All children should be allowed to attend school comfortably with the hope for a brighter future, no matter what. Yet, girls in Tanzania are sometimes forced to drop out and give up on education once they get their period simply because of the lack of hygiene facilities available at schools.
All girls on earth, at some time or another, experience getting their period. For many of us, it’s a sign of maturity, growing up, a time to celebrate. For some girls, however, it’s a curse that strongly and negatively impacts their academic success. Why?
With menstruation comes the increased necessity to have access to hygienic toilets, and privacy. However, the facilities that most of us take for granted are not provided in some of the local schools in Tanzania. According to UNICEF statistics, 52% of school’s girls’ latrines don’t have doors, 63% don’t have a place to dispose sanitary pads, 46% of water facilities are non-functional, and 99% don’t have soap. This means girls are unable to change pads at school – imagine having to change a used pad in a toilet where anyone could peek in at any moment, and then being unable to wash your hands afterwards!
Due to these enormous drawbacks resulting with an uncomfortable school environment, girls are forced to make the decision of skipping school. Madame Salome, the headmistress of a school in Dar es Salaam (the economic capital) commented, “girls prefer to stay home than to face the embarrassment in front of their peers”.
If 36 out of 190 school days are missed because of periods, that’s about 20% of each school year absent. This makes it almost impossible for girls to keep up with school work, and girls are eventually forced to drop out of school.
The first public local school I ever visited in Tanzania was located in Masaki, one of the richest areas in Dar es Salaam because it is densely populated by foreigners. I was shocked to find the conditions for girls described above were just as present there; right in front of the toilets without doors were the luxurious expat houses, from where the toilets could be observed.
It doesn’t take “rocket science” or a lot of money to solve these problems. All that needs to be done is to provide a door with a lock, some water, and soap. The Tanzanian government did make a ‘National Sanitation and Hygiene Policy’ 2 years ago, including menstrual hygiene management for adolescent girls and maintenance of sanitation and water facilities. However, it is not being enforced (at least, not in all places) and some girls are still living under the same conditions as they were before this policy.
Without giving the girls the chance to stand up for their rights and continue with their education, MDG 2 (Millennium Development Goal set between the government and UN) to “ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere BOTH boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling” will never be fulfilled. The Tanzanian ministries need to open their eyes to this evident problem, and make sure that they are better enforcing and monitoring their policy.
Please sign this petition to ensure girl’s rights to education by calling the government’s attention to this unjust problem that the girls are facing for a natural cycle which the girls have no control over, and therefore, should not be put down for.
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