BANISHED FROM THE HOUSE DURING MENSTRUATION AND CHILDBIRTH
Chhaupadi is the traditional practice of banishing women from their home while they are mentruating and giving birth. This ancient tradition is still practised widely in Western Nepal, including Mugu, and has cost many young girls and women their lives. During those times women are considered “impure” – only because they bleed as part of their natural physiological cycle. The practice confines women to small, dark, and dirty spaces without healthy food or protection while they need them the most. Dealing with animal faeces, insects, dirt, possibly snakes, and any kind of weather, they are completely exposed to many health and saftey threats.
They even have to give birth all alone in a cow shed or in the forest – a merciless procedure that often leads to preventable deaths of mothers and children. Many women suffer severe infections, bleeding, abscesses, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and trauma. These catastrophic conditions are responsible for the fact that most women have already lost a child. In every village people can tell sad stories about mothers who have died while in Chhaupadi.
Sushila, a life-affirming woman from Loharbada, painfully remembers her own experience 22 years ago when she was giving birth out in the wild nature Mugu. She gave birth to her baby lying on the ground in the forest. The baby’s head accidently bumped against one of the surrounding rocks and the injuries were so severe that it passed away only two days later. Another woman from the same village had her baby snatched away by a jackal during the night. The baby was never found and probably eaten by the predator.
Today, Sushila is leading the Birth Centre committee in Loharbada. In this position, she is able to spare other women the horrors of childbirth in isolation and provide them the opportunity to give birth in a safe and professionally equipped environment.
For many these stories almost seem unbelievable; yet, in Mugu they are a cruel reality. Back to Life is addressing these threats to women and children by setting-up Birth Centres, training midwives, and educating families about the importance of professional antenatal and postnatal care, as well as facility-based delivery.