HOPE, DIGNITY AND A PATH TO A BETTER FUTURE
8 December 2016
Christmas is just around the corner, and this can only mean one thing at Sanitation First: the launch of our annual Christmas Appeal. This year we are using the appeal to shed light on girls and education, and the affect that sanitation can have on girls finding hope, dignity and a path to a better future.
Girls, Education and Sanitation
Here at Sanitation First, we passionately believe that a toilet is more than just a toilet. For many, a toilet is a lifeline, a toilet provides security, and a toilet means an education. Research shows that 23% of girls drop out of school once they start their periods. Those that remain, miss an average of five days of school a month during menstruation.
This is simply due to the lack of decent toilets, which forces children to leave school grounds and find an open space, river or gutter to use. Open defecation spreads disease, causing children to frequently become ill, missing out on education. This is especially true for girls, whose parents often take them out of schools for good when they begin menstruation.
Three huge problems on the theme of sanitation and education for girls are: health, shame, and safety.
Poor sanitation facilities leads to poor health. Not only are girls catching diseases from open defecation, dirty toilets, and unhygienic waste disposal, but they are also getting ill as a result of avoiding going to the toilet.
We spoke to Asiga, in India, who told us how she began drinking less and less water in an attempt to avoid using the unsanitary toilets or, in their absence, open spaces at school. This had serious health consequences, both physically and mentally. Asiga began experiencing severe abdominal pain due to an accumulation of salts in her urinary tract. As a result, she missed a lot of school including her half yearly exam. The pain became so unbearable that it affected Asiga’s mental health, and she even started thinking about committing suicide. Poor sanitation, especially in schools, can have compound consequences and affect girls’ health in more ways than are immediately apparent.
Feelings of shame and a sense of lost dignity are prevalent issues of poor or absent sanitation facilities in schools. This is true for boys of course but especially so for girls. Dealing with periods can be a hassle at the best of times, so imagine having to deal with this out in the open without a toilet, without water to flush or wash, and without sufficient access to sanitary products.
We spoke to Arthi, from Guruvappanpettai village in India, who described how embarrassed girls were about menstruation. With no place to cleanly and safely change their sanitary towels, girls were constantly anxious about staining their dresses and the devastating shame that they feel when this happens (which it does all too often). As a result, many of her school friends would miss classes or just drop out of school altogether. Surely, no girl should feel that they have to miss out on an education because of poor sanitation? A donation from you could help keep more girls like Arthi in school without being worried, distracted or shamed by menstruation.
As well as the inevitable impact on their health, open defecation also exposes children to the very real dangers of harassment and attack.
We spoke to one girl in the Cuddalore District, in India, who was placed in great danger as a result of poor or absent sanitation facilities at school. She had to go the toilet in the open in an area behind the school next to an operational warehouse, leaving her exposed to threat and danger. As a result one girl filed a police complaint and subsequently received serious death threats from warehouse workers. The girl was forced to leave school completely (losing one full year of studies), and she and her family had to move to another area. Poor sanitation in schools compromises not only girls’ education, but also their safety, and in this case, the safety of her whole family…
These problems of safety, shame, and health may be complex, but the solution is simple: providing people with toilets gives them hope, dignity, and the means to a better future. To see how our toilets have changed lives for girls in India, read Abhinaya’s account below. Her story shows the transformation that is possible where sanitation is accepted as an essential requirement enabling people to live without constant sickness, fear and shame.
Abhinaya is a 12th grade student attending the Kurinjipadi Government Girls Higher Secondary School in the Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu, India.
Not too long ago, Abhinaya’s school provided toilets only for its teachers, students were forced to go to the toilet in the open – in an unclean, unsafe space behind the school, between a warehouse and a hospital. Thanks to Sanitation First, a new purpose-built, sanitary complex has been built on her school site, providing Abhinaya and her friends with a clean, safe place to go to the toilet.
Abhinaya tells Sanitation First what clean, safe sanitation facilities at school mean to her:
“We are so happy now we have toilets in our school.
Not only do we have somewhere safe and clean to go, but the hygiene education we have received has made us more knowledgeable and comfortable. Life is much easier for us, and we feel so fortunate!”
Please donate to support more girls likes Abhinaya to stay safe and protected at school, and to advance their education. Your donation will help us provide purpose-built, cleaner, safer sanitation facilities for girls at school in India. If you would like to donate to the 2016 Christmas Appeal, and make a difference to the young women in India, please click here to visit our donate page.
£200 could buy four non slip tiles, preventing injury and harm
£80 could buy colourful paint – feeling proud of the toilets encourages children to use them
£35 could buy a roof, keeping rain, snakes and other predators away
Whatever you can afford to give will mean a lot. We would like to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to you, our supporters. Each year, we are moved by your compassion and the generosity of your donations. Last year, our Christmas Appeal raised £2,500 and contributed towards the provision of toilets to over 500 people in the village of Chettikulam. Can you help us to raise more this year? Donate here to help. Thank you.