Catholic Relief Services, DRI, and UDS announce new collaboration and contributions to the WASH sector in Ghana
July 22 2016, TAMALE, GHANA – More than 70-percent of households in Northern Ghana have no access to toilets and fewer than 15-percent of those Ghanaian households have handwashing facilities, according to the recent UNICEF statistics.
Lack of access to improved water, saniation and hygiene (WASH) facilities is a critical challenge faced by Ghanaian girls each day, in particular in schools where attendance rates consistently drop when girls reach adololesence and have to manage menstrual hygiene issues.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Desert Research Institute (DRI), and the WASH Center of the University for Development Studies (UDS) today held a symposium in Tamele, Ghana focused on improving sanitation and hygiene options for girls attending school the rural areas, often lacking improved WASH facilities in schools.
The theme of the event was “Menstrual Hygiene Management Interventions in Schools for the Girl Child: Successes, Challenges and the Way Forward.”
“The goal of the symposium is to create a platform for sharing and expanding knowledge on personal hygiene among young women,” said Kris Ozar, the Country Representative of the Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. “Bringing together a diverse group of experts and professionals in the WASH sector creates a sense of collaboration and this is what moves the sector forward. Events like this symposium are a stepping stone for the future of WASH in Ghana.”
Recent research by CRS, UDS and DRI shows that only 52-percent of girls are comfortable managing their period at school.
“Governmental, academic, and other actors working toward the social and economic development of Ghana understand the importance of keeping girls in school,” explained Braimah Apambire, director of DRI’s Center for International Water and Sustainability. “When there are no private sanitation facilities at school, girls often drop out completely when they reach puberty and begin menstruating.”
Apambire added that research has shown positive correlations between the time girls spend in school and delayed marriage, improved maternal health, child survival, and income potential.
Providing separate sanitation facilities at schools for boys and girls can help to keep girls in school longer. Within their homes women are influencers and decision-makers, integral to improving the health outcomes for their entire communities. Even several years of basic education can result in women having smaller, healthier, better-educated families with lower infant mortality rates, which are more able to work their way out of poverty.
A research team comprised of DRI, CRS and UDS staff as well as graduate students from the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and UDS is examining issues related to sanitation and hygiene for girls in schools to gain a better understanding of the issues and challenges, as well as the perspectives of the girls themselves. The team is working to identifiy barriers to girls’ school attendance and develop recommendations on how to best address their unmet needs and ultimately increase girls’ school attendance rates in the regions being studied.
The research collaboration is part of a larger, on-going CRS project called the Integrated Sanitation, Hygiene, and Nutrition for Education (I-SHINE) project, located in 138 communities in Northern Ghana with support from Helmsley Charitable Trust. The focus of this project is to encourage school attendance by improving WASH behaviors. I-SHINE has two goals: (1) Children regularly attend water, sanitation and hygiene friendly schools, and (2) Individuals live in communities free of open defecation.
Special presentations during today’s symposium focused on ways to address the unmet needs for adequate WASH services in schools, that in turn can impede young women’s access to education, and have a lasting impact by limiting their longer-term options for educational and economic attainment.
Presentors included Ghana Education Service’s School of Health and Education Program (SHEP); Camfed; Hope for Future Generations; and representatives from the event’s host organizations of CRS, UDS and DRI.
Two graduate students from the UNR’s Students' Association for International Water Issues were also in attendacne to present their field research, focused on better understanding the constraints to school attendance amongst women and girls during their menses.
The WASH Center at UDS, established in partnership with DRI, is also a also significant asset in implementing this project. The Center aims to address outstanding gaps in WASH knowledge and training, as well as conduct action research related to WASH. DRI and CRS are also separately designing a WASH supply chain project focused on increasing the long-term sustainability of WASH projects in the region.
Photo Caption One: Lack of access to improved water, saniation and hygiene (WASH) facilities is a critical challenge faced by Ghanaian girls each day, in particular while they are in school.
Photo Caption Two and Three: Research team members talk with young Ghanaian women about WASH access and managing menstrual hygiene at home and while at school.
Photo Credits: DRI