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When children adopt good habits with water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) at an early age it benefits not only them, but their families and communities. So much so, that according to a UNICEF report, the beneficial effects of community hygiene education programmes are felt for at least seven years after training.
Various studies point out that WASH in schools improves attendance, health and cognitive development, increases girls’ participation, establishes positive hygiene behaviour, offers the opportunity to introduce better WASH practices in families and communities and addresses issues of inequity and exclusion.
WSSCC’s national coordinators work in 16 countries to advance national WASH agendas, and are very aware of the potential benefits of WASH in schools. They adopt a variety of innovative methods to increase WASH knowledge and create awareness on the impact of appropriate sanitation for girls in school. For example, when marking milestone days for key sanitation issues such as Global Handwashing Day on 15th October and Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28th May, children are invited to take part in activities that share knowledge and to stimulate discussion on forming good sanitation habits.
One national coordinator's collaborative efforts with government have led to decisive action that will help to keep adolescent girls in schools.
In Uganda, Ms. Jane Nabunnya Mulumba worked with the National Menstrual Hygiene Management Taskforce to lobby for the integration of menstrual hygiene management (MHM) in school curricula.
In 2014, the Taskforce organized the country's first ever menstrual hygiene conference to break the silence on issues related to MHM with policy makers and other stakeholders. The event was well attended by senior government officials from various ministries, other major WASH stakeholders, media and the private sector.
The Taskforce then took the MHM issue to parliament, facilitated by the Chair of the Uganda Parliamentary WASH Forum (UP-WASH), Hon Mrs. Jacqueline Among’in. A petition was circulated during Menstrual Hygiene Day, which was presented to Hon Mrs. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, who garnered support to have it signed in Parliament.
The efforts of Ms. Mulumba and the Taskforce led to the Ministry of Education and Sports' adoption of the Menstrual Hygiene Management Charter, with an annual budgetary provision for sanitary towels for public schools in the country.
Ms.Mulumba is now working closely with UP-WASH, monitoring enforcement of the Charter. The MHM taskforce has initiated a study on the impact of the enforcement to advise policy and implementation decisions, and it also undertakes regular spot checks on the availability of sanitary towels in schools.
WSSCC's approach to education is seen in the Global Sanitation Fund's WASH for Schools initiatives, and through its far-reaching MHM training and advocacy work. WSSCC engages governments and organizations to adopt cross- sectoral policy guidelines on MHM, and generates evidence to inform policy decisions.
Read more about WSSCC's work in education here