In what will be a first of its kind, adolescent girls with disabilities in Changangkha and Khuruthang Middle Secondary School will have separate toilets to help them manage proper menstrual hygiene (MHM).
The construction of the toilets, which would be inclusive, has begun and is expected to end by the end of this year. Such toilets would be replicated in three more schools.
When complete, the toilets are expected to benefit 139 children with disabilities.
According to a joint press release from the education ministry and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), menstruating girls and women with different types of disabilities faced difficulties placing their sanitary protection materials in the correct position and washing themselves, their clothes, and sanitary materials.
A 2018 Knowledge, Attitude and Practices Study on MHM for Adolescent School Girls and Nuns found that teachers advised parents to keep their children with disabilities at home during menstruation as the schools were not adequately equipped to support children with special needs during menstruation.
There are 33 schools across Bhutan with 865 children with special educational needs of which 491 are adolescent girls. Of the 33 schools, 24 are designated as inclusive schools or schools with Special Education Needs (SEN) programmes.
The education ministry’s School Health and Nutrition Division (SHND) and UNICEF are constructing inclusive toilets with WASH facilities in SEN schools.
International menstrual hygiene day marked
Marking the International Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, the Royal Patron of Red Dot Bhutan, Her Royal Highness Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck encouraged boys and men to create a period-friendly environment in all schools across Bhutan for all girls and women to have access to inclusive toilets.
“Red Dot Bhutan calls on our boys and men to champion the campaign towards deconstructing the stigma and misconceptions associated with menstruation. We urge you to normalize the word ‘period’ and encourage you to challenge the myths, misconceptions, and practices that allow fear, shame, and stigma during menstruation,” HRH Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck said. “We ask you to continue advocating and providing support towards enhancing effective menstrual hygiene management.”
During the event, which was themed “We are committed – Men take lead,” Her Royal Highness Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck, gave away awards to 11 schools and certificates of appreciation to over 10 influencers and supporters (men) who helped advocate MHM in Bhutan.
Seeing the need for more action and investment in menstrual hygiene, Red Dot Bhutan is now shifting its call to commitment to action.
Red Dot Bhutan with its partners also conducted various activities to support learning without having to experience stress, shame or unnecessary barriers surrounding menstrual hygiene in the schools this academic year.
The education ministry and partners distributed 2,000 menstrual cups, 17,000 reusable sanitary pads, 500 sanitary tampons and 5,500 disposable sanitary pads to 139 schools to safeguard the health and well-being of 2,700 adolescent girls.
SHND Chief Karma Wangchuk said that more than 1,000 reusable dignity kit sets were distributed to students in five schools.
He added that a reusable dignity kit set included undergarments, reusable pads, and bags to store the garments.
Under the Patronage of HRH Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck, the Red Dot Bhutan is an advocacy platform to raise awareness of MHM and destigmatise menstruation. It is led by the education ministry in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Dratshang Lhentshog, Bhutan Nuns Foundation, RENEW, SNV and the UNICEF.
“Among others, Red Dot Bhutan’s advocacy has led to the institutionalisation of menstrual health and hygiene in the Health and Physical Education Curriculum in schools and the Parliament endorsing the call to exempt taxes on all menstrual products,” the press release stated.
Photo: The Royal Patron of Red Dot Bhutan, Her Royal Highness Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck attended the event to mark the International Menstrual Hygiene Day themed “We are committed – Men take lead,” on May 28 in Thimphu.
Her Royal Highness Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck encouraged boys and men to create a period-friendly environment in all schools across Bhutan for all girls and women to have access to inclusive toilets.