WaterAid: Bet­ter Toi­lets Cru­cial to Keep­ing Girls in School

THISDAY - - BUSINESS WORLD DEVELOPMENT - Vera Golde

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.

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