INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
2012-03-07 11:41 PM HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
By Laxmi Maharjan
KATHMANDU: As the world prepares to mark the year’s International Women’s Day, those working in the sectors of education and sanitation have said building and managing toilets for girl students is key to improving their education status.
The call comes at a time when around 60 per cent of Nepali girl students are forced to use open spaces due to lack of basic girl-friendly facilities in school toilets –– sufficient water, small incinerator to manage sanitary pads and lack of privacy.
“The issue is more closely related to education than most people think,” says Anita Pradhan, gender officer at WaterAid in Nepal.” Around two million Nepali girls do not have access to a toilet in school. As a result they are forced to stay home for days during menstruation and often drop out of school altogether.”
Sanitation in public schools has long been overlooked, government data shows. Of the 28,000 community schools in Nepal, only 18,000 have toilets for students. The situation is dire when it comes to toilets for girl students as only around 1,000 schools have some structure that they call a ‘separate toilet’ for girl students.
“More toilets need to be built in community schools and special attention must be paid to the needs of girl students,” adds Pradhan.
Challenges in providing girl students access to toilets are immense and the government understands the gravity of the situation, say officials. Authorities have included plans to build toilets for girl students in the School Sector Reform Programme.
Jhapper Singh Vishwokarma, senior divisional engineer at Department of Education said of the 7,000 toilets being built in community schools, 3,000 will be for girl students.
“Under School Sector Reform Programme, there are plans to build at least one toilet in all community schools by 2015,” said Vishwokarma. Last year the government built 10,362 toilets out of which 5,500 were girl-friendly.
Sushan Acharya of the department of Education, Tribhuvan University, said access to toilets for girls is a human right. “Toilets should be built keeping in mind the social, religious, cultural and economic status of the place,” she said.