By Salome Gangire
Mzuzu, October 29, Mana: Japanese Government and Oxfam have handed over 21 sanitary building blocks for girls to 20 Primary Schools under Traditional Authorities (TAs) Chindi and Mpherembe in Mzimba district aimed at supporting girl’s retention in schools.
Speaking during the handover ceremony for the facility held at Enkondhlweni Primary School in the area of TA Mpherembe, Japanese Ambassador to Malawi, Satoshi Iwakiri said his government gave a grant for the facilities to promote girls education in the district.
He said, “Where girls are disadvantaged, we should put deliberate policies to enable girls excel just as boys. These facilities we are inaugurating today are some of the approaches that would enhance the retention of girls in school,”
Iwakiri noted that lack of sanitary facilities in schools could lead to embarrassment and stigma for girls and eventually increase girl’s absenteeism.
The Ambassador acknowledged government’s strides in promoting access to primary education for both girls and boys in line with the internationally agreed goals including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Deputy Minister of Education, Madalitso Wirima thanked the Japanese government and Oxfam for the donation it was in line with the Ministry of Education’s strategy on girl’s education and the SDGs principles of leaving no one behind.
She said a total of 4,000 upper primary school girls from the 20 schools would benefit from the 21 constructed sanitary facilities in TAs Chindi and Mpherembe.
“This means that no adolescent girl in the area will miss schooling days because of challenges of menstrual hygiene management,” Wirima noted.
She said adolescent girls are often stigmatised due to menstruation and girls from poorly resourced households are the most affected as they do not have the right sanitary wear and they resort to missing classes when they are menstruating .
“The support will go a long way in removing some of the barriers that girls face as they strive to access education as lack of water sources, proper toilets and change rooms makes it very difficult for the girls to spend the whole day in school,” the Deputy Minister said.
Oxfam Country Director Lingalireni Mihowa said evidence has shown that if schools do not have proper wash rooms or facilities, girls are likely to drop out or take a break when they are in their menstrual cycle.
She said according to United Nations Child Fund (UNICEF) and other local partners, girls could lose up to 40 school days in a year through absenteeism if they feel that they would be stigmatised because they have gone to school without proper sanitary wear and water supply to support their hygiene and personal integrity.
“We have been in Mzimba for three years implementing a project that is supporting retention and completion of education in primary schools and through the Japanese embassy we received a grant that supported building of these infrastructures to support girls water and sanitation hygiene,” Mihowa said.
She said the 21 donation would allow girls to feel more confident and attend classes in their menstrual cycles as they can properly manage themselves in the change rooms.
The 21 washrooms has been funded by the Japanese Embassy under the grants assistance for grassroots human assistance security project to the tune of US$ 54, 916 approximately K 41 million.