Ishu is 14 years old. Every month during her period, she has to leave her family because it's believed she will bring bad luck.
She’s forced to live alone in a remote, windowless mud hut without warm clothes, sanitary protection, or running water. “I'm scared to stay alone in the hut,” Ishu said. “I’m scared of ghosts and snakes. When I was sleeping in the night, I felt scared some bad people would come and attack me.”
In Western Nepal where Ishu lives, this practice is called chhaupadi. Although it’s been illegal since 2005, it’s still practised in many communities. In recent years at least two girls are known to have died as a result of the practice.
I felt scared some bad people would come and attack me."
Each month, Ishu has to use old clothes as rags, instead of sanitary pads, to soak up the blood. These can cause serious and painful infections. Ishu wishes she could stay with her mum during her period and sleep in her own bed: “I’d like these practices to stop.”
No girl should be banished because of her body. That’s why ActionAid supports local women’s groups raising awareness about the negative impacts of chhaupadi and its illegal status. We’re working with local communities in Nepal, and across the world, to give girls access to clean, affordable sanitary pads.
A regular gift from you could help ActionAid make sure that girls like Ishu don't face discrimination because of their periods.
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Tackling period poverty for girls everywhere
Nepal isn't the only country where menstruation means girls miss out. One in 10 girls in Africa aren't able go to school when they have their period because they can't access sanitary products. They worry their period will stain their uniform or they'll be teased by other children. And without a safe, private toilet to use at school, girls feel insecure and uncomfortable going to the toilet during menstruation.
When girls miss several days of school each month, they fall behind with their studies and are more likely to drop out of school completely. They then lack the skills and knowledge to get a good job and the confidence to defend their rights. This puts them at greater risk of experiencing sexual violence, exploitation and abuse.
Our UK Aid Match Not This Girl appeal is supporting local women’s groups in Kenya. These groups are tackling period poverty in their communities and helping girls get access to sanitary towels in school.
How ActionAid is helping girls around the world manage their periods with dignity
- ActionAid trains women and girls to make safe, reusable sanitary pads so they always have access to clean and affordable sanitary products.
- In our girls’ clubs and safe spaces in schools, we provide information about periods, sex and pregnancy, so girls are better informed about their bodies.
- During humanitarian emergencies, we provide hygiene kits containing sanitary towels, soap and clean underwear, to help women and girls manage their periods safely.
- We’re working with local communities to end the practice of chhaupadi for good.
Gauri, 26 (pictured), is campaigning to end chhaupadi in her community in Western Nepal. When she was younger, Gauri was banished every month during her period. She had to sleep below a goat shed and when the animals urinated it would seep through the floor and drip on her. This experience motivated her to join an ActionAid-supported women's group, where she learnt about her rights and her reproductive health. Gauri no longer practises chaaupadi and is campaigning in her local community to bring the practice to an end.
Top image: Ishu is 14 years old. Every month during her period, she has to leave her family because it’s believed she will bring bad luck. Poulomi Basu/ActionAid
Page updated 6 October 2021