Our campaign, which is to spread an promote awareness regarding sanitation, water and its effect on girls’ education has taken us to a school in a nearby urban slum area that is located in Gurgaon, India (New Delhi, National Capital Region).
As a part of our ongoing awareness programs we are teaching children on how to follow good sanitation & hygiene practices and ways of obtaining safe drinking water. Through the program, one of our team members, Ms. Chinu, came in contact with Sarita, a student in a group of girls to whom she was teaching good practices to be followed on menstrual days. Sarita told Chinu that many girl students here are unfamiliar with the good hygiene practices to be followed during menstrual days, one of the key factors to the drop out rate of girls from schools. These rates are increasing and ultimately bolts their education and career. The girls told our team member startling facts about menstrual practices they are following during menstrual days. In many areas the girls and their mothers use nothing! In some homes the girl and mother both use the same cloth. There are also myths associated to the practice, which makes it even worse. They say “if you wash the fabric and air dry it or if someone sees it you will become infertile” and as a result of this they dry it in the dark and it becomes subjected to germs and sometimes insects, which lead to illnesses, sometimes severe.
Considering it on our priority list, our female staff started giving awareness about sanitation practices to be followed on everyday basis at school, at home during menstrual days, and also the ways to obtain sanitary pads.
During our awareness campaign in schools Chinu came to know that Sarita is not regular in school. She was absent most days. One day Chinu asked Sarita, “why do you remain absent most of the time from school?” Sarita replied with a drenched face that most of the time she is ill due to stomach and intestinal infections, which is why she is not able to attend school, and stays at home. After the conversation with Sarita we came to know that she is living in an area where people don’t follow sanitation & hygiene practices and that she lives in a hazardous environment where diseases like Cholera, Diarrhea and Gastroenteritis are normal. These diseases are mainly due to bad sanitation conditions and unsafe drinking water!
The result of the awareness campaign was that Sarita’s frequent illness faded away, and now she is more confident in her studies and overall development. She is regular in her class and started scoring good marks.
Like Sarita many of the girls who normally skip school on a frequent basis due to lack of awareness regarding sanitation and menstrual hygiene are now regular in their classes.
After this intervention Sarita became a role model for the entire girl community in the area in regard to good sanitation practices and hygiene knowledge.
During this we came to know that there is a lot more need to be done regarding the awareness in other parts of India, like rural and urban slums, where people give more importance to mobile phones than to sanitation, girls’ education & hygiene.
Please also watch the below mentioned inspiring video for more information.