15-year-old Tsehay is a part of a unique menstrual hygiene and empowerment club called, “Girls’ Club”. The group was birthed at Degan Secondary and Preparatory School. In addition to talking about menstrual hygiene, the group raises funds to help girls from impoverished families to get sanitary napkins. Tsehay feels the club has been instrumental in preparing her for the imminent challenges of adolescence. She also hopes to be a medical doctor in the future and to improve the thin medical professional representation in her homeland.
Curator’s note: The following is an excerpt of Tsehay’s story as told by WaterAid staff on November 15, 2016.
“I believe it’s a really important club to be involved in,” Tsehay said. “It is preparing me for the kind of challenges that await me as I grow up into adolescence. There is peer pressure on many aspects of our life. A lot of girls migrate to Saudi Arabia because they hear it’s all heavenly there. You hear about having boyfriends and enjoying life. You don’t hear much about the consequences. At the Girls’ Club, we talk about how to deal with the kind of challenges that we have as girls. And of course, we learn and teach others about our hygiene and how helping girls access sanitary napkins at school helps to keep them in school. I am happy to be involved.”
The training is wide ranging as Tsehay said. Previous school WASH projects trained teachers and school principals in plumbing skills to deal with any future maintenance needs. Now the strategy has changed.
“Water Action and WaterAid have trained community members, not teachers, maintenance and plumbing skills because community members stick around longer than teachers,” said Kassahun Teshome, Director of the school. “Us teachers leave the first chance they get to go to bigger towns or schools. I have been trained in plumbing skills at the previous school I was managing. Even if I can use the skills here, it won’t be for the school I was trained to help. So this time we identified stable members of the community and they are helping us consistently. If things go really bad, and the maintenance is complicated, we will hire external help. We have some school budget of our own and also money collected from the Sanitation and Hygiene club member contributions to use for maintenance.”
Tsehay has always been top of her class. She wants to become a medical doctor and help improve the doctor to patient ratio in her country, which is one of the lowest on the continent. With clean toilets, clean abundant water and empowering training from her club, the sky is the limit.
Photo credit: WaterAid/Behailu Shiferaw