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Breaking Barriers For Girls

WaterAid are supporting students in Uganda to smash the taboos around periods

In the vast and remote region of Karamoja in north-eastern Uganda, an inspiring group of teenagers are working with international charity WaterAid. Their mission is to educate their families, and wider community, about good menstrual hygiene while smashing taboos around periods.

Globally, one in three schools lack decent toilets. Through players' support, WaterAid have helped build toilets in schools like St Mary's Girls' School. Students are also taught the importance of good sanitation, hygiene, how to safely manage their periods, and how to make affordable reusable sanitary pads.

Hygiene promotion is the most cost-effective health intervention, and the students are helping transform lives in the community by forming a 'WASH club' (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene). The students share their lessons through drama, music, and games.

The 'WASH cub' is also helping keep girls in school to smash myths and taboos, as well as improving people's health and wellbeing. Thanks to players, clubs like these are being supported across Africa.

According to UNESCO, one in ten African adolescent girls miss school due to menstruation and eventually drop out.

At St Mary's, many girls regularly missed class as they could not manage their periods properly. The school had no decent toilets, and students lacked the knowledge of menstrual hygiene, along with not being able to afford disposable pads.

There also used to be myths around menstruation in the area. There was a belief that stepping on groundnuts while on your period would stop them growing, while some believed that the onset of your period meant you should get married – two myths the 'WASH club' are helping bring an end to.

Fiona, who is 15 years old, said, "In villages, some say that if a girl starts menstruation she is ready to marry. It's true that you can bear children, but you are not ready to marry because you are still young. I don't want to get married straight away! I first want to finish my studies, get my job, then marry."

Boys at the school as well as girls have enjoyed getting involved in the 'WASH club'. The clubs are helping make it more normal to talk about periods, and bring change throughout the community.

One of the boys, Dennis said, "When a girl has menstruation it's normal, that's what the teachers tell us. It is good for boys to know about periods too so that they can teach their sisters."

WaterAid is an international not-for-profit organisation. It is determined to make clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. Only by tackling these three essentials in ways that last can people change their lives for good. To learn more please visit the WaterAid website.

The story of the 'WASH club' has been documented in a powerful new film funded by players of People's Postcode Lottery, who have donated over £3.8 Million to WaterAid since 2013.

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Students learning about hygiene at one of the 'WASH clubs'
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