Girl friendly latrines to boost girls school attendance
In the life time of a woman, she will have a total of around 3,000 days of menstruation. For her basic schooling period which range from Grade 4 to 10 the number of such days is 450. There is a growing awareness of special needs of young women in the school. At school, girls are faced with poor facilities – inadequate water for washing, lack of soap, no privacy and non-functioning or insufficient toilets. This reduces school attendance. Adolescent girls are often absent from school due, in part, to inadequate water and sanitation facilities. It is important to realize that one out of two 13 year old girls will probably be menstruating. One in eight girls begins to menstruate (menarche) when she is 11 years or younger.
A UNICEF report in Uganda stated that one in ten school-age girls do not attend school during their period. In Uganda, of 300 primary school girls involved in research, 94% reported some problems at school during menstruation. Three out of five girls (61%) reported staying away from school. To improve the situation, 94% of the girls said ‘’teach us correct facts and educate the boys”. Four out of five said that more facilities are needed for girls and that the facilities should be kept clean. Research also showed that the onset of menstruation has negative impact on girl’s participation in primary school. Girls remain at home during menstruation because of beliefs, not feeling well and because facilities are insufficient.
At all times, adolescent girls need facilities that provide privacy and security to avoid risk of harassment. The designs and services should ensure that all school girls have (1) separate latrines from boys, (2) water for washing, and (3) free or subsidized sanitary napkins and (4) a changing room. The development organization Share Child Opportunity Eastern and Northern Uganda (SCOEN) being acutely aware of this took up the challenge and decided to develop a model ‘girl-friendly latrine’.
SCOEN through the funding from Kitchen Table Charities aims to help schoolgirls in Soroti to manage their menstrual periods more easily. Through provision-building girl-friendly clean pit-latrines with washing facilities, changing room and clean washing water, we will enable girls to manage their periods and improve girls’ education.
In the Soroti District of Uganda a lack of girls’ toilet facilities and washing facilities at school, often leads to girls dropping out of school during their menstrual periods. There is evidence that as many as one in ten schoolgirls miss classes or drop out completely because of menstruation. Many also use less safe and less absorbent materials (such as rags) rather than pads, and they need privacy to change their pads or other devices during their monthly periods. When using less absorbent materials, they have to leave the class frequently to change in unfriendly pit-latrines without clean water and washing facilities and they often have to share a three stance latrine with boys and their male teachers. This is embarrassing and unsafe. Pit-latrine dug at schools 5 years ago with three stances each can no longer meet the need on the ground. There is also a need of privacy for boys and girls when they go to the toilet which is currently non-existent.
Up to 3,500 girls from rural communities within Soroti schools will benefit from the project. The project will have an impact on health status of girls through improvement in the health status and personal hygiene of the girls as a result of using the reusable pads. This will be realized in the sense that girls will no longer have to use unhygienic materials like old pieces of cloth or old newspapers that most of them are currently using during their menses. Also considering the fact that the first menstruation is often horrifying and traumatic to an adolescent girl because it usually occurs without her knowing about it, the knowledge and understanding of girls on menstrual hygiene and reproductive health issues will be enhanced further leading to improved health status, increased levels of confidence and active involvement of girls in school. It is consequently anticipated that by providing the reusable pads, the number of days of education that a girl might receive as a result of this initiative could increase by as much as 3-5 days in a month. Ultimately, there will be a significant reduction in the rate of school dropout as well as reduced vulnerability of the girls to early engagement in sex in order to get income for acquiring the basic needs like sanitary pads.
Girls that are regularly absent from school are more likely to be those that drop out and fail to transit successfully through the education system. By reducing the number of days of absence currently related to their menstrual cycle, it is anticipated that retention and transition rates amongst girls at individual schools could improve by up to 60%. Girls will therefore be able to go to school and participate in school activities thereby ensuring a holistic development i.e. mental, physical and social development.
As a result, many girls miss on average four days of school every month which is over a month in a year, meaning they fall behind in class and sometimes even drop out of school altogether. The main problems faced by women and girls are:
- The expense of commercial sanitary pads;
- Absenteeism where girls stay at home rather than attending school when menstruating;
- Unhygienic ways to dry menstrual materials;
- Inadequate waste disposal facilities;
- Lack of privacy for changing menstrual materials;
- Leakage from poor-quality protection materials;
- The lack of resources for washing such as soap;
- Limited education about the facts of menstruation; Limited access to counseling and guidance;
- Fear caused by cultural myths;
- Embarrassment and low self esteem;
- And the unsupportive attitudes of some men.
Overriding goal of the project is to ensure that Girls from the selected schools in Northern Division, Arapai and Gweri Sub Counties in Soroti District, Eastern Uganda will not have to miss school simply because they are menstruating. The project aims to install sanitary facilities by construction 5 VIP Latrines each with a water tank, well furnished changing room (tap water from the tank) for girls, and provision hand washing facilities to support vulnerable children and youth, 4 school in Northern Division, Gweri and Arapai Sub County will get a 4 stances pit-latrines with two washing facilities each.
- To improve school attendance among pupils between the ages of 10 and 17 years in primary;
- To increase access to vulnerable adolescent girls with sanitary towels and comprehensive menstrual hygiene management knowledge and risk awareness of HIV/AIDS among in-school and out of school girls between the ages 10 to 17 years;
- To increase the self-esteem of needy boys and girls between ages 10 to 17 years;
- Provide the required toilet and sanitation facilities, exclusively for the use of girls, in proportion to the number of girls in the schools.
- Undertake the required capacity building and training of local personnel to ensure the smooth implementation and sustainability of the intervention. Female teachers will be identified and trained to train the girls on menstruation cycles and care for menstruation periods
- Undertake initial planning on the future expansion of sanitation facilities to water-closet type facilities when piped water might be available and provide guidelines which might be used to implement such an expansion.
- The provision of safe water and sanitation facilities in schools is a first step towards a healthy physical learning environment benefiting both learning and health.