THE PROVISION of water, clean toilets help keep the girls in Ganawuri School at Ekan Local Government Education Authority, Plateau State.
For twelve year old Nyao (surname withheld) a Primary four Pupil of the Ganawuri, School, she happily looks forward to going to school because, “there is no more stress of water and clean toilet’, she said through an interpreter.
When Healthstyleplus Correspondent caught up with her and some of her peers on the School premises during a recent field visit, she was just coming out of one of the school’s female clean toilets.
Feeling shy but happy, Mary told our Correspondent in stuttering English Language, “I go toilet to clean”; meaning, she had gone to clean herself up. She was in her monthly period.
Before June 2017 when the Ekan LEA Primary School Building was renovated and the European Union in collaboration with UNICEF and Federal Government Rural water Sanitation Reform Programme (RUWASA) got to the Ganawuri community to provide water and clean toilet facilities under the Water, Sanitation and Health project (WASH) attendance in school was not encouraging.
According to Assistant Headmistress, Mrs. Shishang Hwogai, before the provision of the improved water and clean toilets, sanitation facilities in 2017, the attendance in School of some of the older girls was poor at certain times of the month. The school has a population of 670 across Nursery 1 to 3 and Primary 1 to 6. Ratio of Girls to Boys is about 45 percent, said the Assistant Headmistress.
“For some of the girls who have started their menstruation, before now, because we had a well where we took water from and an old latrine, they usually stayed away from school. Now that we have the hand pump water and clean toilets, attendance is now more regular”, said Hwogai.
For each of the Male and Female clean toilets, overhead tank is provided and water flows into these tank where buckets are used to get water for use by pupils.
The school has a counselor that takes turn to teach water and sanitation as well as reproductive health and hygiene especially to the girls says, Mrs. Hwogai.
“The School counselor talks to all the girls about their body and the changes they would regularly experience and when any of them sees her monthly period, we always help them out”, Hwogai told Healthstyleplus.
As the world marks another Menstrual Hygiene Day, it is known that one in three girls around the world face shortage of water and better toilet facility either at home or outside home.
Consequently, it is said that 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.
However, the goal of the United Nations in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 is to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030.
It has been proven that when government and all stakeholders invest in water and sanitation, the health and hygiene of the people is promoted and safeguarded.
In a statement by WaterAid Nigeria, governments at the federal, states and local governments must prioritise water and better toilets as well as washing facilities in schools, and to provide accurate information around menstruation, to ensure girls’ rights to education and equality.
It is also a well-known fact that all around the world where culture remains a crucial part of the people, millions of women and girls are missing days of school, work, and family life simply because they lack the information and access to water.
Cultural beliefs and myths about menstruation are perpetuated by society and often portray women and girls as inferior to men and boys.
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 and clean toilet facilities at home, in schools and in public places. The effects are devastating.