Stay Home, Sisters

The first memory of remaining confined for twelve days-restricted from going out into the sunlight, from seeing any male family members. The fear and uncertainty and the memory of those days and nights, eyes fixed on the ceiling while rays of light came and went.
This was my first period.
It took time to grasp the taboo surrounding menstruation—I’m still trying to understand it.
Despite being outlawed, Chhaupadi is still widely practiced in Western Nepal. Each month, women are subjected to a ritual of isolation. Deemed impure, they are forced to stay in cowsheds. An old woman is heard singing, “Stay home, sisters” in Achhami dialect in my previous work, ‘Our Songs from the Forest.’ Elsewhere in the country, this oppression takes on other forms.
Mothers make their girl child suffer just as they themselves had suffered under the same patriarchal oppression. Girls subjected to the same dark rooms. The fear is so deeply rooted, it upholds these harmful beliefs.
In every household, the fight is with the older generation. The young are told that while they may enjoy freedoms outside, they must follow these rules and restrictions inside their home. But where is outside? Who are the outsiders?
‘Stay Home, Sisters’ is an inquiry about the psychological trauma, inherited and passed down through generations.

Uma Bista is a photographer based in Kathmandu, Nepal. She works on visual narratives that focus on issues of gender inequality. She studied in the International Photography Program in the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Bangladesh. Uma was named in British Journal of Photography’s annual ‘Ones to Watch 2019.’ She is a Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellow 2020. She has been working as a photojournalist for the national daily Annapurna Post.