WASH in schools for girls: Voices from the field

Advocacy and capacity building for menstrual hygiene management through WASH in schools programmes

UNICEF Nigeria/2015/Noorani


Menstrual hygiene remains a taboo in many settings, with poor knowledge and misconceptions as great a challenge as access to adequate facilities. In recent years, a solid body of evidence has revealed the discriminatory nature of many school environments, with menstruating girls unable to adequately manage their monthly menses with safety, dignity and privacy. In recognition of the positive impact on girls’ education, initiatives around the world are addressing adolescent girls’ menstrual hygiene management (MHM) needs in coordination with ongoing efforts to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools.

Since March 2014 the Canadian Government has been funding the project ‘WASH in Schools for Girls: Advocacy and Capacity Building for MHM through WASH in Schools Programmes’. The WinS4Girls Project is organized around four pillars, each of which has seen significant progress:

  1. Development and roll-out of a web-based course to strengthen the capacity of national research partners, WASH practitioners and policymakers to carry out formative research on MHM. In August 2015, 82 participants completed the WinS4Girls E-Course, which was designed and delivered by Emory University.
  2. Planning and implementation of MHM formative research in 14 countries (Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zambia). Supported by Emory University and UNICEF, working groups made up of e-course participants are currently completing MHM research in each of the countries.
  3. Development of improved policies and interventions based on research results. The wealth of information generated through the formative research is being used to develop a basic MHM in schools package, which will be piloted in all countries.
  4. Implementation of MHM-related advocacy efforts. The project has supported the organization of the annual MHM virtual conference, which continues to grow each year. Nationally, several country teams have held advocacy meetings with national ministries of health to discuss the importance of MHM in schools. 

To document the successes, challenges and lessons learned during the planning and implementation of the WinS4Girls Project, interviews were held with representatives from project working groups in each of the beneficiary countries. Global voices were provided by UNICEF’s  WASH and Gender sections in New York as well as Columbia University, Emory University and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI).

Sinden, Jeff, Murat Sahin and Carmelita Francois
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