International Women’s Day in Basti: recap after of our first week of workshops

After one week in Basti, 50 hours of workshops, 25 menstrual cups handed to women in town and lots of emotional conversations with women of all ages, on March 8th we were invited to be part of the celebrations on occasion of International Women’s Day.

For the second year in Basti there is a big celebration with women from all Ward (villages) of the VDC (municipality). The event is organised by the women’s awareness group with the support of the Nepalese government. There are song competitions, speeches by health volunteers, by the 3 women’s groups, all the principals of the 4 local schools and local politicians from the 5 main political parties.

The first thing we saw where the celebration was taking place, was an old sign from the government welcoming visitors to “Chhaupadi-free Basti” VDC. During our stay here, we have seen lots of chhaugots (Chhaupadi huts) and the women have been speaking and taking lots of pictures related to Chhaupadi, even though we did not specifically ask for it.

When the women arrived they were chanting mottos such as: “let’s finish violence again women”, or “let’s make women’s day successful”. After that, the “Deuda” competition began: Deuda is a cultural song, and every ward has their group. In the songs they spoke about:

– Chhaupadi being a bad tradition.
– Problems related to Chhaupadi.
– Violence against women in the village.
– The importance of being able to eat dairy products during menstruation.
– Destroying Chhaugoats is not the only solution: there is a need to
change people’s beliefs and mentality.
– If people respect pregnant women, they need to respect and
take care of menstruating women, too.

The conclusions of the speeches by various guests:

– Women have to be aware of their rights.
– Women are the ones that build chhaugoats, they are responsible for them, and they can also change whatever they want.
– Low caste women have more problems with everything.
– Society is slowly changing, but if they want quick changes related to women issues, women have to take responsibility and stop following certain traditions.
– Women have to stop violence amongst themselves in instances such as:
-Low Caste vs High Caste
-Mother in law vs Daughter in law
– Women need support from men to build self-confidence
– Social rules are made by men, so only blaming women is not fair
– Therefore, men’s contributions are essential too to change society.

We must keep working, but up to now we are really happy with the results obtained and the dialogue generated with our workshops.

Please remember we still need your help to raise funds to continue with our project. You can donate at:—chhaupadi—rato-baltin/ Rato Baltin Project.

Written by Clara Go and Kamal Bhattarai (Starts Foundation), translated and corrected from English by Alba Miquel.
© Photography Clara GO

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