By Anne Nwakalor
It is a sad reality that in most parts of developing countries, the girl child is seen as a commodity rather than someone worth investing in. This is manifested through the intrinsic role that traditional and social beliefs play and the disregard of the girl child’s education. The issue of young girls being married off at a tender age is still prevalent in many rural communities. Girls are made to forfeit education and fend for the family. They are sent to hawk on the street in order to generate some income for their household.
According to a 2013 research by UNICEF, over 10 million children in Nigeria are not in school (despite the Government’s declaration that primary education is free and compulsory). Unfortunately, girls make up this rather large proportion of out-of-school children.
Despite a number of barriers being set up against girls in regards to them not having access to good quality education, girls who are able to go to school have their education hindered due to poor WASH facilities in these schools.
Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities are instrumental to protecting people from WASH-related illnesses. Clean sufficient water and soap for hand-washing are necessary for the management of menstrual hygiene, unfortunately, these are not readily available in rural and even urban areas, increasing open defecation.
The unavailability of basic hygiene facilities leaves some girls, especially those who are menstruating, unable to concentrate during their lessons and at times, unable to use the lavatory altogether due to its poor state and lack of hygiene measures. Not only does the lack of WASH facilities pose a massive health risk to young girls exposing them to a range of different sanitary related illnesses, but their safety is also put in jeopardy with many girls, unfortunately, falling victim to Sexual gender-based violence when in search for an appropriate lavatory to use.
These practices in schools can help promote proper hygiene for girls;
- At least a make-shift toilet with clean water and soap.
- Ensure that these resources are topped up regularly.
- Provide a small bin for the female students to be able to dispose of their sanitary towels hygienically and appropriately.
- Ensure that all the toilets, sinks, floor and door handles are disinfected and bins emptied regularly.
These are a few measures that schools can take to ensure that the lavatories are at a sufficient standard where students can comfortably use them. If these are effected, girls will be encouraged to go to school.