Menstrual hygiene program designed to increase girls school attendance
According to UNESCO, in sub-Saharan Africa, one in ten girls do not attend school during their menstrual period – which according to some estimates, equals 20 per cent of school time lost in a year.
A number of factors are contributing to this including inadequate knowledge of menstrual hygiene principles, lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, poor maintenance of school sanitation facilities, absence of waste management systems and stigma associated with menstruation.
To address these barriers and to help reduce school absenteeism in Cameroon, a menstrual hygiene management (MHM) intervention is being piloted in priority regions. The availability of menstruation products, access to water and toilets will encourage girls to come to school and ensure they remain in schools during their menstrual period. This pilot intervention by UN Women Cameroon, commissioned by eBASE Africa, with support from BHP Foundation partner the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), involves 15 schools, with each school receiving upgraded or new facilities equipped with necessary hygiene management supplies. Key teachers or ‘focal points’ receive training to support the understanding and management of menstrual hygiene and provide training for at least 15 others in their school to build a knowledge cycle model where training cascades from the focal point.
The intervention targets over 10,000 girls of menstruation age and involves teachers as well as parents and community leaders. The pilot study will explore if there is evidence to support the delivery of this MHM intervention at scale in Cameroon. The potential scale up of this pilot to a trial would add significantly to the evidence base of MHM interventions by demonstrating the impact of the intervention on attendance, and then, understanding whether increased attendance in turn improves attainment.
This programme is being implemented in the East, Far North and North West regions of Cameroon. An example of programme implementation is a school in Bayelle who were beneficiaries of the program. Following a needs assessment with the school, it was found that over one thousand girls were in need of basic menstrual hygiene management items. The school received a new water source, new toilet facilities, an incinerator to help with waste disposal and menstrual packs and education sessions for the students and community.
The EEF, with support from the BHP Foundation, is creating a ‘Global Evidence Eco-system for Teaching’ through which they are establishing partnerships with organisations like eBASE Africa, in a number of countries and regions across the globe that see the critical importance of integrating evidence into their education systems. This is with the intention of supporting an emerging global network of education evidence brokers with the collective capacity to build the education evidence base and make it accessible and useable for teachers and policymakers.
A key strand of this work is the generation of new evidence. A Global Trials Fund is supporting network partners to commission high quality evaluation of different education approaches and interventions in their systems, such as the MHM intervention, to build the global evidence base and ultimately understand the impact these interventions are having on the attainment of disadvantaged children and young people.
It is the BHP Foundation’s vision that every young person around the world has equal access to quality education and learning, is empowered to stay and thrive in school longer, has the confidence to pursue previously unimagined pathways and the opportunity to succeed and prosper throughout their lives.