Empowering Girls for a Brighter Future
Traveling long distances to school, poverty, and harmful social norms are just some of the factors that make it difficult for adolescent girls like Ayelech to access quality education at Boneya Chiro Primary School, Boricha woreda in Sidama Region in Ethiopia.
Due to financial constraints, only a few rural girls have access to sanitary pads. Many of the girls who are in their first menstrual period use rags and pieces of clothes to stop sudden menstrual bleeding from appearing on their clothes. They are forced to miss classes during their menstrual period, for they don’t get access to sanitary pads. Due to this reason, low school attendance, weak academic performance, and school dropout are widespread among girls in rural areas. Considering these challenges, the Comprehensive Home-Grown, Inclusive, Learning and Development School Feeding Project (CHILD-SFP) is being implemented by Save the Children and funded by Global Partnership for Education (GEP). Its aim is to Improve access and retention of students in pre-primary and primary schools including girls, students with disability and students from internally displaced people (IDPs).
Poor class attendance typically leads to an increase in dropouts of girls in school.
"It usually starts with the girls staying at home during the menstrual cycle. Then, over time the time they spend at home extends for a number of competing reasons. It may be an economic problem at home, the discouraging long distance to and from school or even their mounting household chores." says Mulu Chara. Mulu is a language teacher who has attended a gender and girls’ empowerment training organized by CHILD-SF Project.
Equipped with the valuable knowledge gained during training, teachers work extensively to increase their school community's awareness.
"We conduct awareness-raising sessions on gender equality. We educate the boys to stop the stigma around menstruation. We explain the wrong perception of gender roles and other existing taboos in the community. We advise the girls on how to maintain their personal hygiene. With appreciation to the Gender and Menstrual Hygiene Management training (MHM), as well as to the material support received from the project, we have been empowered and, in turn, empowering the young ones." said Tigist Markos, a physical education teacher and a gender coordinator at Boneya Chiro Primary School.
In addition to the training on gender and Menstrual Hygiene Management training, the project has worked with targeted schools to provide a dedicated changing room (MHM corner) for adolescent girls. These changing rooms are equipped with mattresses with pillows, bedsheets, disposal baskets, wipes and hand washing basins, etc. All the items are procured and furnished by Save the Children. The project has also procured reusable sanitary pads and underwear for girls who are of menstrual age. So far, around 33,000 adolescent girls in upper primary grades are benefiting from the MHM support of the project.
"Now, the school environment is very conducive. We have no worries about our monthly cycle, thanks to the people who gave us this support. I wish every girl in our community had access to the same MHM support as me. Then they could feel comfortable going anywhere they want," says Ayelech.