Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, launched a new program in Zimbabwe titled “WASH UP! Girl Talk” in partnership with Sesame Workshop. The AED 3,497,172 (USD 952,000) program aims to empower primary school-aged children to practice and promote healthy water, sanitation and hygiene behaviors, particularly around menstrual health. This 2-year program is set to impact a total of 25,000 girls aged 10 to 12 years.
“WASH UP! Girl Talk” program focuses on water practices, safe latrine use, proper hand-washing, personal hygiene, food hygiene behavior and health promotion. It also integrates girls’ empowerment education and addresses the key issue of menstrual hygiene education, which can influence whether girls consistently attend and remain in school. The program is being implemented in 200 schools in 12 regions across Zimbabwe.
Speaking about this new program in Zimbabwe, Annina Mattsson, Programs Director at Dubai Cares, said: “Illness caused by inadequate access to hygiene and sanitation facilities continues to be a barrier to education for many children, especially girls, across Zimbabwe. Lack of public awareness, combined with low investment in WASH, leads to inequities within schools. Through this new program, Dubai Cares strives not only to improve WASH facilities within targeted schools, but also raise awareness and educate schoolchildren and communities on how they can enhance healthy hygiene behavior, knowledge and practice.”
In addition, the program includes a significant amount of teacher training and material development, as well as the development of a brand new character for promoting contextually appropriate menstrual hygiene education.
Mada Al Suwaidi, Program Manager at Dubai Cares, said: “This program is a new milestone in Dubai Cares’ efforts to promote WASH in schools. Through this program, we hope to empower children to bring about positive change in their homes, schools and communities by providing effective solutions that address school infrastructure concerns and limitations in knowledge, attitudes and practices around WASH including menstrual hygiene and girls’ education.”
Shari Rosenfeld, Senior Vice President, International Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, said: "Gender equity and girls' education are at the heart of Sesame Workshop's global initiatives, and we know that girls in developing regions are disproportionately affected by a range of water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. One in ten girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses up to 20% of the school year because of menstruation, and many girls are at risk of dropping out of school altogether – especially when they lack accurate information about menstrual health. This WASH UP! expansion will harness the power of Sesame’s beloved characters to deliver stigma-fighting menstrual hygiene management lessons and empower girls in rural Zimbabwe at the critical developmental moment when they’re most likely to fall out of the education system.”
Children under 18 make up 48% of Zimbabwe’s population. One in four children lives in extreme poverty, below the Food Poverty Line (ZIMSTAT 2012), and one in fifteen children dies before the age of five (ZDHS 2015). Overall, 4.1 million children out of 5.3 million children aged 3-18 years in Zimbabwe are in school. The percentage of out-of-school children in rural areas is twice that of children in urban areas (MICS 2014). Common factors that cause students to drop out of school include financial constraints and early marriage.
The “WASH UP! Girl Talk” program falls in line with Dubai Cares efforts to support the provision of quality education in developing countries through improved access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools.