Helping girls stay in school in Vanuatu

By CARE Australia November 22, 2016 3 comments

Schoolgirls in Tanna wash their hands at a new handwashing station installed by CARE. CARE has also installed toilets which include private washing facilities so schoolgirls can manage their menstrual hygiene in private. Image by Julian Tung/CARE

On the island of Tanna, in Vanuatu, CARE has spoken with school girls about the challenges that keep them away from school.

One reason may be a surprise: toilets!

Not having a clean and private toilet is a major concern for girls, particularly when they are menstruating, during which time, many will stay at home rather than choosing to deal with the challenges of having to wash and maintain hygiene in the school toilets.

In partnership with UNICEF, CARE has selected 13 schools for sanitation improvements in Tanna this year, with a further 12 schools in Tanna and the outer islands of Tafea province to follow next year. All up, over 2,200 children will have their sanitation facilities improved to ensure that school toilets are clean, safe and private spaces.

Before construction, girls were asked to describe what they do not like about their current sanitation facilities and were asked to draw their “perfect” toilet to stimulate discussion around girls’ sanitation and hygiene needs. This led to the simple but revolutionary idea of changing the design of the girls’ toilets to include a private washing area with a tap, drain, bucket and soap inside the toilet block rather than outside, so now girls can manage their menstrual hygiene in private.

In addition, girls decided on where the safest place for their new toilets would be. Each school has received two new separate male and female “Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines” or VIP toilets!

CARE is supporting the communities to install handwashing facilities at school toilets, as well as providing soap and locally-made, reusable sanitary items.

Girls and boys are being taught about each other’s needs, and to keep the messages of health and hygiene flowing, students are encouraged to become “hygiene champions”.

Girls now feel they can come to school knowing they have a clean, private, safe toilet to use, and talking about managing their menstrual hygiene is becoming less of a taboo.

Click here to learn more about CARE’s work in water and sanitation.

Image by Julian Tung/CARE

3 Comments Leave new

Mark Zerna Feb 26 2017 at 11:02

To whom it may concern, I am the leader of our short term missions team at Elizabeth Church of Christ that has been working with the Isla Primary School on Tanna for over 8 years. We have been involved in constructing classrooms, resourcing the school and conducting teacher training. I notice with interest that Care has been building toilets in schools on Tanna. For our next project we were planning to build a toilet block for the Isla Primary school. I am wondering if you were planning to include Isla Prmary School in your plans. If not, is there a way in which we could partner with you in such a project. Thank you.

Kind regards, Mark Zerna Elder, Elizabeth Church of Christ

CARE Australia Mar 03 2017 at 01:03

Hi Mark,

CARE is currently targeting schools in Whitesands in East Tanna and Erromango. CARE is also currently supporting improvements to community water supplies in the same areas as these schools.

CARE has plans to expand support to menstrual hygiene management in schools in Tanna through a crowdfunding campaign. However, we are focusing support to Secondary Schools under these plans, so Isla school is not included in this. If CARE secures further funding in future, in addition to the current plans we could look to also consider including Isla school in this.

In the mean time, we would happy to share with you our school toilet designs and approach in schools and put you in touch with Mama’s Laef, a local social enterprise which makes reusable sanitary pads if you would be interested to undertake a similar approach in your activities with Isla school?

Contact the CARE Water and Sanitation Manager, Julian Tung, for further information.

All the best, CARE Australia.

Belinda Roselli Dec 22 2016 at 09:12

The Mammas Laef team are very pleased to be part of the project and make a tangible difference in girls education in Vanuatu. Together we can all make a difference.


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