Even today, menstruating girls are not just forbidden from the kitchens and the temples, but are being forced to skip schools. According to a report in The Times Of India, girls from Rautgara village, Pithoragarh are forced to skip their schools during those five days of the month, because a temple dedicated to a local deity falls along their way. Locals are of the belief that the temple would be desecrated should women on their period were to even pass from that area. This belief has led many parents to keep their girls from attending school while they are on their period.

It is not uncommon in our country to give religious beliefs a precedence over the well-being of women. However, keeping girls from attending school because a temple falls on their way to the school, is unfair.

When will periods stop being an excuse to restrict girls from attaining equal education as boys and strive for an independent identity?

Imagine missing out on school lessons for five days every month, year after year. It is hugely stressful for the children, especially in higher classes. Imagine chasing and begging for notes from classmates and the struggle to catch up on lessons missed in science, mathematics, geography etc, while the course races ahead at a neck-breaking speed. Missing out on crucial chapters, often weakens students’ grasp on their entire subject. The curriculum often demands that a student should apply the knowledge from past lessons to wade through the next one. This means that weak concepts in one chapter can affect a child’s understanding of other chapters. How can these young girls score good marks in exams then? Or pursue higher education with weak basics?

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Girls from Rautgara village are forced to skip school during periods, because a temple dedicated to a local deity falls along their way.
  • Missing out on crucial chapters, often weakens students’ grasp on their entire subject.
  • How do we expect these young girls to score good marks in exams then? Or pursue higher education with weak basics?
  • Keeping girls out of school for any reasons hampers their chances of attaining independence and equality.

Missing out on school comes at a cost for these girls. But alas, when have people prioritised empowerment of girls over upholding their beliefs? In fact, this also shows the little value our society attaches to a girl-child’s education. Not just parents but all residents village of Rautgara don’t think attending school regularly is of much importance for the girls.

Keeping girls out of school for any reason hampers their chances of attaining higher education, financial independence and eventually equality.

Also, the constant reminder that their bodies are impure may lead them to internalise the blame if they are unable to perform well. The impact of such things is long-lasting. But is there a solution to this issue if parents and the local community are unwilling to realise what a grave crime this is?

Many parents are jeopardising the future of their daughters due to the fear of community backlash. But they need to ask themselves, is it worth it? We have come a long way from when most women had to live in outhouses during periods, living life on frugal supplies. Yes, some women sadly still have to endure that sort of untouchability, but the stigma surely has weakened over decades. Local governing bodies and NGOs need to interfere here. They need to counsel the community to think about the lifelong negative impact of their dictate on these girls. The situation may not resolve overnight. But hopefully, there will come a day when communities will begin to value the well-being of their daughters.

Image Credit: LiveMint

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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