of society (Family, school, community)

Let me give you an example. The first person who guides a girl in relation to menstruation is either their parents, teachers or even peers. It's not the government that announces this. In the same vain, breaking the taboos must begin at that level. The parents, teachers and society at large must gradually pop out of the shells of myths and support the girls to understand that menstruation is a normal biological process. It's after that awareness has been cultivated that Government will then step in to reinforce this with policies.

I still think that the government should come in to reinforce the initiatives by local chiefs, civil society and community based organisations to break the taboos and stigma. 

While reading about Myths and taboos, I came across this article: Attitudes and taboos concerning menstruation.

According to this article, Taboos about discussing menstruation limit many women and girls‚Äô access to information and support. Almost all research participants, including women and girls of all ages, described menstrual blood as ‚Äúunclean‚ÄĚ, and many said that they perceived it to be a ‚Äúharmful‚ÄĚ substance.

‚ÄúI have never gone to church and I know it is not right to go to church when you are menstruating. Even if it is my third day and the pain is no longer there, I cannot take dirt to church,‚ÄĚ said a woman during an in-depth interview.

Girls in school stated that some teachers support them by providing information, often informal, based on the general knowledge and worldview of the teacher rather than on the official curriculum. Information tended to focus on advising girls about keeping clean and avoiding boys rather than emphasizing knowledge about the biological aspects of menstruation. However, taboos around menstruation may also limit the amount of support that teachers provide to girls, as demonstrated in the following quotation:

‚ÄúWhen a girl starts to menstruate, as I told you, they don‚Äôt know what a period is. So most of them take a cloth or even paper, and you know paper cannot hold that thing, especially when that girl has a heavy flow. When a girl stands and [...] she has that thing on the dress, all the other girls go mocking her, talking about her‚Ķ and even the teachers are ashamed,‚ÄĚ said a teacher during a key informant interview.

Read more here www.communityledtotalsanitation.org/site...f_Mooncups_Kenya.pdf
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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Dear Machrine,

I think the best way some of this mindsets can be changed is by starting from the top i.e. government. The policies on how menstrual
management should be done can be made to integrate and show that this is a natural albeit private activity that should not be shunned but embraced. In Kenya for instance, tax on menstrual products was lowered.Currently, menstrual pads are being provided for free in all schools. Therefore, there is access for all because there is also a free education policy for primary and secondary level. To top this, last year the government passed a policy acknowledging menstrual health and hygiene as ‚Äúa rights issue,‚ÄĚ bringing it
into “the mainstream of the country’s health and development agenda by considering the prevailing social, economic, cultural and demographic contexts of women and girls. (I can’t quite trace the policy for reference. Could you have it? WSSCC was quite involved in the process. If you do please could you share on here.)
Understanding this therefore, it will no longer feel as a taboo to talk about Menstrual Health and Hygiene but as a normal activity that exists but needs to be handled well for everyone.

Regards
Charlotte  
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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Thank you Paresh for such a detailed and insightful thought provoking opinion. I was thrilled to learn about the origins of some of the cultural taboos. "Initially women were given an opportunity to rest during their periods," sounds very interesting in that context. But the debate on why there has been so much stigma around periods continues and mass awareness is needed to debunk the myths and move the issue of menstruation in a positive direction.

In my opinion, the discourse around  menstruation related myths and taboos needs a shift beyond the stigma,  to an open dialogue that involves both men and women, young and old and most importantly the policy makers. Policy makers most of whom are men need to rise up and support initiatives that drive increased awareness on menstruation and why it matters to revisit some of these cultural norms. 

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. 
Machrine Birungi
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Re: Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Dear Machrine,
There is no easy answer to the question you ask at the end of your post. On one hand, these customs have been practiced for generations and can be eliminated only gradually with education and awareness even with very strong laws. On the other hand, by continuing with them the society will continue to perpetuate injustice.  Women who have suffered because of such practices naturally don’t  want to wait any longer either. Even for women who accept it because of their upbringing or as fait accompli, it would be violation of their constitutional (in most democracies) and human right to equality.
 
Examples of practices that discriminate women for menstruating exist all around. Recently, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme court of India removed restrictions on entry of women in menstruating age to Sabarimala, a temple of a celibate lord in Kerala. However, women trying to enter the temple were stopped on their way by followers including women. They couldn't reach the temple even with police protection. For now, one can only hope women can safely enter the temple in future.  Some related news reports below:
economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politi...cleshow/73894259.cms
www.news18.com/news/india/sabarimala-ver...e-court-2386121.html

Perhaps getting to roots of the custom/practice mayhelp. Menstruating women are not allowed to cook, mingle with others in my community. But I remember an argument that it began as a way to let women rest. Large joint families was the norm then and women did all the household chores, so that makes sense. I am guessing the logic was lost over time. If the root of the custom can be traced and awareness generation be centered around it, one can hope to get rid of such practices sooner. 

regards
paresh
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Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Read the full article by Renu Kshetry here ūüĎČ Demolishing menstrual huts, a powerful start, but how do we demolish the mindset?

Bunu Dhungana is a professional photographer from Nepal who uses the images to share her anger about the patriarchal norms that underscore chhaupadi and how they affect the lives of women.

Under the centuries-old Hindu custom of chhaupadi, menstruating women and girls are isolated, banned from sacred places, prevented from touching religious icons or food, forced to sleep in huts and cattle sheds. Raised in an upper caste household, Bunu still questions why she was rejected by her own family for menstruating.

‚ÄúWomen spend the productive years of their lives ashamed of their own existence, which is a big blow to their self-esteem. This is how the patriarchy works, by making women show their ‚Äėplace‚Äô as untouchable and controlled,‚ÄĚ says Nepales gender expert and activist Radha Paudel.

Bunu has resorted to using her photographic series entitled ‚ÄėConfrontations‚Äô, which explores ideas of body, marriage, menstruation and beauty in asking what it means to be a woman in Nepal‚Äôs patriarchal Hindu society.



But the question is how can mindsets about traditional customs like Chauppadi be changed? Join the discussion and let us hear your thoughts.

Regards,
Machrine Birungi

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