By Lindsay Menard-Freeman, Women Deliver. This blog post first appeared on the Women Deliver website.
There is a clear link between a girl’s access quality education and her ability to live a healthier, more productive life. We also know that one of the major reasons why girls drop out of school is that they lack of access to sanitary facilities and supplies. Without access to basic menstrual supplies and sanitation, girls’ health and educational opportunities are marginalized. The long-term consequences of this preventable reality for girls create a ripple effect among their communities and, collectively, the global economy.
Clean water, adequate sanitation and proper hygiene require appropriate facilities and an awareness of good practices, and FHI360 and CARE are making this happen in Zambia through their Schools Promoting Learning Achievement through Sanitation and Hygiene (SPLASH) partnership. CARE International supports the construction of boreholes and sanitation facilities, while FHI 360 supports teacher training and curriculum development. Local ministries, nongovernmental organizations and communities take it from there.
SPLASH is a five-year project started in 2011 funded by USAID Zambia to reach more than 240,300 primary school pupils in three districts of the Eastern Province (Chipata, Lundazi, Mambwe and Chadiza). SPLASH aims to improve pupils’ health, learning and performance by increasing their access to safe water and adequate sanitation and improving their hygiene and health practices at school and at home. SPLASH is implemented by the global environmental health projectWASHplus, which is led by FHI 360 in partnership with CARE and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
To date 62 committees have been formed, whose members include pupils, parents, and teachers tasked with ensuring that WASH in Schools in achieved and sustained. WASHplus has rolled out training for 37 of the committees thus far. Participants learn of the committee’s roles and responsibilities, the importance of WASH in Schools, and how to operate and maintain school WASH facilities. The committees are encouraged to put in place small doable actions to improve hygiene and sanitation in their schools and neighboring communities.
Solomon Mwanza, Head Teacher for Yosefe basic school in Lundazi, describes the barriers for girls in his school. “In terms of our senior girls and the girls in general, we introduced a washroom. Because before that, what we had noticed is that most of our senior girls, when they are passing through the menstrual process, they could be away from school. So attendance, performance could be affected.”
The solution in Yosefe School was simple: create a washroom for girls of all ages, so that girls who were menstruating are not stigmatized, and stock the toilet with proper supplies like soap, sanitary pads, and other necessary toiletries. Clean, safe sanitation facilitates help to keep girls in school, and community-based solutions help make that happen through programs like SPLASH.
To learn more about FHI360’s Let Kids Learn project, click here.