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UNICEF Welcomes New Canadian Support to Improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools Ensuring Vulnerable Girls are Healthy and Educated

This post originally appeared on the UNICEF Canada site on 20 May 2014.

Winnipeg, Tuesday May 20, 2014 – Today UNICEF welcomed the Canadian Government’s generous new commitment of $7.5 million to support its work improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools to ensure millions of vulnerable girls are healthy and educated.

"Girls education saves lives and is critical to improving maternal, newborn and child health worldwide," said UNICEF Canada's President and CEO David Morley. "Educated women are healthier, have a higher income and are able to provide better health care and education to their own children. An educated female population also increases a country's productivity and fuels economic growth."

Today’s announcement was made by Joy Smith, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, Manitoba, at the Maple Leaf primary school in Winnipeg.

The new funding will support the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WinS) for Girls initiative, led by UNICEF and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). The program works to ensure adolescent girls have safe, private and adequate hygiene facilities at schools to accommodate their menstrual hygiene needs.

Inadequate facilities at schools force millions of girls around the world to miss class during menstruation. It’s estimated that more than half of schools in low-income countries lack sufficient toilets for girls or are unsafe and unclean.

Approximately 1 in 10 school-age African girls do not attend school during menstruation, or drop out at puberty because of the lack of clean and private facilities.

“Gender should never impede access to education and health services. Thanks to global efforts, kick-started by the Canada-led Muskoka Initiative in 2010, new attention to important health-related gaps, such as menstrual health management in schools, is having a positive and empowering impact for girls in developing countries,” said MP Smith. “Canada is proud to support our partners to advance WinS for Girls, an initiative aimed at providing needed health services and enhancing access to education for all girls across the developing world.”

Through WinS for Girls UNICEF and UNGEI will work closely with Ministries of Education in 10 countries around the world to assess current facilities at schools to accommodate menstrual hygiene needs. Action plans will be developed and implemented to ensure all girls have supportive and safe learning environments. UNICEF and UNGEI will also educate communities on the link between adequate sanitation and girls’ education and will ensure communities are able to maintain and expand WASH facilities in schools.

Currently 31 million girls are out of school around the world and women represent nearly two thirds of the world's illiterate. Some countries lose more than $1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys and countries with educated girls are much more likely to have higher economic growth.

“We know that safe and supportive learning environments are key to attracting and keeping girls in school. By offering an alternative to the stigma and marginalization associated with hygiene issues, the WinS for Girls initiative will empower girls to take full advantage of educational opportunities,” said Nora Fyles, Head of the UNGEI Secretariat.

Today’s announcement comes in the lead up to the Government of Canada’s Saving Every Woman Every Child: Within Arm’s Reach, international summit from May 28-30, 2014 in Toronto. The Summit will bring global health leaders together to discuss maternal, newborn and child health progress and actions needed for a final push to end preventable deaths.


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