Menstruation has been a taboo in cultures and societies worldwide. Especially in South Asian countries where religion dictates beliefs, and logicality is often thrown out the window. In rural areas, menstruating women and girls are altogether kept away from day-to-day life because of lack of proper education and a steeping belief in superstitions prescribed by religion.

Nepal is one such country where girls are required to stay away from the daily dealings of life while they are on their periods. A small village in Nepal called Sindhuli follows the practice of sending its girls away from home, school, and family when they are menstruating. The practice has its roots in the belief that a girl on her periods is impure.

WaterAid UK visited the village and armed some young girls with a camera. They were asked to take pictures of any item that they are kept away from and document how life changes for them when they are on their periods. The girls who never used a camera before, clicked some eye opening pictures that portray how girls and boys are treated differently just on the account of menstruation.

Sushma Diyali, 15

“This is the picture of mirror and comb that I use at my house. In our society, when girls experience their first menstruation we are not allowed to look into mirrors or comb our hair. Me and my family do not follow such practice. I think mirrors and combs are the means of cleanliness and as a human it’s very important that you should stay clean and healthy. Only if my friends just like me could grow in an environment where are no limitations regarding menstruation and receive more support from the families, they can set themselves free and explore greater potential and opportunities around them is what I think.” 
“This is the girl’s toilet of our school. We are in urgent need of MHM friendly toilet. The one we use doesn’t lock properly. If someone is inside, other person has to wait outside pushing the door for her. Because of lack of latrines in our school, we have to wait in the long line. This is very problematic for us and we are need of more girls’ friendly latrines.”

Manisha Karki, 15

“This is the picture of the stream where I bath and clean my pads. In this picture there is a stack of pads that I use and I clicked this picture sometime before I started washing them. During our menstrual cycle it’s very embarrassing for us to wash our used pads out in the public place hence, we find nearest corners and isolated streams to clean our pads and wash ourselves.” 

Rabina Budhathoki, 15

“I had gone to collect grass and firewood when I got my first period. I never knew menstruation was about bleeding, so when I started I got very scared. There was no one to help me. I didn’t know how to use pads and had a hard time coping with the changes. That’s why I try to help younger girls.”

Bandana Khadka,15

“This is the scene I wake up to every morning when I face towards the eastern side. This picture reflects the hills and peaks along with the beautiful sunrise that is visible from my home. It feels really good to get soaked in the morning sun. When I had my first menstruation, I was not allowed to look into the sun directly. But regardless of that I still looked at it and nothing happened to me. While studying our teacher taught us that there is something called sunshine vitamin which is vitamin-D and we get that from sun rays. After I got to know that, I realized we shouldn’t be kept locked inside our rooms during our first menstruation.” 
“This is my mother and sister in the picture. Here, my mother is feeding my sister with so much of love. Mother loves me very much as well. However, during my menstruation cycle I am kept separately and have to eat at distance. When nobody touches me, I feel unloved. We need lots of love and support during our menstruation but, when I am separated and treated like an untouchable I feel no love from my mother and father and I feel only hatred. I feel sad being treated that way.” 

Bisheshta Bhandari, 15

“The place featured in the picture is the place where I used to wash myself during my first menstruation. My sister Shristi is washing her face in this picture. When I had my first menstruation, I stayed at another’s house, as we were not allowed to stay in our own house. The house where I stayed during my first menstruation is 15 minutes away from my own house. We teenage girls are more secure with our own parents, be it during menstruation or not. Moreover during menstruation, we need extra care and support from our parents. When we have to stay out of home in some other house for seven days, we may not be secure. Therefore any adolescent girls need to stay with their parents to be safe and secure.”

Sabina Gautam,15

“In this photo my mom is cutting papaya. In our community, there is a belief that during menstruation we should not eat papaya but I like papaya very much. Even if I want I cannot eat papaya during my periods. Papaya is a nutritious fruit. During menstruation, we are told not only not to eat papaya but also we are told not to touch papaya tree is a common belief. Actually during menstruation, the adolescent girls should eat even more fruits and vegetable to keep the body strong and healthy.”
“These are my brothers. Pujan is on the left, Bimal is in the middle and Uttam is on the right. During my first period I was kept in my friend’s house. I was told not to see male members of my family. I don’t think it will make any difference if I touch my brothers. I wish my younger sisters would not go through all these hardships.”

Rabina Budhathoki,15

“This is where I wash myself and my pads. But when there are men around the tap I feel uncomfortable. We are told that we are not supposed to wash our used pads in front of men, so I do it when there’s nobody around.”

These simple pictures tell a resounding story of inequality and ignorance. It’s 2016, and it’s high time we educate people about menstruation.

H/T: WaterAidUK/TheIndependent