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#MenstruationMatters: How ecosan can help improve health and school attendance of girls

WECF teams up with WASH united for Menstrual Hygiene Day

28.05.2014 |

Imagine being a female student who is not able to attend school because there are no clean or safe toilets available for you to use, making it impossible to attend school when you're having your period?

This is what happens to girls and women in rural areas of, for example, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Romania or Moldova. School girls often have to use unsafe pit latrines located far away from schools and houses. Not only are those toilets difficult to reach in cold winters, sanitation facilities are often also disgustingly smelling or dirty, not equipped with cleansing paper, water or garbage bins, and without even the possibility to wash your hands.

In many cases girls and women simply choose not to use the school toilets, thus limiting their daily intake of liquids or relieving themselves outside the village. This situation is bad for their health and can cause painful blather infections. On top of that, in many countries, menstruation is considered as an impure and shameful act. Therefore girls do their best to hide it. Lack of safe facilities or supply of feminine hygiene products is an additional reason many young girls are deprived of a key basic right: the right to education.

WECF's school toilets program
With financial help from a.o. the ecological sanitary product company Natracare, WECF has been building school toilets in rural areas of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus, especially in communities without sewage systems. WECF builds so-called "ecosan" toilets*, which look like flush-toilets but function differently, without water for flushing and with compartments for reuse and composting. These ecosan toilets are hygienic and equipped with garbage bins, hand wash facilities, -- and do not need an expensive sewage system to be installed - thereby allowing girls to continue with their education also in the more remote and low-income rural areas.

WECF has a large track record for rural school sanitation projects with ecosan toilets, with installations benefitting over 10,000 school pupils.Susie Hewson from Natracare states: "As a manufacturer of organic cotton sanitary protection we are very aware of how the subject of menstrual hygiene can be dismissed by the media, or simply ridiculed. The reality isn’t funny. We are so pleased to have supported the WECF on their sanitation projects over the years, to help improve the health and school attendance of girls in Tadjikistan. We stand together this Menstrual Hygiene Day to speak out about this issue, with the hope that it will inform others who are not aware of the challenges faced by so many women."

WECF's main aim is to engage women to become leaders in local sanitation improvement projects. Women's needs are too often neglected due to societal barriers. WECF ensures that women are fully included in all decision-making processes, including on better sanitation solutions for school girls.

As co-organiser for the Women's Major Group in the Post 2015 process towards the new Sustainable Development Goals, WECF promotes a target on hygiene and calls for including MHM.

* Ecosan is an example of dry urine-diverting toilet that enables to separate, collect and sanitize urine and feces for its further use as an agricultural fertilizer or compost. Blood as an organic material does not pose a threat to the sanitizing or composting process. Thus girls can use them during their period. As the ecosan toilets can be build inside the school, this guarantees safety for girls, who often fear (sexual) harrassement when they have to go far outside to find a public pit latrine. In contrary of the common pit-latrines, a well managed Ecosan toilet prevents ground or water from contamination, creating a pollution free environment.

Contact for more information:
Chantal Van den Bossche,, tel: 0031 6. 28129992

VIDEO: How ecosan toilets benefit the health and school attendance of girls in Tajikstan

How does Ecosan work?

International Campaign on Menstrual Hygiene Day

WECF factsheet on Ecosan and Menstruation

Wy do we need a Menstruation Hygiene Day? WECFs view on MHM


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