Her right to education. How water, sanitation and hygiene in schools determines access to education for girls

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1 Her right to education How water, sanitation and hygiene in schools determines access to education for girls

2 Acknowledgements Written by Bethlehem Mengistu. With thanks to Faith Gugu, Christina Chacha and Noella Urwibutso for their invaluable contributions. March 2013 Front cover image: Claudette, holding her drawing of a teacher to show what she wants to do when she grows up, at Juru Primary School, Juru Sector, Rwanda. WaterAid/Zute Lightfoot. 2

3 Contents Introduction 4 Foreword by Lydia Zigomo, Head of Region East Africa 6 Ensuring dignity and security 7 WASH projects: keeping girls in school 8 Healthy bodies, bright futures 9 Passing opportunities on 10 3

4 Introduction Education is recognised as a fundamental human right. Decision-makers are obliged to ensure that it is accessible to all, regardless of gender. The presence of water and sanitation facilities in schools is as vital as having pens and books for students. Without safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) provision for the specific needs of girls in school, access to primary and secondary education will never be equal. Adolescent girls also require access to menstrual hygiene management facilities in school. Girls often have to stay at home if they are unable to manage menstruation safely or with dignity. As a result, their academic performance is affected and many girls drop out of school permanently. Access to quality education prepares girls for productive lives. Educating girls has an impact on the wider health of the community and affects the next generation of children. Education brings high economic and social returns across a range of development objectives. Investing in water and sanitation in schools is one of the best ways to achieve sustainable development. Education gives girls power and control over their lives, access to economic opportunities, self-confidence and self-esteem, and enables them to realise their social and economic rights. Financing the provision of water and sanitation in schools is key to ensuring girls stay in school and complete their education. Though commitments to finance WASH in schools have been made, improvements must now be seen universally. Children in the classroom, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia WaterAid/Caroline Irby 4

5 Key governmental commitments on fulfilling the right to education for girls Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All (EFA): To ensure, by 2015, that all children (particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities) have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality. To eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieve gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls have full and equal access to basic education of good quality. To improve the quality of education and ensure excellence so that recognised and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills. Beijing Platform for Action (1995): Education is a human right and an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. Non-discriminatory education benefits both boys and girls and ultimately contributes to more equal relationships between men and women. 5

6 Foreword by Lydia Zigomo, Head of Region East Africa Over the past five years, WaterAid s East Africa region has been responding to the call to increase girls participation in schools, using the entry point of universal access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene to improve education outcomes. This work has led us to focus particularly on what access to WASH can contribute to achieving universal, free primary (and, increasingly, secondary) education in the region. This work supports the human rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 28: Every child has the right to education, and the State s duty is to ensure that primary education is free and compulsory, to encourage different forms of secondary education are accessible to every child, and to make higher education available to all on the basis of capacity. The African Union has also endorsed the Second Decade of Education for Africa ( ), and reinforced the commitments it has made under the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1999). These commitments support the Millennium Development Goals, particularly targets to achieve primary education and to promote gender equality and empowement of women. For girls, access to WASH is the key to universal access to education. By making schools supportive of the needs of all children, particularly adolescent girls, education is made universally accessible. Time is saved when children do not have to walk for water or find a safe place to defecate in the open. Crucially, sanitation and menstrual hygiene facilities ensure girls do not have to miss school because they are embarassed or unable to keep clean during menstruation. With adolescent girls retention in schools assured, the need for young girls to be forced into early marriages is reduced, freeing them from a cycle of poverty, early motherhood and poor maternal health outcomes. Investing in making access to safe water, sanitation and menstrual hygiene management universal in every school is crucial in ensuring that every girl is granted her human right to education. WaterAid/Zute Lightfoot Valentine, 12, Selephine, 12, and Claudine, 12, (left to right) standing by the girls school compostible latrine block installed by WaterAid, Juru Primary School, Rwanda 6

7 Ensuring dignity and equity At Juru Primary School, Juru sector, Rwanda, there are over 1,000 students. The gender balance is nearly equal, with 55% male students and 45% female. 226 of these students are over nine years old. Previously, boys and girls shared the same latrines, so at break times the girls would wait longer to use the latrines to get some privacy. The doors of the latrines had no lock, so girls had to ask a friend to wait outside the door for them. Adolescent girls had problems using the latrines during menstruation, but the school had no budget for hygiene materials or to provide pads for the students, due to the high cost. The difficulties the girls faced in school become worse at home. Uwera, 16, started menstruating aged 12. She had always been ashamed of her periods. She said, When I had my period I talked to my mum but she was not comfortable to discuss this issue with me and she recommended hiding my used cloths in my room. Uwera kept her cloths in a box under her bed. When she was interviewed, the cloths had not been properly dried out in the sun. The lack of water in Uwera s village meant she had to reduce her washing to once a day, taking a bath in the morning, and keeping some water aside to wash her cloths the following day. The teachers at Juru Primary School explained that the issue of menstrual hygiene is not discussed in school due to the culture. Only reproductive health is explained to pupils. WaterAid has helped to address the lack of facilities for students at Juru Primary School. Separate latrines have been constructed for girls and boys, as well as space for adolescent girls to wash and change their cloths. Uwera said, Before having the bathroom at school, I was afraid to attend school in menstruation period because of lack of a room for changing my clothes or taking bath. I thank WaterAid Rwanda for the provision of this latrine with a bathroom for girls but also the provision of safe water through the rainwater tank. The new latrine block at Juru Primary School, Rwanda WaterAid/Noella Urwibutso 7

8 WASH projects: keeping girls in schools WaterAid has helped implement school water and sanitation projects across Tanzania. 176 schools have received hygiene promotion, which has affected the wider communities positively. New sanitation blocks have helped keep school environments much cleaner. Where new latrine blocks have been built, students are increasingly attending and to staying in school. Girls have attended school more consistently and more frequently as the new facilities give them privacy and enable them to manage their menstrual hygiene. Schools have also seen significantly more children adopting hygienic behaviours such as handwashing. Before WaterAid s interventions, many schools did not have enough latrines, and any existing latrines were often not private, hygienic or accessible for all students. In some schools, there were no latrines at all and students were forced to defecate in the bush. Mpalanga Primary School is one of the biggest schools in the Dodoma district of Tanzania. The school has 1,022 pupils but had only ten unimproved traditional pit latrines until recently. The District Education Officer, Mrs Rugakingira, told us that work to mainstream menstrual hygiene management aimed to address these challenges girls face during menstruation. She said, In a month, girls lose between two and five school days because of the lack of facilities, water and privacy, which impacts on their performance, so we hope the menstrual hygiene management room in the toilet blocks will curb the issue of attendance. Two new blocks of facilities have now been built and are already in use here. There are now 20 unisex drop hole latrines, six urinals for girls, eight urinals for boys, and a changing room for menstrual hygiene management. The difference the new facilities have made to the children s lives is evident. Salvina, 12, said, The old toilets were so bad, I was scared to even go in there. There were no doors, they smelled and were very dirty, but these new toilets even motivate me to come to school. Salvina said that she is encouraging her father to build a similar toilet at home. 8 A latrine block at Zejele Primary School, Tanzania which has 726 pupils WaterAid/Alex Ndama

9 Nowhere to go WaterAid/Jake Lyell Scovia at her new school latrine block, Amuria district, Uganda Scovia, 16, lives in Opolin village, Amuria District, Uganda, and is in her final year of primary school. She misses school regularly with diahorrea or her menstrual period. I like science because I want to become a nurse. Whenever I miss science, I miss also my job. Whenever I go back home I will miss school and fail my subjects. I want to become a nurse because I want to save people s lives. We don t have water for washing at our school. And so after we go to the toilet, especially when we have our periods, we fear touching anything. We are scared even to eat because our hands are dirty. In our school we have few latrines, and whenever I get diarrhoea the children start laughing at me, and I fear and so go back home. It makes me fail the exams. When I am at home I get my friends to make notes and I copy those notes, but I do not know their meanings, I do not understand. And then when it comes to exams then I fail. For me, I have failed exams. I cannot manage to answer questions and then I fail. It makes me feel bad because I have to go home, I cannot go to school and I miss my class. If I can t go to school I will not become a nurse. 9

10 Passing opportunities on Hirut Negusee, 29, has been teaching at Gargeda Silingo School, just outside the small market town of Ticho, Ethiopia, for five years. She is committed to improving the lives and health of the children there, especially for the girls she teaches. In this conservative, rural area, there are taboos surrounding sanitation and hygiene, particularly girls menstrual hygiene management. However, Hirut s persistence has changed this, and children are taught about and involved in hygiene practices in the school. Now that there are two banks of latrines built behind the school, girls can practise safe sanitation and hygiene in privacy and with dignity. This allows them to continue their education when they might otherwise drop out due to shame or fear. Hirut teaches a class about the effects of poor hygiene on the body. She was motivated to speak out after seeing how difficult life was for her pupils before there were water or latrines available at the school. Girls were often absent during their menstrual cycle, in addition to their absences while collecting unsafe water and suffering from diahorrea. Hirut teaches about poor sanitation using realistic illustrations of open defecation. The children used to be embarrassed but now behaviour is changing in the school with the help of new student leaders. These students take responsibility for checking the latrines are being kept clean. At breaktime, the girls participate in volleyball games, showing that equality is becoming a part of wider school life. Safe, hygienic and private facilities are already giving girls an equal opportunity to participate in school and pass the importance of safe water and sanitation on in the community. 10 Hirut Negusee, 29, a teacher at Gargeda Silingo School, Ethiopia, is commited to improving the lives and health of the children at her school Lynn Johnson National Geographic

11 Educated girls are socially and economically empowered. Educated girls marry later and have fewer children. Access to quality education enables girls to escape poverty. Decision-makers, keep your promises to finance water and sanitation in schools and close the gender gap in education now! Back cover image: Lydia, 16, lives in Kifumbira slum, Uganda. She misses school when she is menstruating and fears that it will affect her ambition of becoming a doctor. WaterAid/Benedicte Desrus 11

12 WaterAid Durham Street, London SE11 5JD WaterAid transforms lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world s poorest communities. Tel

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