The theme of the second annual Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Virtual Conference to be held on 21 November 2013 (8:00-17:30 EDT) is WASH in Schools Empowers Girls’ Education. Jointly organized by Columbia University and UNICEF, the meeting will bring together WASH in Schools practitioners and members of Academia.
A school is more than classrooms and desks. Providing students with access to WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities has been shown to boost attendance, increase achievement and promote equity. However, the stark reality indicates that there is much work to be done. Existing WASH in Schools data shows that 49 per cent of schools lack access to safe drinking water and 55 per cent of schools lack access to sanitation facilities in middle and low-income countries. A school cannot be a school without the presence of toilets, taps and hygiene education: “WASH must be part of every school”. Adaptation of national, regional and local standards for WASH in Schools and enforcement of standards are critical to ensure children’s right to access to WASH. These standards should be the basis for national action plans that aim to reach all schools within a concrete time frame and should allow for gradual improvements to facilities and hygiene practices.
WASH in Schools fosters social inclusion and individual self-respect. By offering an alternative to the stigma and marginalization associated with hygiene issues, it empowers all students – and especially encourages girls and female teachers. Girls are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of school, partly because many are reluctant to continue their education when toilets and washstands are not private, not safe or simply not available. When schools have appropriate, gender-separated facilities, an obstacle to attendance is removed. Adequate WASH facilities and menstrual hygiene education improves the quality of education experience for both female students and teachers.
There are growing efforts around the world to address adolescent girls’ menstrual hygiene management (MHM) needs through WinS programming. The conference will enable the showcasing of these findings, and continue to move forward the global effort to fill existing gaps in knowledge and advocacy. Join us at the conference.
Available now are the Proceedings of the 2012 Menstrual Hygiene Management Conference on WASH in Schools Empowers Girls’ Education. Readers are invited to comment here or on the PHLUSH MHM page.