One important aspect of our WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) project in Kilombero and Kongwa Districts is working with local engineers and builders to construct new village primary school toilet and sanitation facilities that include a room dedicated to menstrual hygiene management (MHM). These dedicated rooms all have a toilet, washing facilities, an incinerator, and an important lockable door, all of which offer girls the space and privacy to hygienically manage their periods without fear or embarrassment.
To understand more about issues facing girls in the education system, we spoke to teachers from the schools where we are currently working; Reinfrida Stanslaus Mhako is a teacher and leader of the SWASH (School WASH) club in Ichonde village in Kilombero District. Dominick Michael Kanyadenge is a teacher and leader of SWASH club in Matanga village, Kongwa District. Jowanitha Andrea Mtelevu is the only female teacher Mvungurumo primary school, Kongwa District.
What are the challenges girls face in school?
“The rate of girls who complete their studies compared to boys is low, because firstly girls have a lot of housework to do. Menstruation is also a big problem because often girls find that they cannot attend the classes. Early marriage is another issue. These kinds of things cause it to be difficult for girls to complete their education successfully.” Reinfrida, Ichonde village
“In terms of their ability to learn there is no difference to boys, actually many of the girls perform better. However, it is more difficult for girls to complete their education here. The girls at the school here try hard to be present school even when they are on their period, but some find it really difficult and some aren’t able to attend. Also, the secondary schools are a bit far from here and some are boarding schools. Families are less likely to allow the girls to leave the home.” Jowanitha, Mvungurumo village
How will the MHM room help?
“The MHM room is very useful because previously girls on their period would get permission to be at home but now the MHM room will reduce the need to be at home. Also the girls will be motivated to come to school and study hard because the toilets and MHM room are very good and make them feel valued.” Reinfrida, Ichonde village
“I think the special MHM room for the girls will stop them missing school when they are on their period. The girls are often shy and embarrassed and if they don’t have a place to clean themselves or change at school it is easy for them to stay at home. I think they will now come to school because they have this private space on the school site. I also believe that Raleigh being here has helped people to understand the value of education.” Dominick, Matanga village
Is it important for girls to have female role models such as teachers?
“Yes, my teacher who taught me was my role model. I loved learning from her and she encouraged me to follow a career in teaching.” Reinfrida, Ichonde village
“I think the children here really appreciate having a female teacher. During their menstruation, girls are free to talk to me which is important, and I feel privileged to be working here as a woman and a teacher.” Jowanitha, Mvungurumo village
“It was much more difficult for girls to get an education when I was young, nowadays things are changing. There are many girls in this village and fortunately the government are making sure that all children go to school no matter their gender. We are also now seeing women being elected to parliament. Even the vice-president of Tanzania is now a woman. Having female leaders shows girls what they can achieve.” Jowanitha, Mvungurumo village
Our hope for the villages in which we are working is that young girls will benefit from increased opportunity to complete their education in a safe and conducive environment. The MHM rooms will not only give girls a chance to attend school when they otherwise might not, but also demonstrate to the whole community the importance of girls being in school.
“With programmes like this one from Raleigh, it is reaching a time where all girls are free and confident to attend school, participate in discussions, give answers, take part in debates and compete academically without fear or shame. I think that girls in Tanzania are much more capable than people think, and now we have started to see this. The future is promising.” Jowanitha, Mvungurumo village
Words by Communications Officer Lou McGowan.