In a notable stride towards positive change, Cross Pondani, the Vice Chairperson for the School Management Committee at Michesi Primary School, shared insights into the profound impact of the Girls Get Equal project. This initiative, spearheaded by the Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM) and generously funded by NORAD through Plan International, tackled critical issues of sanitation and well-being for female students within the school.
Pondani illuminated the challenges the school faced in the past, particularly the absence of adequate toilet facilities for female students. This dearth forced children to resort to using the surrounding bushes, resulting not only in an unpleasant odor but also exposing them to the risk of cholera outbreaks.
In Pondani's words, "This made the school experience a bad smell and also put the children at a risk of cholera outbreak."
Moreover, Michesi Primary School lacked a dedicated changing room for female students, posing a significant hurdle for those grappling with menstruation. The absence of proper facilities led to embarrassment and ridicule, adversely affecting the academic performance of many girls during end-of-term examinations. Some even opted to skip these exams altogether.
The Girls Get Equal project, however, marked a turning point for Michesi Primary School. After a comprehensive training on Safe School Committee (SMC) in 2021, facilitated by CRECCOM, Pondani expressed, "We learned how we can keep a school clean to ensure that the school is conducive for learning and staying focused on examinations to pass with flying colors."
Post-training, the School Management Committee, in collaboration with the Parent-Teachers Association (PTA), actively engaged with parents to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the school.
Pondani elaborated, "We also had meetings with parents to ensure that they become aware of the problems at the school and even brainstorm on what the school is planning to do to resolve the problems."
Through collaborative efforts and with pivotal support from the One Hand organization, the SMC successfully constructed four dedicated toilets for female students along with a changing room.
Pondani noted, "The SMC consulted the organization since they did not have enough funds, and that is why, after consulting One Hand organization, both girls' toilets and changing room were constructed."
The impact of these facilities on the school community has been transformative. Female students, burdened by the lack of proper amenities, now find themselves in an environment where their dignity is respected.
Pondani emphasized, "Now, with the construction of the changing room at the school, female students are now in smiles as they are able to use it at any time or day they start to experience their menstrual period."