Mountainfilm: Guest Director Cheryl Strayed On Against Menstrual Shaming

Mountainfilm: Guest Director Cheryl Strayed On Against Menstrual Shaming

Mountainfilm, this year in Telluride May 24 – May 29, has announced longtime festival attendee Cheryl Strayed as Guest Director for the 2019 event. Cheryl has been a part of the Mountainfilm family since 2014 when she came as a Moving Mountains Symposium presenter. In the interim years, she has returned as a theater presenter, host, judge and author.

“I’m honored, thrilled, and excited to be part of this festival that has become so important to me.”

Along with inspiring documentaries, the festival goes beyond film to bring together world-class athletes, activists and visionary artists for a multi-dimensional celebration of indomitable spirits. Passes/tickets to the 41st annual Mountainfilm are on sale now.

On March 8, Cheryl and her husband Brian Lindstrom wrote an Op Ed piece in The New York Times about Nepalese girls who are speaking out against menstrual shaming. It is a major issue in their country, one that can be deadly.

The first time I heard the word “chhaupadi,” I was standing on a rooftop in Surkhet, Nepal, in November 2017, surrounded by teenage girls. They were students at the Kopila Valley School, where my husband, Brian Lindstrom, and I had spent the previous week leading workshops in writing and filmmaking, which led to our video Op-Ed above. Some of the girls had asked to meet with us after school to talk about their lives; we’d barely finished with introductions when one tearfully told us that she’d been banished from her home and made to sleep in a cow shed when she began menstruating. This is the way it was for many girls and women in Nepal, we learned, as the other girls told us their stories.

Not all were made to practice the chhaupadi in the strictest form. Some were allowed to stay in their homes but were confined to one room with darkened windows; others were forced to spend their days in nearby forests, permitted to return home only after darkness and required to depart before dawn. Most were prevented from attending school while menstruating and all had severe restrictions on what they could eat, and whom they could touch and even gaze upon. Regardless of the degree and severity of the rules they were compelled to follow, what they all had in common was that each was stigmatized and isolated for a natural process.

The impact of such discrimination is profound. It’s also dangerous. Several women each year are sexually assaulted while in chhaupadi and some die — from cold exposure, snake bite or suffocation caused by smoke inhalation. In January, 35-year-old Amba Bohara and her two young sons suffocated to death when Ms. Bohara lit a fire inside her tiny menstrual hut to keep them warm. In February, 21-year-old Parbati Bogati died in an abandoned house, also of suffocation.

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