Adolescence in girls signifies the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Good menstrual hygiene is crucial for the health, education and dignity of girls and women. This is an important sanitation issue which has long been in the closet; and there is a long-standing need to openly discuss it. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) reaffirms its position that comprehensive sexuality education is part of the skills-based health education that young people require. It says puberty should not be taught in isolation, rather it should be delivered through a developmentally appropriate skills-based health education curriculum framework that starts as early as age five and continues into young adulthood. Menstrual hygiene A research by WaterAid Ghana (WAG) has underscored the need for the provision of the needed water and hygienic facilities in schools to help deal effectively with the issue of menstrual hygiene. The findings of the research, which were presented at the ‘’WASH in Schools’’ programme, a school Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) advocacy programme, in Accra last Thursday, further revealed that girls needed a lot of attention and support to be properly enlightened on issues concerning menstruation. It further indicated the importance of educating girls on menstruation, so as to enable them to lead healthy reproductive lives in future. The Country Director of WAG, Mr Abdul-Nashiru Mohammed, said the lack of water facilities in schools negatively affected academic performance of the girl-child. ‘’When girls go through their menstrual cycle, they find it very difficult and uncomfortable to go to school; so they rather stay at home,’’ he said. He added that due to the long period of absenteeism from school, the academic performance of such girls was negatively affected. Parents’ support He mentioned that it was necessary for parents to give adequate support to the girl-child to ensure that they take proper care of themselves during menstruation, adding;‘’ Parents should be able to support the girl-child with the needed materials during menstruation.” Mr Mohammed said menstrual hygiene should be embedded in the school curriculum, adding that teachers should also make the topic interesting to students. ‘’We need to make menstrual hygiene an interesting topic in schools, homes and communities. Until we do that, we will always have a challenge,’’ he stressed. He added that to make the initiative effective, there should be a collaboration across different levels - talking about the issue to make the boys feel comfortable to talk about menstrual issues and provide support to girls. ‘’Until we do that, it will be a problem we keep reciting,’’ he lamented. He said WAG would work with the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation to focus on water and sanitation issues. Objective A research fellow, Nii Wellington, in a presentation, said the objective of the research was to create awareness, increase school authorities and communities’ participation to positively influence the quality of WASH service delivery and facilities provision at all levels in schools across the nation. Challenges According to the survey, 50 per cent of schools did not have access to potable water because of high water bills, disconnection of water source due to lack of funds to pay bills, irregular flow of water, as well as limited capacity to store water. The research further showed that children did not enjoy reliable hygiene facilities in their schools, thereby putting their health at risk. Also, the research showed that children were using unacceptable hygiene facilities and services as required by the Ghana Education Service (GES) standards.
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