SOME 1000 school girls in Kinondoni District in Dar es Saalam have every reason to smile after a local Non-Governmental Organization-My LEGACY (Urithi Wangu) provided them with menstrual hygiene skills and gender violence education to enable them focus fully in studies while in school.
Narrating how the journey was in seeing into girls fully concentrate in studies despite menstruation cycles affecting them, MyLEGACY Coordinator, Amina Ally said their WASH program in the institutions creates awareness also on life skills and empowers the students with right skills so that they also become ambassadors to others.
Taking the stance in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, she further said that the program works in collaboration with various stakeholders, including the government, to help such girls and communities live a dignified life, ensure access to clean and safe water, acquire better housing and eliminate poverty by looking at how the community can use the challenges they have turned to create economic.
Adding: “We visited five schools namely Sauke Secondary, Maendeleo, Daniel Chongollo, Twiga Secondary and Mtakuja Primary school and the response was so good. The aim was also to educate and advocate for the rights of women to own land and other immovable property like buildings, adding that empowering them will in turn also empower children to get their rights in inheritance once parents die.”
Firstly, the lack of affordable sanitary products and facilities for girls and women keeps them at a disadvantage lot in terms of education when they are young and prevents their mobility and productivity as women.
Secondly, the lack of clean and healthy sanitation such as toilets and running water means that girls often do not have anywhere to change or dispose of pads safely and in privacy at school.
Thirdly, the taboo nature of menstruation prevents girls and their communities from talking about and addressing the problem; raising awareness and education to eliminate the stigma of menstruation is a large part of the battle.
She noted that the organisation in collaboration with the Habitat for Humanity Tanzania (HFHT) has continued to be at the forefront in ensuring that all children, especially girls, live in a dignified environment that protects their dignity from also acts of sexual violence, adding that such skills will help teachers to gain an understanding of the issues of global water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) including checking how the content can be incorporated into classroom teaching.
She further said: “This is a follow-up of our various programs based on creating friendly systems for access to WASH services including clean water to help girls in schools, who have reached puberty to cover themselves and be clean during their monthly menstruations. It is very rare to hear issues of WASH and menstruation being linked to gender-based violence and that is exactly what we are doing.
But we should know that these things still directly affect female children; where many find themselves victims of sexual violence by deliberately being denied essential needs or missing the basic services, including hygiene during menstruation.
This is seen in families living in poor conditions and unable to afford the costs of buying menstrual equipment such as tampons, including the presence of oppressive traditions that continue to suppress the interests of female children by not considering their important needs and increasing silence on issues of safe menstruation for them.
With that logic, we see how friendly infrastructure, equipment and safe WASH services for girls are an important part in promoting menstrual hygiene and pre venting sexual violence.
When girls do not have access to safe hygiene services, they are at risk of violence such as being bullied and harassed by their male peers, while others become victims of sexual violence at the influence of men who volunteer to provide or meet these needs at a cost (read in return for sex) for these children.
If these are not provided to them psychologically it becomes hard for them to go and concentrate in class and study. In the first phase of the project, My Legacy Organisation conducted a preliminary study to understand the actual situation of WASH services in schools and the results of the study clearly showed the importance of having a sustainable Sanitation policy in schools that not only focuses on handling WASH services, but also barriers to access to safe menstrual equipment for adolescent girls.”
Commenting on the workshop, Habitat For Humanity Tanzania Representative, Fortunata Temu said that as they seek to improve the standard of living of low-income families through enabling community members to live in decent shelters, they are proud of what MyLEGACY was doing on the ground to see into it that children live in safe places.
She further said that parents and stakeholders should try to sustain such programmes even after the pull out of the implementers, adding: “The programme has been solving challenges relating to girls’ menstrual cycle in school, which in turn address absenteeism, and with personal hygiene education girls will concentrate in their studies.”
Saying that the organization targets to reach 40,000 girls in primary and secondary schools with the education, she said that collective measures are also being implemented against Gender Based Violence (GBV), especially through clubs in schools so that they cultivate a elf-protection culture.
She called upon others stakeholders including parents and guardians to support the My Legacy Organization by voicing up any indication of gender violence to children saying immediate response from family level is necessary for children across the country to be safe.
On her part, Kindondoini District Education Officer, Mwanaisha Maulid said such programs are vital in fighting truancy among girls so that they turn their efforts to studies, noting: “Children rights in education should not be compromised with”
Likewise, she pointed out that in the district the menstrual hygiene education was implemented professionally with training on the appropriate use of pads and self-management during the students’ transition to adulthood.
“It was wise that the organization provided training on manufacturing of reusable menstrual pads, let alone reaching some 30 teachers from different schools to lead the program in their institutions, so that they also become ambassadors to other girls in the households across the region to take care of their health development,” said Mwanaisha.
Such workshops are healthy in understanding the issues of sanitation and hygiene, especially in providing feedback and discussing challenges related to the implementation of the programs in schools, sharing experiences in implementation and preparing joint measures to address the challenges that arise during implementation in order to continue with the efforts invested by the project and continue to improve the teaching environment in schools and make Tanzania schools a safe place for children to learn.