Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is the collective term for various interrelated public health issues. Since 2015, IFA has implemented a School Menstrual, Hygiene and Management Project (SMHMP) and provided safe water and improved sanitary facilities in the schools within which they are working.
Girls in Ethiopia face many challenges, one being menstruation management due to inadequate access to water, sanitation facilities, hygienic materials and basic knowledge in anatomy, puberty, menstruation and hygiene. During menstruation girls’ attendance at school is often low due to fear of sudden menstrual leakage when they are not using proper sanitary napkins, but instead old rags. Such unhygienic practices can lead to infections. This results in poor school attendance and academic performance as well as an increase in school dropout.
The main objectives of the SMHMP are to promote better understanding of girls’ menstrual challenges, to increase the percentage of girls hygienically using reusable cloth napkins by teaching them to make their own napkins and train them in simple anatomy, menstruation and personal hygiene. The aim is to reach 1,500 pubescent school girls per year, thus reducing menstruation-related absenteeism and improving retention and educational performance.
Another issue that impacts on girls attending school during menstruation is the poor quality of sanitary facilities such as toilets and hand washing facilities. As funds permit, IFA has improved the sanitary facilities and the supply of water in the schools where the SSHNP is being implemented. All the schools now have hand washing facilities and water tanks to provide clean water. In addition, two septic tanks have been installed in two schools.
Following an evaluation of the SMHMP, it was found that the quality of the napkins were not always of a high standard. IFA proposes to hire two students from a tailoring vocational program that it has partly sponsored to make all the sanitary napkins for the program in the future.