feature by Bertha Badu-Agyei
Koforidua, Feb 11, GNA - Ama Tako is a 15-year
old girl residing at a village in the Akuapem North district. She started her
menses at the age of 12 and since then schooling has not been the same for her.
She stays away from school when it is that time of the month, for lack of toilet facility in her school, where she can change herself when the need arises, apart from the toilet facility, Ama is also not using sanitary pads, which she could change, but a piece of cloth, which she had to wash anytime she changes.
Ama’s parents could not afford her sanitary pads and so for her convenience, Ama has to stay home every week of the month to attend to this natural phenomenon and that has greatly affected her studies.
The story of Ama Tako represent that of thousands of girls in the rural communities across the country, who for lack of menstrual hygiene facilities are finding it difficult to attend school or have the full complement of contact hours on the academic calendar.
The practical activities of Plan
It’s in the light of these that Pan International Ghana, a non-governmental organization (NGO) interested in the promotion of girls’ education and women empowerment is investing over 2 million euros in a Menstrual Hygiene integrated project under Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in two districts in the Eastern region.
The project is being implemented in 12 communities in Okere and Akuapem North districts for a three-year period and comprises provision of ‘Girl friendly’ toilet facilities in all the schools in the 12 communities as well as distribution of sanitary pads and education on menstrual hygiene.
The girl-friendly facilities are institutional KVIP toilets complex that comes with urinals and a changing room stocked with sanitary pads, tissues and handwashing facilities including; water and soap for girls to use in times of their menses.
Under the project, schools in the implementing areas that have toilet facilities already, would be upgraded with a changing room and hand washing facilities and a borehole to ensure water accessibility.
Mr Kofi Adade Debrah, the Eastern Regional Manager of Plan International Ghana, in an interview with the GNA indicated that the intervention followed a study by Plan “where it was evident that lack of toilet facilities and other logistics such as sanitary pads for menstrual hygiene were keeping a lot of girls out of school and therefore affecting their studies as compared to boys”.
He said during the study, they found out that most of the girls had to go home with the excuse of going to change and never come back considering the long distances they trek to school and some did not even attend school at all during their periods “and that usually give the boys advantage over the girls leading to most girls dropping out or not attending school at all”.
Another issue they found out in the study was that, due to poverty and lack of parental care, most girls in the rural communities were not using sanitary pads, instead were using pieces of cloth, cotton wool and toilet rolls among others which affected their health and confidence.
“So we have procured about 14,500 sanitary pads to be distributed to girls in the 12 communities as well as menstrual hygiene management education to teach them how to use the pads as well as the re-usable pads, since most of them have never used sanitary pads” he added
Plan International Ghana believes that parents must step up their roles and responsibilities towards their wards especially the menstrual needs of their children by providing them with sanitary pads, so as part of the integrated project intervention there is the ‘Village Savings and Loans Association” a model to help the mothers especially, to manage the little moneys they get from their various trades to take care of their wards basic needs and other responsibilities.
Certainly, Plan International Ghana and the other organizations who are intervening in the menstrual hygiene education are supporting a sensitive development agenda to move us close to the gender parity and women empowerment that we so desire.
However, the longstanding parental care and responsibility must not suffer under the guise of such interventions, Children, according to the good book, are gifts from God entrusted into our care, to nurture, provide their needs such as shelter, food and clothing and all others for them to grow into responsible citizens.
The point therefore is that, as parents our responsibilities towards our children especially the girl child must not be shifted in the name of poverty, it should not be too much for parents to provide sanitary pads for their girls during that time of the month.
The funeral clothes parents buy during every funeral can be saved to provide for our young girls, even in urban areas such as Accra and Kumasi, there are parents who think that the needs of girls could be provided by men and so encourage them to indulge in promiscuity at the expense of their education.
Whiles we commend Plan for the intervention, there is also the need for the family units under the social protection net to be strengthened especially the roles of parents towards their girls at that time of the month, so that some private matters such as “menstruation would remain private” to build the confidence of our girls.