Changing the school environment through inclusive WASH facilities: Laboni's story
An extremely brilliant Laboni is the first girl in her class. Aged 15, Laboni studies in class 10 at the Amlagachhi BM High School where her mother is a senior teacher; her father on the other hand works as a Biology lecturer at Abubakkar Fazil Madrasa.
The eldest amongst two sisters, Laboni shyly shares with us her first period experience in class eight when she panicked to the sight of blood suddenly flowing out of her body – without any visible injury. From then onwards, Laboni’s period journey has had its ups and downs. With an irregular monthly cycle and a more than normal blood flow, Laboni often suffers from intense pain in her abdomen and various parts of body. Currently, she is under supervision of a gynecologist as well.
For Laboni, her biggest struggle surrounding her period over the past two years has not been the physical changes she faces, or the traditional taboo forced on her of using cloth instead of sanitary pads. It has been her challenging school days. Laboni describes to us how previously her school toilet was her biggest nightmare and how she preferred skipping school during those days of the month to not fall sick.
So, what was Laboni’s school toilets like? She describes them to be extremely dirty with countless students and teachers using it together. The line to use the toilet was extremely long and the toilets at most times lacked basic amenities such as soap, tissue and running water – because of which she and her friends often had to hold on to their need for using the toilet till they went home. During her menstruation days, using cloth and not being able to go to the toilet to change or wash her cloth arouse infections which led to her often falling sick or not wanting to come to school during her period days.
And does Laboni continue to face such challenges in school now? She smiles nodding “no”.
Laboni’s school has newly-built toilets now. They not only have separate chambers for male and female students, but also carry a stock of sanitary pads, a place to throw them, a big window with ample amount of sunlight to dry cloth for those who use it, a washing space and other basic amenities such as soap, tissue, mirror, basin, etc. Although Laboni’s house is just a block away from school and she likes coming home during tiffin break to change her pad, she is happy that her peers have well-equipped toilet facilities at school now. The days she can’t come home for a pad change, she joins her friends in using the school toilet where they have a sitting area as well, providing students like Laboni to sit with friends and enjoy a hearty gossip during recess!