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WASH facilities see boost in girls' attendance in schools

  • Published at 11:58 pm May 30th, 2019
Students at an adolescent-friendly WASH complex in Alhaz Jafar Bepary High School in Nabinagar, Savar Bangla Tribune

Sajida Foundation is setting up healthy sanitary facilities at schools in Savar area

Ninth-grader Saima Begum (not real name) used to frequently miss school when she had her period every month. Lack of information on menstruation had made her fear the natural process, and lack of adequate facilities in school made her uncomfortable. 

But things changed when her school introduced proper sanitary facilities. Now with access to sanitary pads, hygienic environment and other amenities, Saima does not fear having to sit through classes during her period. 

Saima’s school, Hazi Ambia School and College at Ashulia in Savar, Dhaka, built a WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facility to provide clean bathrooms and access to safe drinking water to more than 600 students. 

Non-government organization Sajida Foundation assisted in setting up the WASH facility, with the financial and technological assistance from the HSBC Bangladesh and development organization WaterAid Bangladesh. 

The WASH complex was built under the foundation’s “Improving access to WASH in school” project. 

Bubly Khatun, advocacy officer of Sajida Foundation, said 80% of the fund for the WASH complex came from the project, while the school authorities paid the rest of the costs.

Besides, the school has created a fund of Tk30,000 for its maintenance. 

The women-friendly facility has sanitary napkins, hand wash soap and other products stocked up in the toilets. 

The facility is also easily accessible to physically challenged students. 

AR Alauddin, president of Hazi Ambia School and College managing committee, said class attendance of female students has significantly improved since the school set up the WASH facility. 

"Earlier, the girls did not come to school during their periods. Now, with access to clean environment, they are regularly present at school. Plus, they have access to clean water,” he added. 

A Class VII student said she used to hold urine during school time, because the school toilets were not hygienic. 

“Now, the school toilets are better,” she added. 

Holding urine for too long is a known reason for schoolchildren to contract urinary tract infection. 

Shathi Zahan, a teacher at the school, said female students and teachers had an open discussion on menstrual health.

Sajida Foundation has built adolescent-friendly WASH complexes in 17 other schools in Ashulia, Dhamsona and Yearpur areas in Savar, aiding around 7,000 students and teachers with healthy sanitation facilities, Bubly Khatun said.

The initiative was taken to provide access to healthy living to the children of RMG workers, she added. 

Speaking about the project’s focus on RMG workers’ children, Aftab Opel, head of programs at WaterAid Bangladesh, said: “It is difficult for the RMG workers to keep track of their children as they are at work all day. If the children have a healthy sanitary practices at school, its effect is reflected on their families.”

Francois de Maricourt, CEO of HSBC Bangladesh, said: “At HSBC, we want to operate in a world where global supply chains support sustainable economic growth by offering work opportunities and minimizing negative impacts on environment. As part of this initiative, we are supporting WASH facilities for RMG workers and their children in school.”

Sajida Foundation has arranged workshops at 56 schools in collaboration with WaterAid, raising awareness on health-related issues among more than 60,000 students, teachers and parents. 

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