By: R. Joyclyn Wea
MONROVIA-The Paramount Young Women Initial (PAYOWI), has launched a new project styled: “WASH for an equitable education campaign and wash in school facility-level improvement plan” for ten schools across Montserrado County.
Madam Facia Harris and Hawa C. Wilson were fortunate to have won the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund 2022 as Alumni of the US State Exchange Program to implement the advocacy for action on girl-friendly wash projects in schools.
The Alumni Engagement, Innovation Fund is a special kind of grant that is only open to fellows who had gone on the US Exchange Program and since 2011, the US Department of States has supported about four hundred of these kinds of projects through such funds.
“This program is a huge priority for the partnership we have with Liberia and we are excited to get to work with some of our distinct Alumni,” says Sally Hodgson Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Monrovia.
The project he mentioned is going to enhance female students as it provides a decent WASH environment.
“Small investment of the fund, but going to have a huge impact and I cannot wait to see the positive impact. He continues, “This fund is one of the many ways US supports WASH activities in Liberia.”
The solution has come from the community while we are just a small part of this to support you as you have endeavored, he added.
The launch which took place over the weekend at a local hotel in Monrovia under the theme: “WASH For Equitable Education, let’s wash together and promote menstrual health girls education and access to clean and toilet facilities,” witness the coming together of stakeholders in the WASH sector, a representative from the US Embassy in Monrovia, Students, and Administrators from across the ten schools that were selected to sever as ambassadors for this project.
Remarking, Kollie Jallah, principal of the Caldwell Community School, lauded PAYOWI noting he had benefited a lot from the institution.
According to Jallah, the institution has impacted his life through its ‘Men Initiative Project.’ He assures the institution of fully implementing the project and future projects, thereby ensuring that all materials that will be provided for the girls and school are taken care of.
“We have learned a lot for the few time of being with the institution. There are things I learned which I had no prior information about,” Grace, Vice Principal of the Peace Island Community School.
According to her, they are finding it extremely difficult to get parents to cooperate with them and recommend that the PAYOWI’s team takes up time to attend PTA’s meetings to help sell the idea to parents.
Launching the project Prince Capleh, an Executive of WASH Commission says, the country has lot to do with WASH in schools especially when 50 percent of students do not have access to WASH’s facility in schools.
WASH, Capleh says, plays a pivotal role in student enrollment noting, “Most children fall sick due to lack of WASH’s activities in schools, with Five percent practicing good hygiene.”
“So when the UN report says you can hardly find data on hygiene in schools in Liberia, it means strong measure on WASH needs to be put into place in order to address this gap as a country.”
The WASH executive says a collective effort is required as a country and people to undo the situation, adding that international partners will only complement our efforts, but it requires us to keep this running on the ground.”
Meanwhile, as part of its survey findings, PAYOWI recommends the following: that schools establish sustainable sources for water, EPA set up a collaboration to see if testing can be conducted, ensure regular water treatment, and schools that do not have WASH facilities can begin to partnership in that direction, robust cleaning facilities to improve sanitation condition, PTA Establish hygiene clubs and Menstrual focus person to give first aid to girls instead of sending them home.
Magdalene Matthews, WASH Expert, disclosed that 50 percent of schools in Liberia met all the three indicators (water, sanitation and hygiene) during the survey and that data collected within the 30 schools were consistent with global findings.
As part of the project, Matthews mentioned that new indicators were introduced to include: waste management, COVID prevention and maintenance of infrastructure.
“Seven schools had hand pumps, all had some sort of toilet situation going on in terms of meeting the needs of boys and girls. All have the issue of questionable water, except for one, and there was no washing hands menthol as to the time of this survey,” Matthews noted.
She further that there was no adequate disposal of menstrual hygiene mechanism to enable girls properly dispose of their menstrual materials and that all the schools did not have any sustainable maintenance budget.