I recently returned from Tanzania where I worked as a volunteer photographer for an international organisation. Being the only photographer on the team had some beautiful advantages. I was able to visit most of the projects we worked on; I captured the progress of work and shared it with the rest of the world, while traveled throughout Tanzania.
One of the projects was very close to my heart - building a girls' latrine block at the local school. Why was this so important to me you ask? This was an incredible opportunity for education. Talking about menstruation in Tanzania is still 'taboo'. This topic is rarely spoken about at home or schools; and when girls reach puberty, they are left in the dark, as they do not know what to expect. They often keep it hidden from their mothers or older sisters as they are worried about punishment. As a result of this and the lack of washing facilities in some schools, girls are leaving their education behind when reaching puberty.
In Tanzanian schools, gender separate toilets are a 'luxury'. Forget about sanitary bins or sanitary pads. Girls use cloths when menstruating and it is very rare to have the possibility to wash them.
In the village of Endagikot, our volunteers, together with the local community and our partner EADD (sponsored by Water Aid), took on the project to build a girls' latrine block in the local school. Previously girls had no privacy as they were sharing toilets with boys. These latrine will be fitted with private cubicles, washrooms, where girls can wash their clothes, a shower and disposal bin, where waste from sanitary pads can be burnt.
While construction was taking place on site, we took the opportunity and held classes with the girls about puberty and periods. We talked them through some facts, asked them questions and soon enough those shy girls turned into very curious ones, asking all sort of adequate questions.
Girls in Tanzania aren't different to girls anywhere in the world; they like to play and giggle, wear dresses, wish to grow long hair but many of them dream to stay in schools and become teachers or as I have learned to go and 'see the world.'
I understand we can't change the world overnight but for the girls in Endagikot we have already started to change theirs. Building facilities like these in Tanzania, educating young girls about puberty; will allow them to stay in school and achieve quality education for everyone. #GlobalGoals #goal4