Plan International and partner, Live & Learn Environmental Education, is working with Solomon Islands Ministry of Education, school principals, teachers and students to improve knowledge about menstrual hygiene and improving access to WASH facilities for girls and teachers to manage their menstruation hygienically and with dignity.
In one particular school in West Guadalcanal, changes began 12 months ago on Global Menstrual Hygiene Day, 28th May, 2019. After a candid and entertaining discussion and drama performance that highlighted the fundamental importance of enabling girls to manage their menstruation with pride, the Headmaster, Mr Matia, has become an enthusiastic advocate for improving menstrual hygiene management in his school.
Mr Matia has engaged with teacher training on gender, social inclusion and menstrual hygiene management. In the space of 12 months, Mr Matia has worked hard to create a supportive environment for girls in the school. The school now sells sanitary pads at the school canteen and emergency pads are available at the school office. The school toilet facilities were repaired and bins are now provided in the toilets for safe disposal of pads.
“I had some idea of what menstruation hygiene management (MHM) was, but not until my school celebrated the Global Menstrual Hygiene Day did I fully understand the impacts it has on girls when in school. I want to be the male champion for MHM for my school and I look forward to see all teachers in my school to be fully across MHM and to become strong MHM advocators” said Mr Matia.
“I also want my school to become a role model for other schools in how we support our girls and MHM.”
A 12 year old student at Mr Matia’s school who started having her period this year was really interested to learn more about options for managing her period at school. She has been using disposable pads from the shops, but when shown reusable pads, she thought it was really neat to have a pad that can be washed multiple times and reused.
A 12 year old male student at the school said that when he started to participate in MHM activities, he was really shy. Now he has much more understanding. In a discussion group with his peers, he said “All along I was taught that it was tambu [taboo] to talk about ‘girl’s sick’, but now that I know more about it, I will make sure that I will also spread the same message to my uncles and other male relatives so that they are also aware of it.”
Mr Matia continues to do his very best to encourage all of his teachers to be MHM champions in their own classrooms as well. No longer is there embarrassed giggles when MHM is being discussed. Boys in class are invited to see for themselves and learn how girls use reusable pads. Younger students learn by realising all questions are good questions.
His school will be joining Plan International and Live and Learn. as well as millions of people around the world, in celebrating MHM day 28th of May, 2020.
The New Times, New Targets Project aims to improve sustainable and inclusive access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and facilities with schools, clinics and communities in rural Solomon Islands. The project is an Australian aid initiative implemented by Plan International Australia in partnership with Live & Learn Environmental Education on behalf of the Australian Government.