First ever ‘Girls’ Hygiene Day’ held in Afghanistan

REPORT from UN Children's Fund

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KABUL, Afghanistan, 30 AUGUST 2017 – The first ever ‘Girls’ Hygiene Day’ in Afghanistan was marked today with a high level event at the Marble Palace under the slogan, ‘Nothing can stop me going to school’, to raise national awareness of the importance of girls’ hygiene and the availability of a private and dignified space at school for girls to take care of their hygiene needs to enable them to stay in school until 12th grade.

Launching the Day, First Lady, Ms. Rula (Bibi Gul) Ghani stressed the importance of girls’ education. “It is our duty to support the girls of Afghanistan to get educated and to be able to go to school and home where they can take care of their personal hygiene with access to water and sanitation facilities so they feel confident enough to go to school every day of the week”, said Ms. Ghani.

Addressing the need to prevent girls dropping out of school as they enter puberty, Minister of Education, Dr. Assadullah Hanif Balkhi said, “We have learned that retention of older girls is higher when we have more female teachers and the Ministry is working hard to increase the number of female teachers all over Afghanistan. Schools should have proper WASH facilities, with running water, separate toilets for boys and girls and dedicated washrooms for girls to manage their personal hygiene in privacy and with dignity.” Dr. Assadullah also highlighted the importance of the Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) programme currently being implemented nationwide, to combat iron-deficiency anemia among adolescent girls.

In his remarks, Minister of Public Health, Dr Ferozuddin Feroz, outlined that ignorance about their monthly cycle will negatively influence the health and hygiene of girls, not only during school but also at home and later during their family life. Similarly, Head of the Health Council, gynecologist, Dr. Nasreen Oryakil underlined the importance of “girls knowing how to manage their personal hygiene in particular during their periods to avoid infections.” She said that teaching girls to eat a well-balanced diet, to promote healthy growth and good concentration at all times including during school hours, will give all families in Afghanistan a chance to do well in life.

UNICEF Representative Ms. Adele Khodr described the Day as an important occasion to break taboos and encourage girls to grow into healthy and informed women who can share their well-being with their families and communities. “Healthy girls menstruate every month,” said Ms. Khodr, “and nothing in their daily habits, from their hygiene to their nutrition to their exercise routine, need be affected by their monthly period. Menstruation only becomes a problem when people refuse to regard it as a normal function of the female human body: when people stigmatize it, create myths about it, treat it as an illness, and put restrictions on females during their reproductive years.”

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