Addressing Menstrual Hygiene in schools in PNG

Addressing Menstrual Hygiene in schools in PNG

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WASH & Behaviour Change Officer Edith Kamundi has recently returned from Papua New Guinea where she is working with WaterAid, Anglicare and the National Department of Education on Menstrual Hygiene Management in schools.

Addressing Menstrual Hygiene in schools in PNG

Participants at the school’s menstrual hygiene workshop in Papua New Guinea

As the workshop comes to a close, a participant, reflects that though she was aware on how difficult it was for girls in rural PNG to manage their periods, she did not fully grasp just how staggering the problem was till she attended this workshop and interacted with the teachers. This was as a result of the experiences shared by teachers at the workshop on how schools were coping with menstrual hygiene related challenges.

The workshop was a consultative forum on menstrual hygiene in schools in NCD and central provinces in PNG organised by WaterAid and the International WaterCentre. This was an activity within the Menstrual hygiene in schools’ component in a larger WASH program under the Civil Society WASH fund program funded by DFAT. IWC has partnered with WaterAid and their national partners, Anglicare and the National Department of Education, to support the design of strategies to promote improved hygiene behaviours.

Strategies to address menstrual hygiene

An effective strategy to address menstrual hygiene has to consider these important aspects; access to safe, clean sanitary material; access to soap and water to ensure cleanliness in a facility that offers privacy; access to safe disposal of used sanitary material; elimination of fear and discomfort for women and girls;

“on the first day of their periods they come to us and say, ‘period’, and we know it is time for them to go home to clean and get ‘stayfree’ from home. We do not have water, bathrooms or pads to give the girls, we therefore do not have a choice but send them home. Most of the time they don’t come back until the next school day,” Teacher, Roku primary school.

Results of the findings presented at the workshop, from a situation analysis conducted by IWC and WaterAid on the state of menstrual hygiene in schools showed that there exists many barriers for girls, the most glaring of all is the lack of water and sanitation in the schools. In many of the schools the girls miss school on the first day of the period because there are no hygiene facilities such as water, bathrooms or soap available for personal cleaning. Disposal of used sanitary pads is especially risky due to disposal into the pit toilets and where there are not school toilets, they are disposed with the garbage or girls take them home to more unsafe disposal places.

The teachers have had to devise ways to cope with the situation by letting the children go home, seeking partnerships for ensuring water and facilities are available in the schools, and accessing sanitary pads from donations by well-wishers.

Another key challenge is that menstruation is still seen as a taboo subject in many communities. The school curriculum includes a topic on menstruation in grade 6, 7 and 8 which tackles topics on defining menstruation, and very little on the accompanying hygiene needs. The teachers admitted that the hygiene needs during menstruation needed to be communicated to girls in less formal setting like gender assemblies or small group discussions outside the classroom.

With this project, WaterAid, IWC, and partners will develop a resource to be used by teachers to support easier communication of menstrual hygiene to both girls and boys using friendly channels like pictures, storytelling and games. Further, a brief communicating how different levels of the enabling government such as national government, community, local government, or parents cannot support the teachers to ensure that schools are practising good menstrual hygiene shall be included.

More information

For more information on our partnership with WaterAid or our work on Menstrual Hygiene Management please contact Edith Kamundi or our capacity development and applied research team,

training@watercentre.org

T +61 7 3028 7600

Acknowledgments

Our partnership with WaterAid is part of the Civil Society WASH Fund, an Australian aid program initiative funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This project is delivered in collaboration with WaterAid as well as the Papua New Guinea National Department of Education and Anglicare.

CSWASH logo  wateraid-social-logo.jpg CS WASH Fund

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