World Vision Ireland’s Policy Brief on “Helping Girls Overcome Barriers to Education” is based on the work we have been supporting in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan as part of our Irish Aid Humanitarian programme aimed at Building the Resilience of Women and Children through Enhanced Education and Protection.
A significant challenge affecting girls’ attendance is the lack of guidance, facilities and materials to manage their menstruation. Growing evidence suggests there are gender-specific impacts of inadequate WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities on girls’ participation in education. Girls experience shame and embarrassment when they are unable to manage their periods comfortably because of the lack of water, soap and privacy. These factors also affect female teachers, and if they seek employment elsewhere for this reason, this leads to fewer female teachers being available for girls to confide in.
We have found that access to sanitary towels has a very positive contribution to girls’ health, well-being, educational attendance and performance; and should be integrated where possible into education programmes. This is a relatively low-cost intervention that has a notable positive impact on girls within a short timeframe. Girls with a strong gender-sensitive focus, educational interventions can hugely improve education outcomes for girls. Our experience in Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia suggest that the provision of girl-friendly sanitation facilities improves school attendance rates for girls. Research in Somalia suggests that schools with girl-friendly interventions have higher enrolment rates and lower dropout rates for girls.