Monrovia – Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI) has launched a ‘WASH for Equitable Education’ program which seeks to address unmet hygiene needs for female students in Montserrado and Margibi Counties.
The program, funded by the US Department of State through its ‘Alumni Exchange Innovation Fund’ is under the auspices of PAYOWI’s ‘Advocacy Action on Girls-Friendly WASH in School project” and is being implemented through alumnae Ms. Facia B. Harris and Hawa C. Wilson of the Mandela Washington fellow.
Giving the overview, the PAYOWI program officer, Ms. Hawa C Wilson says that they intend to support the 10 participant schools to develop and implement a WASH policy and standard operating procedures linked to each school’s budget to have clean toilets facilities for students, especially females.
According to her, it will Provide female students through the WASH Girls Advocacy Groups and the student council governments with the skills and tools to advocate, engage, and influence through dialogue and public outreach in the 10 participant schools and 25 surrounding communities.
Said Ms. Wilson, “The project seeks to directly enhance the health and quality of learning environment for students, most especially female students by influencing schools to develop and implement policies and practices that allow them to always have available, clean, and accessible toilets for the students, especially girls on campus.”
Sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools remained a challenge, with numerous public and private schools lacking adequate facilities for defecation.
Oftentimes, male and female students are allowed to use the same toilets which endure into female students to avoid classes during the menstrual cycle.
According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF Joint Monitoring global updated that only 50% of schools in Liberia have basic drinking water; 27 %percent have basic sanitation; Insufficient evidence to get a picture of hygiene.
Launching the program, the Director for Program, Planning and Technical Services at WASH, Mr. Prince D. Kreplah who proxy for CEO of WASH, Amb. Bobby Whitfield, says it is alarming that 50 percent or more schools going the population do not have access to adequate water and sanitation facilities
According to him, WASH in schools remains a core value and priority of the Commission’s vision to ensure that kids who are in schools have access to sanitation services.
He lauded PAYOWI for joining efforts to mitigate the challenges and to ensure that students have access to adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene services.
“WASH plays serious a role in enrolment, without adequate access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene in schools enrolment will be undermined. Because 100 or 1000 of school-going kids might soon fall sick because of lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities,” he explained.
“Beyond just that our female kids in schools find it sometimes challenging to attend, compared to the male counterparts because of menstrual hygiene facilities and care in those various schools facilities.
“We as a country must do what we can to ensure we address WASH in a whole package. Their statistics will tell you that we have gaps, you will know that the country is performing on basic water services but on the other two sides, we are performing very low and hygiene is the worse,” he revealed
He explained that it will take every effort from the communities, students, parents, and country to address the social and economic challenges.
“Nobody can better do it for us Liberians than ourselves. Our international Partners will complement our efforts, they will provide us with some resources but to sustain the efforts on the ground as to take us Liberians to do that,” he said.
Making a brief remark, the US Embassy in Monrovia Public Affairs Officer, Mr. Sean Boda applauded Ms. Harris and Wilson for teaming up and to bring back some of that enthusiasm and of that energy that they got from the exchange program.
According to him, WASH program is a huge priority for the partnership to the partnership that the US Department has with Liberia.
Said Mr. Boda, “These two alumnae used their energies creatively and innovation to work towards solutions in their communities with the goal to increase access and unitization of quality WASH facilities. Mainly bathrooms and washing hands facilities in 10 rural and urban schools.”
“This project is going to directly benefit students by enhancing the quality of the learning environment, especially for female students. This project is sustainable because it is partnering with selected schools to help institutionalize WASH policies and practices in the school for the long-term benefits for those schools and their students.”
Also marking a remark, student Mercy Sandeh, from the Peace Island Community School, appreciated PAYOWI and said she felt glad for her school to be part of the 10 schools chosen.
Making a brief remark, the vice principal of the Soul Clinic Public School, Felecia Farama said since she had been part of the institution in her 12 years, she has not encountered any program like the program instituted by PAYOWI.