WaterAid: Better Toilets Crucial to Keeping Girls in School
WaterAid has called on governments around the world to prioritise better toilets and washing facilities in schools, and to provide accurate information around menstruation, to ensure girls’ rights to education and equality.
As the Menstrual Hygiene Day was marked recently, the international organisation observed that one in three girls face inadequate toilets, and many others face social and cultural limits when on their periods around the world.
The call comes as nations prepare for a July 2018 review of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6, to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030, which is expected to show that progress on sanitation is far behind.
According to a release issued by WaterAid Nigeria’s Communications & Media Manager, Oluseyi Abdulmalik,” more than a billion women and girls around the world must manage their periods without a safe, private place to go to the toilet, risking infection as well as being subject to ostracism and shame because of the stigma that still surrounds menstruation.
“Globally, about half of women and girls, around a quarter of the world’s population, are of reproductive age; most of them will menstruate every month. Menstruation is an important issue yet it is shrouded in silence because of deeply rooted taboos and negative social norms.
“Cultural beliefs and myths about menstruation are perpetuated by society and often portray women and girls as inferior to men and boys. This reinforces gender inequalities, often constitutes discrimination and has a negative impact on the fulfilment of the universal human rights to dignity, health and education of women and girls”, it added.
In many countries, women and girls are not allowed to cook, go to the farm or are even banished from the family home to an outdoor shed during each menstrual cycle.
WaterAid’s study on menstrual hygiene management in selected states in Nigeria, revealed deeply rooted attitudes and myths surrounding menstruation including the belief that a menstruating woman or girl is cursed and possessed by evil spirits and brings bad luck.
Such beliefs result in restrictions being placed on girls and women during their menstruation – including exclusion from attending religious services and even holding their infants in some of the communities. To make matters works, these women and girls lack access to safe water or private toilets at home, in schools and in public places. The effects are devastating.
Nearly half of schools in low- and middleincome countries like Nigeria do not have basic toilets – meaning girls who are menstruating risk embarrassment and shame during this time, and may decide not to attend school.
UNESCO estimates that 1 in 10 adolescent girls in Africa miss school during their menstruation and eventually drop out. An article in the medical journal PLOS Medicine, co-authored by WaterAid, highlights a lack of guidance, facilities and materials for girls to manage their periods at school, affecting their health, their education and their self-esteem.