A Habitat for Humanity project providing clean, gender-specific toilet facilities and hygiene awareness training is transforming the lives of school girls in northern Bangladesh.
Edilpur High School had a chronic lack of proper sanitation facilities and a noticeable lack of awareness of personal hygiene among adolescent girls, especially how to manage their periods.
A new toilet for the students of Edilpur High School
Although many of the students wanted to push for improvements, the taboo surrounding menstrual hygiene held them back. Not only did this result in health issues, but also a high level of regular absenteeism among girls.
The focus for far-reaching change was the installation of a two chambered girls-only latrine with running water and suitable for use by people living with a disability. Then Habitat Bangladesh provided training for students and teachers and formed the School Hygiene Group (SHG). The SHG’s action plan was distributed widely so it was available to everyone, not just those in the Group.
Part of the plan was to make the girls take an active role in making sure the facilities were maintained correctly creating a sense of ownership, and also to provide training so they can promote health and hygiene at school but also in the wider community. They additionally run monthly Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) meetings.
“Girls used to be hesitant about asking the solution to issues with menstruation,” Ms Shima, one of the teachers in the SHG said. “However, Hygiene Education Training and MHM session has enabled girls to talk about these issues and discuss within school and house to find better solutions. Absenteeism among girls has been reduced to nearly zero due to the intervention of toilets for girls. Before, girls usually missed class during menstruation for an average of three school days each menstrual cycle.”
Chimuk, a student at the school, said the addition of facilities for disabled girls had been of great benefit enabling girls who had not been able to go to school to get an education.
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