Statistics available shows that, at least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM) due to the unavailability of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in public places.
The Nantong Zuo community junior high school is one of the public schools in the Tamale metropolis of Northern Ghana that does not have toilet facilities.
For adolescent girls, a changing room is necessary for menstrual hygiene management but in this environment, it is a luxury they can only dream of.
Abdulai Hadija is a 14-year-old, third-year student at the school who struggles as a result of the lack of facilities.
“We don’t have urinal pit here, we normally go to the Bush. We are always afraid of being bitten by reptiles. But we are forced to urinate there because we don’t have a urinal.”
She said the lack of toilet facilities makes life harder for students when they’re menstruating.
“We normally go to the nearby houses to change our pads. Even with that, we are shy because is it not our house and the people will be watching us. If we had a urinal, I could quickly go and change and come back. Usually, when we go out to change, lessons will be going on and we lose all that the teacher will teach others”.
A World Bank report recently revealed that inadequate WASH facilities such as a lack of sanitary products, and negative cultural norms were reducing girls’ attendance in schools in Ghana.
Rahinatu Seidu, a teacher at the school said:
“In class, the girls will ask for permission to go and free themselves, this distract lessons. They will not come straight and say, I’m bleeding and I want to go and change my pad. But the frequency at which they go out to free themselves is high. That is where we notice they probably maybe menstruating.”
At Nantong Zuo junior high school, students can not boast of pipe borne water. This means female students have to improvise when they are menstruating.
“We don’t have taps flowing, unless the community dam, but now that the dam is dried, they don’t even get water. So they always ‘free’ themselves and come and sit like that. They buy sachet water in worse cases.”
Hafsatu Sey Sumani is the head of program and policy at NORSAAC an NGO, and she stressed the need for WASH facilities in public schools to help keep girls in school.
We need to put more emphasis on WASH facilities in public schools and the government needs to pay attention to that. Other stakeholders, traditional leaders must all come together to help these girls so that they can stay in school and match up with their male counterparts.”
Ghana has signed up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The goals require the government and its partners to work towards achieving 17 global targets.
Menstrual Hygiene management is key to the attainment of goal 5 which targets increased opportunities for women and girls as well as goal 6 which focuses on clean water, sanitation and hygiene