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Increasing school attendance by improving WASH access

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.

logosThe 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.

ghana girls newA 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.

ghana girls 3   ghana girls 2The 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

 

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Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS Ghana was established in 1958, just one year after Ghana gained independence. CRS implements Health; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); Agriculture; and Youth Peacebuilding interventions as part of an integrated and multi-sectoral approach to improve health, education, economic and social outcomes. CRS focuses on improving the wellbeing of the most vulnerable, working in close collaboration with governmental, Church and other private and public sector partners. For more information, please visit www.crs.org or contact the Country Representative at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The University for Development Studies (UDS) has been mandated to provide higher education to all persons suitably qualified and capable of benefiting from such education; to undertake research and promote the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and its application to the needs and aspirations of the people of Ghana; and to blend the academic world with that of the community in order to provide constructive interaction between the two for the total development of Northern Ghana in particular and the country as a whole. The University for Development Studies WASH Center was formed to initiate, coordinate and harmonize all WASH and related activities in the University. The Centre is also mandated to present a strategic plan on WASH in UDS and report to the Vice-Chancellor. For more information, please contact the Director of UDS International at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is a world leader in environmental sciences through the application of knowledge and technologies to improve people’s lives throughout Nevada and the world. DRI has been involved in providing technical capacity building to water project staff in West Africa since 1991 in (1) the use of appropriate groundwater exploration methods and techniques to increase the success rate of water well drilling, (2) water quality analysis and interpretation of results, (3) investigation of the use of local geomaterials to treat contaminated water, (4) assistance with the development and use of hydrogeological and water quality data management systems, and (5) the training of staff through short courses and hands on experience at DRI and graduate degree programs at the University of Nevada, Reno. DRI created the Center for International Water and Sustainability (CIWAS) to capitalize on DRI’s expertise in environmental sciences to conduct interdisciplinary research, and provide both information and technical capacity to universities, governmental and non-governmental organizations working to identify and solve problems related to human health and management of environmental resources. The purpose of this focused international water, development and global sustainability center is to address gaps in knowledge, research, and human resource capacity that persist in developing countries and assist in the design of sustainable WASH programs. For more information, please contact the Director of the Center at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..