Kheyali and Dipayanti
A grade 9 student of Panchagram High School, Ghaighata Block, North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, the first rank holder in class with a lot of dreams to excel in life- this is Kheyali who is just 13 years old.
Dipayanti is 14 and she is in Grade 10.
Both Kheyali and Dipayanti share two things in common. They go to the same school and they both are members of the School WATSAN Committee. Water For People have installedan arsenic filter, sanitary block and drinking water station in their school as well as established a WATSAN Committee with students and teachers as its members to look at the operation and maintenance of the created facilities.
Kheyali and Dipayanti have done exemplary work in their school. Since the installation of arsenic filter, they have been active members of the WATSAN Committee and have set examples for other students. Within the WATSAN Committee, they keep the sanitary facilities clean and hygienic. They make sure that the water is not wasted recklessly by fellow students; they also act as hygiene educators- they go to each class to teach about the importance of hygiene and maintain the facilities hygienically. Today, they have evolved to be effective leaders within their schools; they take things in their stride, make decisions, give lessons, and maintain the school facilities properly. They enjoy being on the WATSAN committee because they have had leadership capabilities within the schools. However, the scenario was entirely different before Water For People’s intervention. Kheyali and Dipayanti refrain themselves from coming to school during their menstrual period.
There were no proper girl friendly sanitary facilities at school and their knowledge of maintaining good hygiene practices were bare minimum. Since they were absent from classes, they were not in sync with the ongoing course curriculum which eventually affected their studies. However with the new sanitary block that Water For People established, things changed. They had changing rooms in the new sanitary block which had an incinerator to dispose their used napkins. In fact the sanitary napkins were also made available in school for the girl students. They started to come to school regularly, they started gaining interest in studies, took part in outdoor activities as they were much more comfortable during their menstrual period.
Today, both these girls serve as examples to rest of the students. They started taking interest in maintaining the sanitary blocks and making the students aware of the best hygiene practices.
“I preferred to stay at home rather than going to school during those days of menstruation because there was no availability of cloth and running water in the toilet. We faced so much trouble during those days”....mentioned Ambika Khatua, a student of class X from Nayaput Sudhir Kumar High School in Contai-I block of East Medinipur. Living in a poor socio-economic family, Ambika was able to identify herself with other girls who would have gone through similar experiences during menstruation.Ambika told that she was in for a real shock when she first experienced menstruation in class VII. She had no prior information about menstruation from her school and her parents; therefore she was almost clueless of handling such a situation. Even menstruation was considered a taboo in her society.
Due to lack of availability of sanitary napkin, she used clothes like other rural girls in her village during the days of menstruation. In her school, the level of awareness about the menstrual hygiene was very low. Moreover, there was no provision of separate girls’ toilet, change room to dispose or change cloth, no sanitary napkin facilities, no incinerators and no such running water and soap facility to wash hands. Ambika confessed that she was not comfortable going to school those days. She also told that recurrent absenteeism in school every month also affected her studies. She could not take part in extra-curricular activities, stayed away from the playground and never took part in outdoor activities during her menstrual days.
Today, Ambika is a happy girl. She is a regular in school and is excelling in her studies. She remains present during her menstrual days also. She does not miss her classes and during her free time, she plays with her friends, takes part in extra-curricular activities. Like Ambika, many other girls of her school who have reached their puberty, do not hesitate to come to school during these days. Reviewing the entire WASH situation of the school, Water For People-India along with its local partner NGO, implemented School Water Sanitation and Hygiene programme. A package of financial assistance, technical and software support has been given by Water For People-India to Ambika’s school. With active support of the concerned school, partner NGO, a two-storied sanitary block has been constructed in Nayaput Sudhir Kumar High School. A simultaneous effort has been taken to construct change room and incinerator, to provide running water, soap, and sanitary napkin facilities. But Water For People-India has not only confined themselves into construction work, they have also taken a sincere step to generate awareness about menstrual hygiene and personal hygiene practices among school students.
Today, Ambika like other girls have learnt to use sanitary napkins and incinerator for disposal and she is happy that they have got a good sanitary block will all the facilities which is girl friendly and a good running water supply. (Source: Water For People)