Education on Puberty in Rural Bangladesh


education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I’ve been having an eventful week thus far, and am writing right now just to take a break from all the upcoming and impending further writing assignments and field visits which are shaping up and have framed the fabric of this week already, in a week that began on Saturday (go figure, sometimes my ridiculous means of calming myself down doesn’t shake off the irony of being ridiculous.

Thank heavens for vacation for this Friday, which should provide less ridiculous escapist methods of relaxation, before a visit to the Mirpur slums tomorrow, and to Mymensingh in northern Bangladesh on Wednesday.

The plus is that I’m learning much more than I thought humanly possible, and doing so in a context which is opening up the prospects of looking at how innovative measures are being employed through education in a world where 32 million girls of schoolgoing age remain out of school, is remarkable.

Dcocumenting the Plight of Female Education

Rural children, Bangladesh.

Rural children, Bangladesh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 11th of October is the Second International Day of the Girl Child, and work has been focusing on incorporating important messages and documenting the progress of secondary education for adolescents as a means of mobilizing them to become social change agents within their communities.

I was hence sent packing, along with the resident video specialist and entire team, to document the mysterious increase in secondary school enrollment of females, a fact which had seen an insane decline of 45% attendance of females to males, until the introduction of good quality public latrines, that is.

The Link Between Menstruation and School

That the logic of the two activities being intertwined may seem self evident to other development workers, but I was a bit astounded to find that girls would often drop out of school because of their inability to access public toilets, and additionally because of the lack of resources in these stories.

Bangladeshi children on canoe in Dhaka.

Bangladeshi children on canoe in Dhaka. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finding toilets  free of the mosquito eggs which seem to be pervasive and invasive within the community was only slightly better off than not finding a toilet at all, it seems, and students in one of the schools I visited, confessed to wanting to drop out because of having to wait for over a half hour at a time to relieve their bladders, with only two latrines for 1400 students.

The longer piece will be completed and printed by our NY office on Sunday, but in the mean time, finding out that getting your period has had some dire consequences, until fairly recently, with the introduction of about a two dozen toilets each in the two schools I visited in Sylhet, was interesting.

Discussing Menstruation in All Sorts of Previously Unexplored Manners

Being the only woman in a room filled with men who are discussing how menstruation is never discussed was indeed a novel experience, and I found myself having to continually keep a straight face and then further pushing my boundaries by having to speak with two adolescent girls, both shy and captivating, who described how they felt like they were dying, when they first saw streaks of blood on their underwear.

Womanhood is already traumatic because of the bloody rites of passage which accompany it, but more girls are now entering school than ever before, thanks to inspiring progress over the past two decades. The gender gap in primary school enrollment has narrowed considerably. 

However, many girls – particularly the most marginalized – continue to be deprived of this most basic right. Even as enrolment rates rise, completion rates for girls lag in a large number of countries. The picture especially worsens as girls reach secondary education.

Secondary education in particular can be a powerful transformative force, not just for girls themselves but for entire societies. Girls’ education is the one consistent factor that can positively influence not only the lives of girls themselves, but practically every desired development outcome: from reducing child and maternal mortality, to ending poverty and achieving equitable growth, and changing social norms. The transformative potential of girls’ education has yet to be realized.

Using innovative solutions for improving girls’ education that are not only more creative, but also more effective, efficient, sustainable and just is a means of ensuring that girls remain able to address and negotiate their own futures.

I came back feeling rejuvenated after learning about how these messages of hygiene are being promoted through an infrastructural overhaul, alongside committing to educating student leaders who will bring back said messages to their communities.


6 thoughts on “Education on Puberty in Rural Bangladesh

  1. An interesting post, The title freaked me out a bit but I am ok with odd posts “Menstruation, and Public Toilets in Rural Bangladesh”. It covers the point well but may scare many away from reading it. With the warmest regards, Andy

    • It freaked me out too, when I had to sit in the room and suddenly everyone was talking about menstruation. I see what you mean though… Maybe a change is in order.

  2. No man may be inclined to ever read such taboo topics unless forced to by his wife. The topic was was very informative. The title thou was concise and direct, just maybe a bit to direct to drive in attention from a non science male. That said I enjoyed and learned a lot, for that many thanks, Andy

  3. i do hope there is change in breaking the silence, and helping to address the taboo . WASH United and 36 other organisations are working hard to make 28th May Menstrual Hygiene Day

    we would be very very interested to know about the film! Is it private or was it by chance for BRAC, WaterAid ?
    We are always looking for resources such as films to share with our partners worldwide and to share with other media contacts to address the issue.

    (and we will soon visit Bangladesh as well 😉

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