School principals in the FCT on Thursday pledged to prioritise Menstrual Hygiene Management through the provision of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities to encourage attendance and boost female students’ confidence.
They made the pledge at a meeting on the baseline dissemination findings on the impact of the “Always Keeping Girls in School” (AKGIS) project organised by an NGO, Tabitha Cumi Foundation in Abuja.
The Principal, Junior Secondary School, Ushafa, Mr. James Oladela, said findings from the baseline research had exposed them to the difficulties female students face during their menstruation.
“For me, it is an eye-opener, especially for those of us who are male principals on the need to open our hearts and be more accessible to the girl child, especially our dear students as it relates to the menstrual cycle.
“Every myth that used to surround menstruation for the girls has been removed by programmes of Tabitha Cumi, especially through the training, the advocacy visits, and what have you,” he said.
According to him, he will ensure that toilets are built with adequate water supply in the school environment to enable the students to practice menstrual hygiene management.
Also, the Principal, JSS Kuchigoro, Mr. Joshua Afolabi, said the training by the NGO has equipped him with more knowledge on menstrual hygiene management.
“I never knew the importance of water to menstrual hygiene, but today I have the knowledge and the importance, and equally the importance of toilet to hygiene.
“Where I am in Kuchigoro, we don’t have toilets for students and I pity myself after today’s training because by God’s grace, within my power, I will do everything to build toilets, even if it is for girls,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Safiya Tamanuwa, representing Universal Basic Education Board, said the board would ensure available resources for the construction of additional toilets and WASH facilities in schools.
Tamanuwa said additional toilets and access to WASH facilities would protect the dignity of the girl-child during menstruation and reduce absenteeism from school.
She said: “They are not adequate because of the large population, at least there are facilities there.
“So what we are saying is on improving on them and make additional ones and as soon as resources are made available UBEB will do it as they are doing it stage by stage.”
On her part, Mrs. Tayo Erinle Executive Director, Tabitha Cumi Foundation, said the AKGIS project was sponsored by Proctor and Gamble to enhance girls’ knowledge and practice around reproductive health.
Erinle said the project also aims at reducing and stopping girls’ dropout and absenteeism due to menstruation and encourages male champions of menstrual hygiene to bring about transformational change and sustainability.
“So, this programme aims to stop dropouts, attrition of girls because the attrition rates of girls are high. So this programme aims to stop it so that girls can complete their cycle.
“And I think I am most excited today about the male involvement. For me, it is something that will bring about great transformation because men usually trivialise girls’ issues.
“But when men champion it, the change is faster, because you don’t have to struggle so much.
“And we have been able to get men in the schools, the principal, championing the cause of menstruation.
“So, we feel that at the close-out of the project, there will be sustainability because there is a passion,” she said.
According to her, life skills, puberty training, and the provision of emergency sanitary kits to help girls manage their menstrual periods with dignity have increased their self-esteem and helped reduce absenteeism from school.
She explained that the project had empowered 1,500 adolescent girls in 20 Junior Secondary Schools in the FCT and 10 Junior Secondary Schools in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Erinle added that it had also trained guidance counsellors in the 30 schools, built the capacity of 60 peer mentors, supplied sanitary pads and conducted baseline assessments in the schools.