The Oda Project

Essential healthcare and education - giving Nepali communities in extreme poverty a fighting chance

Poems on Chhaupadi by Operations and Health Fellow, Radha Bhatnagar, and Education Fellow, Lucy Martin-Patrick

After International Women’s Day, we asked our youth group what they thought the biggest women’s issue
was. The students unanimously said that it was Chhaupadi.

Chhaupadi is a form of discrimination and violence against women. It is a long-practiced tradition which involves women and girls staying outside of the home in cowsheds. It prevents women from crossing bridges, drinking milk, touching other people, entering temples, and many more daily activities. Staying in the cowshed means staying in a dirty, dark room with cows. Disease, death, and rape are all very real risks, along with many mental health issues that are rampant.

We decided to try to challenge ourselves and write a poem about Chhaupadi. Based on firsthand experiences from our youth group students, here are our two different takes on the issue.

 
By Radha Bhatnagar

 
I find it hard
to see love
through the small cracks of wood


In the brightest of days,
it is the darkest of nights.

 
I find it hard
to feel love
in the cold of the night.
With no other warmth
than the small fire I lit myself

 
I find it hard
to taste love.
With smoke filling my every thought

 
I cannot eat.
And if I could,
I have
no appetite.

 
And so,
I let the smoke
fill me

 
I cannot hear
the love.
It is
the muffled voice
of sacrifice
that whispers
“stay here”
“you must”


But, the flowers still grow.
Watered
by the silent tears
of a faraway place

  
-Chhaupadi

 
“I wanted to make this poem a bit more abstract. I think it’s impossible to know how difficult chhaupadi really is unless you have done it. To me, Chhaupadi is a very frightening tradition, but I wanted to portray the abandonment in a way different than just my deep fear. In Oda, love is a language of action and chhaupadi is a bleak, loveless time that leaves women very isolated. Women are subjected to subpar nutrition and stay in dark, smoke-filled sheds with the cows which cause many physical, mental, and social problems. In the end, I want everyone to know that these women go through a lot and yet they still bloom. They still give life. They still move forward, despite it all.”

-Radha


By Lucy Martin-Patrick

 
Before, my voice could speak aloud.
Now it stays quiet,
Now it won’t say

 
I don’t want to be muddy
I don’t want to be sick
I don’t want to be hungry
I don’t want to be afraid.

 
Before, my mind thought at school.
Now it thinks at night,
Now it has changed

 
Like this food
Like this house
Like these men
Like this life.

 
Before, this door was just a door.
Now it is a barricade,
Now it shuts me in and shuts me out

 
From my room
From my house
From my school
From my society


Before, the wind would cool us on hot days.
Now it plays tricks,
Now it is a man

 
He is coming
He is at this door
He is at this shed
He is raping me.

 
And then the wind stops.
No one is here.
Yet.

 
Not today.
Today I survive
Today it is me and my mind.

 
-Chhaupadi

 
“When we listen to people stories of chhaupadi, we are always reminded of how common sexual assault against women is at these times. Stories of men going to different villages to look for women doing chhaupadi are far too common, so when I think of women going through chhaupadi, I think of the psychological effects that can occur. I wanted to highlight that through this poem. During our workshops, we try to get everyone to put themselves in the shoes of these women. When I do this, I think of the fear I would be feeling whilst doing chhaupadi. That for me would be the hardest thing.”

–Lucy