Catholic Relief Services (CRS), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Ghana Education Service, is constructing 138 water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in 138 basic schools in six districts in the Northern and Upper East regions.
The facilities that are gender-friendly are to promote good menstrual hygiene practices among girls in the beneficiary schools.
So far, a total of 108 of the WASH facilities with rooms for girls to change their sanitary towels in school during their menstruation have been completed while the remaining 30 are at various stages of completion.
The overall objective of the initiative is to address the factors that keep young girls from attending school during their menses and to promote good menstrual hygiene practices among girls.
The beneficiary districts are the Mamprusi East, Mamprusi West and Mamprugu-Manduri districts in the Northern Region and the Kasena-Nankana West, Talensi and Nadam districts in the Upper West Region.
The Country Director of CRS for Ghana and Cote d’Iviore, Mr Kris H. Ozar, who disclosed this to the Daily Graphic in an interview at a symposium on the management of menstrual hygiene held in Tamale, said the goal of the project was to improve and sustain access to gender-friendly WASH facilities for girls in basic schools in the beneficiary districts.
That, he said, was to ensure that girls attended school when menstruating, adding that a study commissioned by CRS indicated that majority of girls stayed away from school during their menses due to lack of WASH facilities and that the initiative was to help remove all the barriers and misconceptions associated with menstruation among girls in the beneficiary communities.
The symposium, which brought together civil society organisations (CSOs), government agencies and academics in the WASH sector, was to share the findings of a research work commissioned by CRS on the factors which kept young girls from attending school during their menses, expand knowledge and deepen the collaboration between actors in the WASH sector to address the challenges that confront girls during their menses.
The symposium was organised by CRS in collaboration with the WASH Centre of the University for Development Studies (UDS) and the Desert Research Institute (DRI), on the theme: “Menstrual Hygiene Management in Schools for the Gild Child: Successes, Challenges and the Way Forward”.
Mr Ozar said so far, a total of $4.5 million had been spent by CRS on its WASH project, and added that aside from the provision of the WASH facilities in the 138 schools, the project had also supported women’s groups in the six beneficiary districts in the two regions to establish Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) to improve on their livelihoods and incomes to support their families.
The Northern Regional Minister, Mr Abdallah Abubakari, in an address read on his behalf by the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Tolon, Mr Seidu Abukari, said the government had put in place measures that sought to alleviate the problem of absenteeism among girls in their menses, and added that in that respect, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection came up with the distribution of free sanitary towels to girls.
The Head of Programming at CRS, Ms Malissa Kreek, for her part, said research had shown positive correlation between the time girls spent in school and delayed marriage, and added that the research by CRS, UDS and DRI indicated that only 52 per cent of girls were comfortable managing their periods/menses at school.
The Coordinator of the UDS WASH Centre, Mr Wumbei Abukari, said “the UDS is excited to be part of the WASH partnership with the CRS and DRI. Indeed, the UDS, which has championed a pro-poor, community-based and people-centred education over the past two decades is not oblivious of the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene in the socio-economic development of the country.”