Enhancing girls’ education through inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and menstrual health and rights awareness for adolescent girls and young people with disabilities.

Where are we working?

In Bardiya District, in midwestern Nepal, a high proportion of adolescent girls and children with disabilities do not complete school. Just 70.5% of girls enrol in secondary school and only 62.5% of secondary students complete their education. Many girls drop out around the time menstruation usually begins.  

Girls from communities that face marginalisation or exclusion – such as former bonded labourers, the Dalit community and young people with disabilities – are even less likely to start secondary school or to complete it.  

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in Bardiya’s schools are often not inclusive for girls or students with disabilities. This makes it difficult for them to use the toilet and managing their periods at school, and makes it difficult for them to continue their studies. 

The lack of consideration for girls’ needs and prioritisation of boys’ education has led to girls being responsible for unpaid domestic labour, to the detriment of their studies. All schools in Nepal must prepare school improvement plans for improving the quality of education, including school WASH facilities. However, there is no clear roadmap in these plans to achieve the standards of WASH facilities laid out in the WASH in School Procedure that would help to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

Image: Dan Dispain

What are we doing?

Our activities in the WASH GAINS project are focused on four root causes of the poor educational outcomes among girls and young people with disabilities in Bardiya. Working directly in four local government areas and indirectly in eight local government areas, we will address:

1. Poor prioritisation of WASH in schools

  • Facilitate events with 1,051 duty bearers to advocate that they promote WASH rights and menstrual health and hygiene in schools, providing capacity strengthening training and sensitising them about their duties
  • Provide technical support to local governments to implement a WASH in schools progression plan, linked to school improvement plans, and lobby to increase the WASH and education budget
  • Facilitate public audits and social audits to hold school and local governments accountable

2. Lack of inclusive WASH facilities in schools

  • Install and model new or improved child-, gender- and disability- inclusive WASH facilities in schools to meet basic standards as per the WASH in School Procedure
  • Provide orientation sessions for school children and teachers on hygiene behaviour change to improve hygiene behaviours in 30 schools

3. Gender inequality and lack of awareness or prioritisation of girls’ right to education

  • Organise media campaigns and events to reduce shame, stigma and health issues related to menstrual health and hygiene and to tackle harmful gender, disability and menstrual health and hygiene norms
  • Use multimedia channels to raise parents’ awareness and understanding of children’s rights to WASH, education and gender equality
  • Conduct peer learning through initiatives such as participatory photography and sensitisation on menstrual health and hygiene to break the silence of menstruation-related taboos
  • Develop learning modules and facilitate participatory workshops for 13,000 students (including girls, boys and children with disabilities) on their rights to inclusive WASH, menstrual health and hygiene and related norms, and quality education
  • Produce learning and policy briefs to advocate policy change and replication

4. Lack of economic opportunities

  • Provide training in business planning and access to finance to 60 families
  • Supply viable businesses with start-up capital, including providing equipment and bank transfers for 60 families to enable businesses development

We are working with a local NGO, BASE Organization, which will lead on improving the capacity of local stakeholders in government and communities to understand WASH rights and lead on the construction of WASH facilities. The National Federation of the Disabled Nepal will provide technical support for disability inclusion and advocacy on the rights of children with disabilities. The Nepal Fertility Care Centre will provide technical support on menstrual health and hygiene management and support BASE in building the capacities of local stakeholders.

What will we achieve?

Overall, the project aims to ensure girls, boys and children with disabilities aged 11–20 within four targeted local government areas have access to safe and more gender-responsive and inclusive school and wider learning environments. We aim to see: 

  • An increase in girls’ participation in and confidence related to managing menstruation through a more responsive enabling environment 
  • 13,000 adolescent students (girls, boys and children with disabilities) with sustainable access to improved and inclusive WASH facilities 
  • An increased percentage of parents and caregivers reporting that they support the rights to education of girls and children with disabilities 
  • Increased commitment by four local governments to ensuring children’s rights to education and the implementation of WASH in school procedures 
  • Families living in poverty and facing marginalisation accessing income generation opportunities  

We aim to reach: 

  • Around 25,000 students and teachers from around 30 schools directly, including: people with disabilities, adolescent boys and girls, local government representatives, and members of school management committees and parent–teacher associations
  • 43,291 people indirectly, including parent and family members of adolescent students where we work and 31,588 adolescent girls in locations affected via our work with their local governments rather than direct intervention

This project is part-funded by the UK Government.

Top image: Schoolgirls washing their hands inside the girls' toilet block at their school in Lahan, Nepal. July 2022.

Middle image: A sunset in Bardiya, Nepal.

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