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By Hiro Saito
AMBOHITSARATELO, Madagascar – Hundreds of village dwellers in a hard-to-reach area of Madagascar are now pledging to build shower rooms for girls and women after an intense discussion on how to provide a safe and protected space, particularly for managing menstrual hygiene with dignity.
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For the residents of the fokontany, or the neighborhood, of Ambohitsaratelo, located nearly 200 kilometers northwest of the capital Antananarivo, a shower room refers to a space built to provide privacy while washing.
“Here is what the shower room looks like. We use four sticks in the corners and put something to cover for privacy. We also need to make a pit to drain the used water. For the pit, we will use materials like a layer of sand and a layer of charcoal powder”
– said Rochelle, a technical facilitator. In the following video, Rochelle demonstrates the process:
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WSSCC’s implementing partner in the region facilitated the so-called “triggering” activity, which is designed to enable communities to lead to self-awareness and ignite behavior change through face-to-face, deep-dive discussions. Rochelle pointed out in the triggering that with new shower rooms put in place, women would no longer need to spend hours going down the river when they get a period. Equally important, women and girls would have a safe space to manage their menstruation in privacy.
Despite the lack of electricity and scarce water resources, more than 100 women have promised to build a shower room in the upcoming weeks. Men are also stepping up to help their wives with the construction.
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Rakotombahoaka, Mayor of Mahatsinjo Commune, which is made up of 11 fokontanies including Ambohitsaratelo, says that menstrual hygiene is closely related to health, economy and human rights. Rakotombahoaka stressed:
“When you have a healthy body, you can work hard. It’s a human right”.
While the isolated village is about to embark on a first step to improve menstrual hygiene management, Mayor Rakotombahoaka proudly showcases the first-ever fokontany, in his commune, where every household has built shower rooms for girls and women.
Located a few kilometers away from Ambohitsaratelo is another extremely rural fokontany called Miantsoarivo, home to 161 shower rooms. The residents have seen a palpable improvement of their life.
One of the mothers said:
“When my period comes, I can wash myself, a piece of cloth and underwear, and hang them in the shower room. I can take a quick shower before I meet someone. If I had to go to the river to clean myself, it would be very far, and I would be late.”
Mayor Rakotombahoaka pointed out that the inhabitants are from a tribe which keeps its traditional Malagasy values intact but after the triggering had been held, they were among the first ones to build the shower rooms. According to the mayor, they understood menstrual hygiene management is critical to not only keep their village clean but also empower girls and women.
Asked about why he wants to leave no one behind in his own commune, Mayor Rakotombahoaka responded that all the villages within his commune are equal and he is motivated to help develop villages that are located even further away.