Lack of Sanitation = Lack of Education: Creating ‘Girl-Friendly’ Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa

Perspectives on Global Issues, pp. 13-18, Spring 2008

Posted: 9 Oct 2010

Date Written: Spring 2008


Since it is clear that educating girls is necessary for both poverty reduction and social development in sub-Saharan Africa, a more effective and comprehensive approach to encourage African girls to stay in the classroom is needed. Schools must be made more “girl friendly.”

While non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as WaterAid and Water 1st International as well as foundations like Ryan’s Well focus on bringing water and sanitation facilities to developing countries, they do not have a particular emphasis on improving sanitation in schools. Western corporations donate sanitary supplies to African girls, but questions of the long-term sustainability of these donations have yet to be addressed.

Moreover, programs have not been implemented to discuss basic issues of menstruation, health, and hygiene since these topics are seen as taboo in many sub-Saharan African societies.

The purpose of this paper is to outline the necessary components of “girl friendly” schools in order to improve girls’ health and educational prospects. There are four components of the “girl friendly” approach to education: the first is the building of private and hygienic toilets at schools; the second entails supplying clean water for washing; the third involves providing sanitary pads and tampons to schoolgirls at little to no cost; and the fourth concerns educating students and teachers about puberty and hygiene so as to improve girls’ health, promote dialogue, and dispel menstrual taboos.

Keywords: girls’ health, menstruation, sanitation, developing countries

Suggested Citation

Thomas, Claire R., Lack of Sanitation = Lack of Education: Creating ‘Girl-Friendly’ Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa (Spring 2008). Perspectives on Global Issues, pp. 13-18, Spring 2008, Available at SSRN:

Claire R. Thomas (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States

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