Making menstrual health and hygiene inclusive for all

Tigray region

By Sophie Gulliver
Beti communicates with sign language to the MHH club coordinator.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Sophie Gulliver

01 August 2019

Beti is one of 20 students from Kissanet Primary School selected for her interest and role modelling skills to be a member of the school's Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MMH) Club. MHH club members role model and promote hygiene messages to their peers. But for Beti there is a key difference - she is hearing impaired.

With the support of UNICEF and World Vision under the ONEWASH Plus Program, funded by the UK Government, Kissanet Primary School has set up a health club where girls and boys learn together and discuss menstruation, personal hygiene, hand washing and health. Members of the club then role model behaviours and deliver key hygiene messages to other students within the school. Recognising that good health communicators come in all different forms, Kissanet Primary School has actively involved children like Beti living with a disability, who can face particular barriers to accessing MHH and health messages.

UNICEF’s school MHH programme includes the construction of new and rehabilitation of existing toilet facilities to provide for adequate privacy, space and water for girls; developing information materials such as puberty books in local languages; and creating a ‘safe space,’ a room where girls with period pain can rest, wash, find materials to manage their menstruation and receive counselling services. In the schools where the programme works, absenteeism of girls reduced significantly and anecdotal evidence from teachers suggest the girls’ performance is improving, with eight girls among the top ten academic performers at Kissanet School. 

Beti communicates with sign language to the MHH club coordinator.
UNICEFEthiopia/2019/Sophie Gulliver
Beti communicates with sign language to the MHH club coordinator.

The Health Club Coordinator and Principal are both learning sign language as are some of the students to effectively communicate with Beti. 'I can communicate well,' says Beti, 'the students support me. I understand them well and I can learn by watching them too.'

The MHH club meets in the school's safe space room, which UNICEF has equiped with mattresses where girls can rest if they have pain, a private changing area with water for girls to change their pads, and emergency pads on hand to keep girls in school.

For girls like Beti, the safe space room and access to sanitary pads is essential. 'I like the club because there is awareness creation on hygiene and I get sanitary pads. Outside school having sanitary pads is difficult.'

For Beti, who dreams of becoming a teacher when she grows up, being part of the MHH club and a role model for other students is a source of pride. 'I love to be in school and in the club.'