by Pamenus Tuso
The Masvingo Rural District Council has embarked on the construction of sanitary disposal incinerators and girl-friendly latrines at 19 secondary schools and one primary school in the district under the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme.
The pilot programme, which is being implemented in partnership with Dutch NGO SNV, will cover all the wards in the district. The local WASH chairperson, Emmanuel Gundani, said in a recent interview that girls in most schools were facing challenges in disposing of menstrual pads because almost every school in the district lacked proper menstrual hygiene management facilities.
“For the first time in the history of our schools, we are going to introduce incinerators and plastic bins in girls toilets where they can dispose of their pads. We are also constructing bigger latrines that will be fitted with small plastic water tanks to be used for washing purposes.” said Gundani.
The girls’ toilets will also be fitted with steel doors and looks. Gundani said the pilot project was expected to be extended to other schools in the country once uccessfully implemented in Masvingo.
“This programme is certainly a revolutionary in menstrual hygiene management in our schools. In some schools we have incidences where used pads posed a health challenge as they were strewn all over. Under this programme, we are also advocating ffor schools to be free from open defecation,” he added.
The head girl of Chirichoga High School, Constance Chitombo, whose school is one of the beneficiaries of the programme hailed the progamme as empowerment for the girl child.
“This programme has restored the dignity of girl students, as some of them were forced to dispose their pads under embarrassing and unhygienic conditions. Girls’ toilets did not have privacy because they did not have locks. Now our toilets are secure and we can concentrate on our school work without being stressed,” said Chitombo.
SNV is also distributing and encouraging the use of reusable menstrual pads (RUMB) in schools.
According to a recent consolidated baseline survey carried out by SNV on menstrual management hygiene in 11 districts in the country, 20 % of rural primary school girls that menstruate do not attend school while they are on their periods and the explanation that they give to their teachers is that they are sick with a headache, stomach ache or some other ailment.
The survey, which involved focus groups discussions with girls, teachers and women‘s groups also revealed that 67% of those that experienced their first menstrual flow at school, spoilt their uniforms while girls were mocked by boys during their menses.