By Sandy Forster
The young girl shyly held my hand as she took me on a tour of her school — similar, yet strikingly different, from the schools I knew at home, half a world away. The students were eager to have a visitor and excited to show me their work. Since supplies were limited, I could see many students sharing paper, short nubby pencils, and schoolbooks.
I noticed that in the upper primary school grades, four through eight, the classrooms had fewer students, especially girls. The headmaster explained that many children, girls especially, drop out of school to help their mothers bring water from creeks or rivers or when the girls reach the age when their menstrual cycles begin because they don’t have access to bathrooms. He said this particular school didn’t have a water source, nor toilets or even latrines for the students to use.
This first experience visiting a Rotarian-led water and sanitation project site has stayed with me throughout the years. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in School programs are vital for community development and growth. Because of these programs, we are able to see positive changes for families, villages, and nations. School dropout rates decline, health improves as fewer diseases spread, and economic growth accelerates.
In the years following my first WASH trip, I made several more trips to this village. The homes and the school now have easy access to clean water. Toilet blocks have been built at the school and homes have added latrines with toilets. All grades are full with both boys and girls learning, and the dropout rates have declined. Children became ‘teachers’ to parents and grandparents about sanitation and hygiene. Small businesses have grown. And it all began with water.
Now as a member of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (WASRAG), I have the opportunity to help other clubs and districts with their WASH projects. The action group has teamed up with Rotary to offer a three-part webinar series to assist clubs and districts with their WASH in Schools projects. The series will feature ideas and best practices from experts in the field to help you start or expand your projects.
Join us by reserving a spot in the first webinar 15 October to learn how you can make a bigger impact in your community through WASH in Schools.
About the author: Sandy Forster is a past governor of District 5810 (Texas, USA) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group.
I’m working with 50+ rural school communities in southwest Kenya promoting a comprehensive five year plan to achieve economic self-sustainability. Income generating projects in this densely populated area of the Kisii highlands are initiated and cared for by School Community Leadership Teams on school grounds. We are addressing girl-child issues by asking donors for a $% donation to provide a years supply of sanitary towels, panties, and instruction on proper use through the Rotary-Lions project, Freedom for Girls. The girls are provided a small plot on school grounds where they can grow vegetables to sell in the market and earn money for the following years sanitary supplies. SCOPE International (www.scopeint.org) and government extension officers teach the girls high yield gardening and encourage them to replicate their project at home. They are learning how to grow and sell food while earning money for their own sanitary needs. We have supported more than 3,000 needy girls thus far.
The sanitary facilities at our schools are dismal. The girls need a privacy while they take care of their needs. I’m seeking a design for a girls latrine that has a ‘changing room’, a simple rain water harvesting system, and a means for disposal of their sanitary towels. Any suggestions?
Reblogged this on shanakyar.
Thanks for your post. I too have been involved in water projects through Rotary on a small island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania called Ukerewe. The problem of girls’absenteeism during menstruation can be helped by providing re-usable sanitary protection.We did a big push to help schools with this and provided sewing machines and set up through micro credit two groups of ladies to make these simple kits. It means that girls have affordable ways (Using locally sourced fabrics etc) to be able to manage themselves discretely.I heard about the idea via Uganda but i think now the project has taken off and is called ‘days for girls’. It certainly helps the girls attendance rates!!
Pingback: Enhance your next school water project | The Rotary Club of Carteret