To create awareness on menstrual hygiene, adolescent’s nutrition, and sanitation, about 70 under-16 girls from five dzongkhags have come together for a weeklong district cricket championship at Pelkhil Oval in Thimphu.

The national nutrition survey 2015 by ministry of health and UNICEF found anemia in adolescent girls a critical problem. Every three in 10 adolescent girls in Bhutan are anaemic according to the study.

The district championship aims to make girls aware of such health issues.

Representative of UNICEF in Bhutan Rudolf Schwenk said UNICEF believes sports and play as the fundamental rights of all children. “Through such collaboration on sports, we can engage and empower adolescents and youth to grow into active and responsible citizens. And also to drive positive change in their communities,” he said.

The one-week long programme includes sessions that would help the girls reflect on adolescent health and nutrition, discuss issues related to menstrual hygiene management and protection from violence.

Knowledge, Attitude and Practices Study on Menstrual Hygiene Management conducted by ministry of education and UNICEF found lack of menstrual hygiene management facilities in schools and nunneries resulting in 43 percent adolescent girls and 50 percent nuns missing out school lessons and other activities. One in every five schools lacks functional toilets and water for hand washing with soap.

Communication officer with UNICEF Phuntsho Choden said under-nutrition and anemia among adolescent girls and women during pregnancy have an inter-generational effect.

“Anaemic women giving birth to infants who are born with low iron stores and grow to become anaemic children.  Anaemia in girls can have devastating consequences for girls’ physical growth, development and school performance,” she said.

The programme encourages working together to enhance adolescent girls to not miss school and have access to menstrual hygiene and sanitation.

Dumber S Gurung from Bhutan Cricket Council Board (BCCB) said the programme uses sport as a medium to help them learn essential health and nutrition values. “Through this event, we would like to educate them on cricket and also on essential messages about menstrual hygiene, health, and nutrition among others,” he said.

Meanwhile, Thimphu dzongkhag humbled Paro dzongkhag by 64 runs in the opening game yesterday. Thimphu scored 124 runs in 10 overs and Paro scored 64 runs.

The championship played three matches on the opening day. Thimphu recorded two wins when it defeated Wangdue by 19 runs in the third game. Wangdue scored 90 runs and Thimphu scored 109 runs in 10 overs.

Scoring 89 runs in 10 overs, Sarpang defeated Punakha dzongkhag by 22 runs. The latter could record 67 runs in the second game.

Teams from Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Sarpang, and Wangdue are taking part in the weeklong championship organised by BCCB and UNICEF.